How can I create meaningful curriculum that addresses equity issues for all students in my online courses? Will the assigned readings and discussions reach every student in my class or will we encounter misunderstandings and clarifications that lead to growth, ultimately adjusting our interpretive lenses in order to write and read about shared experiences, interests and motivations? Achieving linguistic confidence and independence is one of the goals in exchanging communication online.
I refer to our College of DuPage Institutional Philosophy:
College of DuPage values diversity. We seek to reflect and meet the educational needs of the residents of our large, multicultural district. We recognize the importance of embracing individual differences and cultures and value the contributions made to the College by people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We affirm our role as a catalyst for promoting dialogue and tolerance on issues supporting the common good.
My online enrollment is comprised of native speakers of English and English language learners or emerging bilingual students who can communicate effortlessly in their home language while sharing a vast cultural understanding. The term English language learners seems to be a term that is most inclusive, while acknowledging the fact that students are expected to learn English in school. At the same time, this label has its own limitations — it devalues other languages and puts the English language in a sole position of legitimacy.
According to Spencer Hazel, Research Fellow of Language and Social Interaction at the University of Nottingham, native speakers of English are not masters of the world’s global language. Hazel writes:
When an American manager in Japan cannot understand why his Japanese staff will not give him the “ballpark figure” he has demanded, this breakdown in communication can lead to a real disintegration in workplace relations. And the underlying feelings of mistrust are mutual. The inability of the traveling native English speaker to refrain from homeland idiosyncrasies, subtextual dexterity, and cultural in-jokes has been found to result in resentment and suspicion.
International colleagues resent the lack of effort made on the part of the monoglot English speaker. They experience a loss of professional stature when having to speak with those who are not only comfortable with the language, but who appear to vaunt the effortlessness with which they bend the language to their will.
This points to a very real danger that native English speakers, especially those who never mastered another language, risk missing out on business opportunities—whether in the form of contracts, idea development, job opportunities, and the like—due to a basic lack of understanding of what international English communication entails.
When it is much easier to work with others who are on the same page as you, the intransigent native English speaker may actually be given a wide berth by their counterparts abroad.