6th Issue, January 2010

Speakers of English Sound Nice and Successful

English enjoys a high prestige among the Hungarian-speaking minority students in Romania, Serbia and Slovakia as well as among the German-speaking minority students in Romania. English also has a high value in foreign language teaching, where teachers try to use only English in the classroom.

Researchers have conducted studies on language choice, language use, language attitudes and language ideologies in minority school contexts among minority Hungarians in Romania, Serbia and Slovakia, among minority Germans in Romania, and among Ladin minority in the Dolomites area (Ladinia, administratively divided between South Tyrol/Trentino/Belluno), Italy.


English sounds successful
In order to investigate the language attitudes of minority students, researchers have used the matched-guise technique: they played speech samples in various languages to students and asked them to rate the speakers concerning status traits like successful, educated, rich, prominent and on solidarity traits like nice, reliable, honest, generous. Both the Hungarian and the German minority students rated speakers of English higher than the speakers of the majority language, both on status and solidarity traits.

Surprisingly, the Hungarian minority students rated the speakers of English even higher than the speakers of the minority language.

The results on language attitudes of the Ladin minority were less surprising: the English speakers received high ratings on status traits, but they were not always better rated than the speakers of the minority language. However, as far as solidarity traits are concerned, the speakers of the minority language received the highest ratings.


Common English-only ideology
In English classrooms, teachers claim to use solely English, because this would help the learning process. Even the students said that, if they were teachers, they would try to use only English and prefer their students to use only English during the lesson. This stands in contrast to new developments in both multilingualism research and teaching, which propose to move away from isolation towards cooperation between the languages in the learner.

Research in the same areas on language ideologies and policies revealed that, all in all, the schools of the minority contexts investigated expressed their openness to multilingualism and confirmed the view according to which multilingualism is one of the most important bridges of everyday life which could contribute to the better integration of the members of the minority group.


LINEE website: Scope, components and contacts of this project