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1 Developing Critical Language Awareness in Email Use: Student-to-Professor Communication via Email 陳其芬 高雄第一科技大學.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Developing Critical Language Awareness in Email Use: Student-to-Professor Communication via Email 陳其芬 高雄第一科技大學."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Developing Critical Language Awareness in Email Use: Student-to-Professor Communication via Email 陳其芬 高雄第一科技大學

2 2 Outline of the Presentation: Why critical language awareness in email communication? Why student-to-professor communication via email? Purpose of the study Data collection Data analysis: a) message structure and length, b) address terms, c) request acts, d) legitimacy of reasons, e) use of negative politeness strategies, f) use of positive politeness strategies. Conclusion

3 3 Why “ critical ” language awareness in email use? Email communication is a “new” discourse practice as well as a “new” social practice. Email discourse is created from a mixture of established written and oral language. English serves as a lingua franca for on-line communication, which promotes the “hybridization” and “destandardization” of English use (Graddol, 2001). On-line cross-cultural contact does not guarantee success in on-line intercultural communication.

4 4 Why “ critical ” language awareness in email use? “Critical” language awareness - Language use is deemed as a socioculturally shaping and shaped discourse practice. It constructs and reflects simultaneously language users’ identity, power, and ideology. The difference between language awareness and critical language awareness is that the former “has not given sufficient focus to language-related issues of power which ought to be highlighted in language education given the nature of the contemporary sociolinguistic order” (Fairclough, 1995). Language learners need to learner how to use language effectively to negotiate their power positions, establish their communicative identities, and reflect appropriate sociocultural ideologies.

5 5 Why student-to-professor communication via email? Student-to-professor communication is a type of asymmetrical communication involving an imbalance of institutional power relations. Student-to-professor communication styles or “rules” may differ from culture to culture. Effective student-to-professor communication via email requires awareness of the appropriateness to both medium and culture, which is an issue that did not receive considerable attention in SLA literature.

6 6 Purpose of the Study This study aims to identify what pragmatic problems Taiwanese students have in their email communication with professors, and thus to help them develop critical language awareness in their email use in relation to power, identity, and ideology.

7 7 Data Collection Data Source #1 60 student-to-professor email requests written by 30 Taiwanese graduate students who were studying at a U.S. university during their first semester in Fall 1999. Data Source #2 136 student-to-professor email requests written by two Taiwanese graduate student studying in the U.S. from August 1999 through December 2001. Data Source #3 46 student-to-professor email requests written by Taiwanese undergraduate and graduate student studying in Taiwan from September 2003 through May 2004.

8 8 Data Analysis 1. Message structure and length 2. Address terms 3. Request acts 4. Legitimacy of reasons 5. Use of negative politeness strategies 6. Use of positive politeness strategies

9 9 1) Message Structure & Length Many of Taiwanese students tended to use an inductive (reason+ request) or story-telling discourse structure, delaying an introduction of their purpose and giving contextual details and explanations beforehand. Their requesting purpose often occurred at the end of the message. Literature has evidenced that Chinese speakers tend to use this discourse style to show their “indirectness” in both spoken and written discourse. When a message is long, such an inductive structure can impact the effectiveness of communication, particularly since people may read emails quickly and impatiently.

10 10 Example 1 – Message structure & Length Dear Professor H, This is K.C. from Taiwan, a new international graduate student in the department of xxx. I am sorry to bother you, but I really got some questions and hope to get help from you. When I was in Taiwan, I thought a lot about what to major in for my master's degree. I hesitated between education and linguistics for a long while.... Finally, I choose education as my further study because I was not challenging enough that time. After I really got here and started studying in educational program, I took some classes in TESOL program. But after a few weeks, I found that the most interesting part in the classes I take is the theoretical part about linguistics, sometimes related to language and social concerns. Therefore, I started to think thoroughly what's the subject I really feel interested in, then I recalled how much fun I had gotten in the linguistic classes I took when I was still a undergraduate student in Taiwan.... then I decided to do something for myself. After all, the reason I came to the United States for studying is not only "being an independent thinker", but I hope I can really learn something I feel interested in and do more research about it. Consequently, I wrote this e-mail to ask you some information about transferring to the linguistic anthropology program. I know it's not that easy to get the permission to study in your program. But once I know certainly what's the thing I want to pursue, then I will just go for it. Sorry for bothering you, and waiting for your reply. Sincerely, K.C.

11 11 1) Message Structure & Length As Crystal (2001) cautious us, “an email writer should assume that information located at the end of the message might never be seen, if the reader decided not to scroll down any further” (p. 109). Many email style books recommend email writers to use a “descending” information arrangement to structure their messages: to give the most important information at the beginning. The reader’s need and time should be respected and valued in on-line communication.

12 12 2) Address Terms The problems of using address terms in student-to- professor email communication existed mostly in undergraduate students’ emails. Examples of inappropriate use of address terms: - “Mrs. Chen”, “Miss Chen”, “Mrs. Emily”, “Miss Emily” - “Teacher”, “Teacher Emily”, “Beautiful teacher” - “Sir”, “Pro. Chen”

13 13 3) Request Acts Though most of the students used “Query Preparatory” (e.g., Can/could you…) to make requests to professors, a number of emails contained “Want Statements” as request acts. Example of Want Statements: - I want to know/ask… - I want you to tell me… - I need your suggestion to help me… - I really hope you can help me. - Because you are my advisor, I need you to help me.

14 14 3) Request Acts Problems of using “Want Statements”: - Power evaluation: It showed that the students stated requests as their own wants/needs, not acknowledging imposition on the faculty members. Thus, this language use reflected an overestimation on the part of the student of the faculty member’s level of obligation to comply. - Identity construction: It showed that the students constructed a needy, unconfident, student-oriented student identity, particularly when Want Statements were used along with the word “help”. - Western vs. Chinese cultural ideologies differ in terms of the academic roles.

15 15 4) Legitimacy of Reasons Some students did not use “effective” reasons to persuade their professors to comply with their requests. Examples (see email #2): - the reason was not strong enough, thus creating a negative student image. - the reason was self-centered/student-oriented, thus it may be interpreted as an expression of resistance to the teachers’ authority.

16 16 Example 2 – Giving reasons Dear Professor H, This is L.W. from Taiwan, I am a new international graduate student in xxx, I am right in xxx program, but I really want to transfer my major into xxx program. I need your help to tell me if this is possible and what I can do for this plan. The reason why I didn’t apply to xxx program when I was in Taiwan is because my TOEFL score was not high enough to get into xxx program, so I applied to xxx instead. I hope you can give me a chance to get into your program. I promise I will try my best to reach all the required standards of your program. Thanks a lot for your help. Sincerely, L. W.

17 17 5) Use of Negative Politeness Strategies Definition of Negative Politeness and Positive Politeness strategies (Brown & Levinson, 1987): Negative Politeness strategies are “avoidance-based”, aiming not to impede the addressee’s freedom of action and to minimize the imposition on him/her. For example: apologizing, giving options, asking about availability, indicating reluctance to impose, self-humbling. Positive politeness strategies are “approach-based”, aiming to satisfy the addressee’s wants and to enhance his/her self-image. For example: Attending to H’s intersects/wants/needs, complimenting, using in-group markers, seeking agreements, joking, and promising.

18 18 5) Use of Negative Politeness Strategies A problematic strategy – self-humbling Example 3: Dear Professor A, I need to ask you a favor. [explanation of her interest in studying in another Ph.D. program…]. I know I’m not an outstanding student, and probably my assistance toward your research project is limited; but if possible, could you please write a recommendation letter for me? Thousands of thanks if you can help. Sincerely, C. H.

19 19 5) Use of Negative Politeness Strategies Another problematic strategy: apologizing Example 4: Dear Professor, We know that you must be confused to receive this mail; it’s really rude to bother you, but please do believe our sincerity. First, let us introduce ourselves. We are English majors of xxx, and because of the need of our course xxx, we expect for your assistance to conduct our English listening test (GEPT) on your students, English majors, in your class. Our research topic is xxx. And our participants should be English majors. Whether the request is allowed or not, thank you for taking your time to read this mail. However, your kindness and assistance will be highly appreciated. We are looking forward to your reply. Sincerely, S.C.

20 20 6) Use of Positive Politeness Strategies A problematic strategy: informality and ineffective use of small talk or compliments Example 5: dear dr. from the past three-week's engagement, you convince me that you are helpful and take open-minded attitude to discuss with your students. so, i dare to ask 'would you mind putting me on your fail-student list and deprive me the responsibility?' i spent much time in reading the text material. i learn a lot, and i lost something, too. if you agree, i'd like to be a listener, not a participant from now on. if the letter causes you any discomfort or inconvenience, it will be the last thing i’d like to see it happen. best regards, p.

21 21 Conclusion Developing critical language awareness – “noticing” and “explicitly” learning pragmatic features in order to have “input” become “intake”. Appropriating “appropriateness” of language use – analyzing power relations and understanding that appropriateness is ideologically situated in different sociocultural contexts and determined by those who have more power. Making agentive choices for identity construction – requiring the ability to express oneself effectively using a variety of language forms and strategies as well as to know when it is appropriate to use these different forms.

22 22 Contact Information 陳其芬 Chi-Fen Emily Chen 國立高雄第一科技大學應用英語系 Email: Phone: 07-601-1000 ext 5118 “If knowledge is worth having, it is worth sharing.” ~ Deborah Cameron

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