Jasmineから英語学習についてのアドバイス。 ”English is a language, a tool to communicate. As long as you are able to communicate, or get your message across, you are good!”
“Velkom to Kwik Mart” says Apu on America’s favorite cartoon The Simpsons. Apu, who is from India, runs a convenience store although he is a Caltech (Calcutta Technology University) graduate. He is also an illegal immigrant until Homer Simpson’s daughter Lisa helps him pass the citizenship test. Past years, Apu has continued to gain popularity from the Americans viewers with his very strong stereotypical Indian accent as well as his stereotypical Indian behaviors. In Canada and America, 7-Eleven convenience stores have even changed some of its branches’ names to Kwik-E Mart to celebrate the popularity of Apu. Now you understand how popular Apu is even though you have never watched The Simpsons Show, don't you?
So what about Apu? In the context of English learning what message does he carry? Well, to English teacher like me and to the learners of English of other languages, Apu carries two strong messages or lessons.
Firstly, Apu shows that English is not Americans’ or is it British, Australian or New Zealanders (or commonly call the inner circle countries). Apu’s Indian English or often-called Hinglish has been effective enough to express or deliver his character not only to American viewers, but to viewers from all over the world. From this, we can observe, as many TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of other language) experts assert, that you do not need to speak American or British English to be a fluent English speaker. Along with the rapid globalization, English has evolved to an international language, where it no longer belongs to the inner circle countries. Thus, when we choose to learn English, we are not learning to communicate with a particular group – Americans or British, but with the entire world. Today, English learners have much higher chance of being in a situation with English speakers of the outer or the expanding circle rather than the inner circle. In fact the population of inner circle English speaker is only 1/3 of the expanding or outer circle. On the other side, the ability to communicate well in a foreign language is not only measured by the language fluency, but it is also measured by the ability to understand the cultures of the native speakers, which leads to Apu’s next lesson.
Apu as shown in The Simpson Show, has not gone through the internalization of American culture values and norms. In fact, he is far from it. In one episode he purchasers a fake birth certificate to become an American, but then decides to ditch the plan as he feels guilty to deny his origins. This episode delivers yet another very important message to English learners. The lesson is that you do not need to internalize the culture values and norms of those native speakers in order to become a fluent English speaker. Sure, it is helpful to understand the culture and context of that language as the language and culture have very very close relationships. However, as Apu shows us, you do not need to change yourself become an American or accept their beliefs and values to become an effective English speaker.
Many advance English students often worry about their intonation or accents. Some worry that they don't think they are speaking proper English as they find it difficult to assimilate themselves to the cultures of beliefs of English speaking cultures. So what? English is a language, a tool to communicate. As long as you are able to communicate, or get your message across, you are good! Watch Apu and learn! We, the English teachers and learners, must understand that acquiring fluency isn’t the only goal. Our goal is pick up English a tool to communicate with those from other parts of the world. Therefore, we should not spend too much time perfecting American or British English, but rather focus on obtaining intercultural competence. We must have open mind set to understand and accept any given cultures, regardless of the differences from their own.