Language, Identity, and World Englishes

Fall 2016 PoH: Language, Identity, and World Englishes Syllabus

The above link will take you to the Fall 2016 version of the syllabus for my undergraduate Perspectives on the Humanities seminar on Language, Identity, and World Englishes. Fall 2016 was the first semester that we offered this course at NYU Shanghai, and one of the first courses to have an explicit focus on and instruction in theoretical and applied linguistics.

Spring & Summer 2016 – Course Design

This course was the first live class that I’ve had to create from the ground up with very little guidance. My directors knew I’d pitch something with a linguistics focus since I’m one of two people with terminal degrees in (applied) linguistics in our department. So, I decided that given NYU Shanghai’s hybrid nature, this would be the perfect place to introduce students to the World Englishes model, as envisioned by Braj and Yamuna Kachru. This course would also be an excellent opportunity to get students thinking about and valuing linguistic variety.

So, I started with a general introduction to linguistics. Since my students aren’t majoring in linguistics, I needed an accessible textbook that would give them the necessary understanding and shared lexicon that we would need for the rest of the course. So, I chose George Yule’s The Study of Language, as it was also a cheap option. We then moved on to original studies in sociolinguistics, before introducing the World Englishes model by using Y. Kachru and C. Nelson’s World Englishes in Asian Contexts, which also allowed me to meet the school’s requirement that at least 40% of the course material focus on China. Since I had to include creative works, I chose to have my students read Shyam Selvadurai’s queer coming of age novel, Funny Boy; and they also read Ha Jin’s collection of short stories, The Bridegroom.

Now, for assignments in the course, I chose three major essays that moved from the intimately personal to the detached academic analysis. We began by writing a language acquisition narrative, in which we focused on a story about our L1 or L2 acquisition. After this, we wrote an analysis of our use of language to make meaning in computer-mediate communication (CMC) streams. The last paper was a world Englishes analysis of either passage of Funny Boy or two-to-three short stories from The Bridegroom. This assignment sequence was a very fruitful. I joined the students in their writing, drafting each assignment with them and providing my draft to them for review. Also, me and three of my students will be co-authoring a paper that provides a situated queer Marxist reading of  Chinese LGBT identities in The Bridegroom.

Future Changes for Fall 2017

For Fall 2017, I imagine that changes to this course will be minor. I’ll likely swap out the two novels, choosing another work from Selvadurai and Jin. I’m also considering getting rid of World Englishes in Asian Context and replacing it with Exploring World Englishes: Language in a Global Context.