English spoke Essay

Published: 2021-07-30 06:45:08
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I questioned the informant to find out about her English language background. I asked questions about her background, including the social and political focus that led to her acquisition of the English language, in order to discover how proficient her English speaking skills are now. With reference to the motivation for learning English I discovered that this was compulsory in Bengal. For women the ability to speak English is a matter of status which has little practical value due to families’ maintaining Bengali as the first language at home and in friendships with other Bengalis when making their homes in England. The informant told me that she had never spoken English in Bangladesh; therefore, had she stayed there her English skills would never have been used. Indeed the emphasis was on reading and writing English without the opportunity to develop speaking skills. This non utilization of English continues in England.
In addition, since first generation Bengalis have not interacted socially with English speakers, they may lack, for example, understanding of the pragmatics of English. By not engaging in face to face conversation the subtleties of language – inflexion, tone, facial gestures are not learned. My findings on her background were as follows:- The first generation informant was born in the city of Sylhet in Bangladesh. She does not recall clearly how many lessons she took but she thinks it was 5 lessons per week, over a period of 10 years, since English was compulsory. Her teachers’ first language was Bengali. She did written comprehension work and writing.
Her class was large and consisted of a 100 people and divided into 2 groups of 50. She achieved the equivalent of GCSE English but she never spoke English in Bangladesh, though she did watch English language television. Since moving to Britain in 1982 she has occasionally been required to speak English, for instance whilst attending a doctors’ appointment or shopping. She relied on her husband speaking for her mainly in consultations with doctors.
By asking the questions I hoped to demonstrate that a real grasp of English is wider than the ability simply to say words in English, but involved knowledge of sentence construction, pronunciation, flow of language and body cues. I decided to question the informant on her favourite food to eat and cook since this would be a familiar topic to a first generation Bengali female.
I began with a simple closed question, “What is your favourite food?” The answer was general, not using precise vocabulary – “I like meat curry”. In order to have a sample of language to study I continued with an open question, “How do you cook it?” I hoped the structure of the explanation, the use or misuse of appropriate vocabulary and the pace of sentences, including hesitations and repetitions would demonstrate that lack of use of the spoken word, even by an educated Bengali has an effect on how English is communicated.
By comparing this with the explanation in Bengali I hoped to prove that the same patterns of Bengali speech are utilized by first generation Bengalis in their English. Using an audio recorder I recorded the conversations which I then wrote as questions and the answers in the form of a transcript. To test the hypothesis I finally requested the informant to produce a written recipe (Data C). I will analyse this and compare the lexis and grammar to that of Data A, the spoken language. Data B was used as a measure against which spoken and written (Data C) language could be compared.
Three minutes and twenty six seconds of audio-recorded first generation spoken language have been transcribed to examine for lexis, grammar, syntax and phonology. From this I aimed to discover whether there was evidence of basic differences in word selection including knowledge of correct nouns, construction of sentences, and understanding of syntax and complexity of explanations. By comparing the English speech in giving a recipe with the recipe given in Bengali I could determine whether speech patterns were actually based on Bengali.
Answers to oral questions in English were recorded then transcribed to provide a sample of spoken Bengali. 1. Grammar When reading the answers to the first two questions there are obvious variations from accepted English sentence order. The lexis is limited and specific or precise language choices are sacrificed for more general or vague terms e.g. ‘curry and rice’, ‘piece, piece’. Lack of use of proper nouns or verbs has resulted in losing the ability to recall the word. However, along with this is the adaptation of Bengali syntax into English. Since my informant seems to think in Bengali rather than in English (she appears to be translating word by word without reference to English sentence construction.
Further peculiarities are seen in lines 21 and 22. Here the syntactic order has impeded the sense of the instruction. Line 24 has the verb ‘chop’ at the end of the sentence, resulting from translating directly from Bengali word order. The wrong word order adds the uncertainty to the explanation, yet the interviewee is a recognized competent cook who could demonstrate the making of the dish easily. Confusion between the usage of Bengali word order and English is noticeable in line 7 and this along with inconsistent word choices blurs the sense of meaning of this step of the recipe.
2. Lexis This lack of precision is evident in the description of ‘yellow powder’ instead of e.g. ‘egg food colour’. Using the verb ‘make’ to replace ‘becomes’ reflects her inability to recall principal verbs through her lack of speaking practice. Line 24 (‘danya’), is an example of replacing an unknown English term with a Bengali substitute. 3. Phonology There are many hesitations and repairs to be noted in this data. Line 3 which demonstrate lack of confidence in using the superlative word form. Her obvious embarrassment leads her to simplify the statement to ‘I like chicken balti’. See line 14. The repairs demonstrate her awareness of choosing the wrong word and her struggle to find the more precise ‘paste’. Confusion with the order of words in lines 21 and 22 leads to another repair.
In data A there are a total of 76 hesitations and pauses which make the content difficult to follow. In line 3 the informant hesitates because of apparently having difficulty in expressing her thought in English. The hesitations and pauses in lines 6 – 8 appear to be caused by a difficulty in explaining a process she understands well. The use of ‘err’ gives her mental thinking time as she tries to think of the description of the action or correct name. This lack of fluency prompts me to believe that formal language training does not lead to fluency in the spoken aspect of language.

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