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Author Topic: What if it turns out western values are built into the language?!  (Read 205 times)

Calach Pfeffer

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I mean, they can't not be, right?

Not in the vocabulary especially, nor probably in the grammar, but in the larger conventions  for how language is used...

The extent to which questions are and are not answerable, for example. In what constitutes a real use of, say, story telling, or small talk... Chinese can't and don't know how to use either, right, because they rarely provide the right amount of information. But what constitutes "enough" information? Well, it depends on how collectivist or individualist you are. Collectivist don't need to provide strangers with any information; individualists default to providing more because individuals are always strangers unless they start telling things...

And so on.

These examples are tenuous, perhaps, but what if it turns out that native speaker fluency is dependent on becoming as "free" as a native speaker is willing to be? What if to properly use English you have to assume that you are not communicating unless you are providing enough information for another "individual" to know who and what you are because they won't know otherwise? What if none of the collectivist's style of speaking will ever make a non-native speak fluently?

Teaching English properly would be the action of a splittist. A good teacher would be pretending there's a wall between the communist and the collective.

 aoaoaoaoao

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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: What if it turns out western values are built into the language?!
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2019, 02:39:15 AM »
If you start saying that asking and answering questions is a normal part of using English and must be practiced, that's where you're screwing with culture. Most especially if you say analytical questioning is normal. You're shifting responsibility for the management of truth and knowledge away from the collective and toward the individual. But what is English without analytical questioning? I think it's probably the English we have in China.

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kitano

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Re: What if it turns out western values are built into the language?!
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2019, 04:57:28 AM »
I think that you are getting stuck into a philosophy debate here, which is fine, but it's moving away from 'fluency'.

By the same token, does a man ever speak the same language as a woman? Are different generations speaking the same language to each other with such wildly different assumptions? Can anyone ever really understand what Irish people are actually saying?

The IELTS 9 for fluency is

• speaks fluently with only rare repetition or self-correction;
• any hesitation is content-related rather than to find words or grammar
• speaks coherently with fully appropriate cohesive features
• develops topics fully and appropriately

I mean you could argue about point 4 and what is appropriate, but I would imagine that most native speakers fall far short of that, and not because of some implicit understanding between native speakers, just because language is an imperfect tool.


Calach Pfeffer

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Re: What if it turns out western values are built into the language?!
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2019, 07:01:31 AM »
Spouting complete bullshit while taking an IELTS test isn't going to lower your final score unless it makes you fumble your expression. In context, "fully and appropriately" doesn't means the ideas are good and the presentation comprehensive. It just means the flow of the bullshit is untrammeled.

I guess some native speakers could have difficulty forming coherent sentences on some of the bigger topics available to us. But the IELTS test usually doesn't go in for the high fallutin kinds of topics. You talk about "everyday" conversation stuff like education, influence of television, leisure activities, the internet, etc. Talking head stuff that wouldn't be out of place at a boring dinner table.

But...

As a part of testing specifically your speaking ability, the IELTS does very obviously ask for three different types of language use. You get questions that want facts as answers, then questions that call assessments, then questions that develop generalizations. The facts are starting points that you provide, the assessments want you to build on these facts and say how things or processes work, and the generalizations want you to abstract away from the current discussion into something more widely applicable.

Which is to say, you, the speaker, are called upon to analyze and evaluate the world around you.

And in China, that's not what individuals are supposed to do. The collective does that. Not you. Individuals in China are supposed to contribute to the collective development of truth and knowledge but the final word won't be yours. Which is fine, I suppose. But what happens if your schooling is built around this idea? What happens if you're so rarely called upon to contribute your own version of the world to the collective understanding that there is no outstanding reason for you to develop the academic version of those skills? You can still speak with the authority and verve of indulged youth in your native language. You can still proffer well known versions of current understandings. You will likely have develop some version of the skills needed to be a contributing member of the collective anyway because in native languages you can't help but pick it up. But then along comes a foreign language in which no one cedes authority to the collective...

What then?

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Calach Pfeffer

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Re: What if it turns out western values are built into the language?!
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2019, 05:30:18 AM »
By the way, the IELTS Speaking and Writing tests have that explicit structuring because Western education does.

Well technically I don't know if it's a "because" relationship, but IELTS Speaking and Writing makes you describe contexts, give rough analyses, and then expand to larger generalization and if you look at national education rubrics for Australia, America, the UK, freaking France, and likely a range of other Western European countries too, boom, same deal. English-speaking students in English-language schools are assessed in terms of their ability to contextualize knowledge, then analyze and evaluate. The only part of that the IELTS doesn't use is subject-specific knowledge.

TOEFL calls for this kind of speaking and writing too. Even the damn CET has elements of the same though you wouldn't know it if you put the CET questions in front of a class of Chinese students. You get better scores in all of them if you can contextualise, assess, generalize.

And I probably can't claim all this has it's origin in Bloom's Taxonomy because it's more likely Bloom's Taxonomy is just another visible tip of the thousand year plot to undermine Chinese integrity. Because doesn't it look like language proficiency isn't a matter of vocabulary and grammar so much as your ability to use vocabulary and grammar as if you weren't Chinese.


Question is, these days, how political is that really?

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