Dr. Heath Rose is an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford, UK. His research interests include Global Englishes, second language pedagogy, language learner strategies and the teaching and learning of Japanese as a foreign language.
Interviewer: Ju Seong (John) Lee
- Thank you for joining us on NNEST-of-the-month blog. Could you briefly tell us about your personal and professional background?
I grew up in Queensland, Australia, in a small mining town. When it came to learn a language in high-school, I chose Japanese, as there was a lot of talk at the time that Japan was an important trading partner for Australia, and therefore a useful language. I continued my Japanese studies in university, where I eventually trained to be an English and Japanese language high school teacher. After I finished a teacher training degree, I decided to move to Japan before I would inflict my terrible version of the Japanese language on young Australian learners. In Japan, I moved into an English language teaching position, where I stayed for the next 4 years. After that, I moved to Sydney Australia, where I started a short-lived career as a Japanese teacher in a local primary school while completing a master’s degree. After graduating from my master’s, I returned to Japan to take up a career teaching English at the university-level, which I did for eight years, while completing a PhD part-time. After I completed my PhD, I took up an associate professor position at Trinity College Dublin, which then led me to my current position at The University of Oxford.
- What is Global Englishes (GE)? And what led you to write a book about this?
My early experiences probably led me to be attracted to Global Englishes. First, as a speaker of a very rural dialect of Australian English, I found it frustrating to find my English was not attractive for employment in some cases, and I had to adapt the way that I spoke to be understood. As I encountered more English teachers from a variety of backgrounds, I found that I was actually in a privileged position and many other speakers of English had a much harder time than I did. I guess due to this, I first became interested in the social justice issues surrounding Global Englishes, before then moving into looking at it from a linguistic and pedagogical perspective. My co-writer, Dr. Nicola Galloway, was one of the main reasons I got into Global Englishes as a research paradigm. We worked together in one of Japan’s first bilingual business schools, and really pushed for change in the curriculum to immerse students with a global perspective of how English was used in the business world.
- In the current literature, similar concepts such as English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), English as an International Language (EIL), and World Englishes (WE) are also available. What distinguishes GE from the other terms?
I use Global Englishes as an umbrella term to unite ELF, EIL and WE research, which all share similar theoretical assumptions and visions, so are incredibly interrelated. World Englishes as a discipline began as both a linguistic and sociolinguistic school of study in the 1980s, largely informed by the theoretical work of Braj J. Kachru. It was primarily concerned with recording and codifying of linguistic variation in English, with special interest in the Englishes of former British colonies. ELF was really an extension of this work, but rather than looking at varieties of English in regional contexts, it was used to describe English used across regional and linguistic boundaries. EIL is often viewed as the North American counterpart to English as a Lingua Franca, but its focus has tended to be more on the implications of the spread of English rather than a linguistic study of the language that is used. So I use Global Englishes to unite these fields of study. However, other scholars also use ELF, WE, and EIL in a broader sense in the same way that I use the term Global Englishes. So sometimes when I talk about Global Englishes issues, other scholars can talk about the same issues under a different banner, like EIL.
- You are also administering the website called Global Englishes. It contains lots of useful authentic materials related to GE. Could you give teachers and students some tips for how to utilize the website for teaching and learning GE?
To be honest, I have not updated the website as much as I have hoped due to being so busy with work. It was really started as a hobby of mine to collect interesting articles and videos that could be used as authentic sources in the classroom. Recently, Nicola Galloway and I have been working on a Global Englishes network, to be hosted by The University of Edinburgh to give more structure to the website. It should finalize its development in 2018.
- You started your teaching career in Japan. As so-called native English speaking (NES) professional, what opportunities and challenges did you experience working in Japan?
It might seem unusual for an Australian to be featured in NNEST-of-the-month, but as a trained Japanese NNST, I empathize with many of the issues surrounding an identity as a NNEST. Also, during my work in Japan, I saw many untrained teachers get into well-paid teaching positions based on their NEST identity, which frustrated me. Many of these teachers had no training in teaching, but were considered good teachers based on their native identity alone. Even though I was a trained teacher, but I also acknowledge the privilege I received due to my native status at the beginning of my career. This did not make me feel good, and to be honest it was one of the reasons I left Japan. Being a NEST in Japan was also a double-edge sword for career growth. As I wanted to grow professionally, it was difficult for universities to see me as anything other than an English teacher, so I needed to eventually leave Japan for opportunities to be able to lecture in applied linguistics and other subject areas.
- As a non-native Japanese learner, what linguistic challenges did you face when learning Japanese? And what strategies do you suggest to overcome them?
Japanese was always a challenge for me, and one which I talk about in my book on the Japanese Writing System. Because I grew up in rural Australia, my school did not have a language teacher, so I studied Japanese in high school curriculum via a distance education module, and had a one-hour speaking lesson over the phone with a teacher who was based in the nearest school that offered Japanese. I struggled with the learning of Japanese in this manner—I found it hard to stay motivated and to regulate my study time. As a result, I scraped through with the lowest possible pass on my senior certificate. This trend continued throughout my university studies. In my second year of language studies, I was placed in with students who had already spent a year abroad. I was consistently at the bottom of the class in terms of my grades, and terrified to speak the language in front of others. My one reprieve in those Japanese language classes were the kanji classes, which were treated separately from grammar and spoken instruction. In these classes I found I could keep up with the more proficient students, with some hard work. However, as I progressed, I needed to learn more and more kanji which became challenging.
I overcame difficulties with the writing system with sheer hard work and determination. I overcame my difficulties with the spoken language when I moved to Japan and had the opportunity to use the language for real communicative purposes. That being said, I never did achieve so-called ‘native-like’ proficiency in Japanese, but as I began to learn about Global Englishes, I realized that this goal was an ill-conceived one. By the end of my stay in Japan I could function in Japanese in most situations, so I learned to accept that this level of proficiency was sufficient for my needs.
- Could you tell us about your current and future research plans?
Currently I am working on a book for Cambridge University Press titled Global Englishes for Language Teaching with Nicola Galloway. I am also working on another book in the preliminary stages with Multilingual Matters, which is aimed at teachers of English in global context. I am always trying to balance too many projects, that are too numerous to mention here, but most of them have teaching at their core. I don’t want to become a stereotypical Oxford professor that many people imagine sitting in their ‘ivory tower’ while losing touch with what happens in real language classrooms. I always (and hopefully will always) see my identity as a teacher first.
Thank you very much for your interview, Dr. Heath Rose!