1 INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AND THE POLITICS OF LANGUAGE AMONG ‘GLOBALISING UNIVERSITIES’ IN ASIA Brenda S.A. Yeoh, Michelle Foong and K.C. Ho National University of Singapore Globalisation : now, University of Western Sydney, 23-24 July 2013 The pre-eminence of English 2 English - “the de facto language of globalised higher education” (Kell and Vogl, 2010). Reflected in international student mobilities Matthews and Sidhu (2005): “the movement of predominantly Asian students from non-English speaking countries into Western English-speaking centres remains fundamentally unidirectional and is a legacy of British and American colonialism which secured English as the key language of global commerce” Language boot camps for international students in western universities (Taylor, 2004). The pre-eminence of English 3 Brooks and Waters (2011) point to “the desire for fluency in English” as the “one overwhelming concern” directly related to the accumulation of cultural capital in order to navigate one’s way to success in a globalised world. Chew (2010): “linguistic migration,” that is, “migration [as part of a “well planned and carefully calculated project”] necessitated primarily in search of a ‘linguistic capital’, relating usually to ‘premium’ languages such as English, which is readily exchangeable in the market place for other kinds of capital”. In Asia …. 4 Recent revolution in Asian universities’ push towards internationalization, accompanied by the growth of international ranking exercises. English as the language of international reach in the strategies of globalizing universities in Asia? Special provision of academic programmes in English in non-English speaking countries in order to attract international students with little familiarity of the local language. Ishikawa (2009): “the predominance of Japanese as a medium of instruction, a symbol of cultural and linguistic autonomy, proves unpopular among prospective students who increasingly demand English language courses and degree programmes” Altbach (2004): win-win strategy, allowing these universities “to attract international students unwilling to learn the local language” on the one hand, while “improv[ing] the English-language skills of domestic students and thus enabl[ing] them to work in an international arena” on the other. Aims 5 Using two contrasting case studies – The University of Tokyo (Todai) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) – and by drawing on quantitative and qualitative data, this paper Examines discourses and debates around the place of English in a globalising university, highlighting paradoxes and tensions embedded in language policy. Explores ways in which international students at both universities cope with (un)familiar language environments and deal with language barriers in the universities. Seeks to deepen understanding of the everyday politics of language that international students confront, and the strategies they employ in negotiating these encounters. Methods 6 Globalizing Universities and International Student Mobilities in East Asia (GUISM): multidisciplinary research project spanning 9 universities in 8 East Asian cities, of which NUS and Todai are participating institutions. Student surveys – 250 to 500 per university Formal interviews with university officials and other key personnel directly involved in the respective university’s internationalization process. Analysis of published and non-print materials by NUS and Todai, such as promotional literature, handbooks, prospectus, websites and other relevant material. In-depth biographical interviews were conducted with a total of 40 international students, 20 from each institution 7 The institutional perspective: discourses and paradoxes in the language of internationalization Fundamental issue that Asian universities grapple with in rescaling the educational enterprise for a global market lies with the language of internationalization, given the: assured position of the English language as the “’ground floor’ of the world hierarchy of languages” (Balaz and Williams, 2004) predominance of universities in the Anglo-American world NUS 8 Among East Asian universities, the National University of Singapore (NUS) represents the minority which has capitalised on its colonial legacy of English based education to facilitate internationalization Singapore’s “Global Schoolhouse” strategy restructuring of its national universities to achieve greater prominence attracting reputable foreign universities to set up overseas campuses in Singapore developing alliances with strong overseas partners through global (English language) networks such as the International Alliance of Research Universities, Association of Pacific Rim Universities and Universitas 21 (Sidhu, Ho and Yeoh, 2011). NUS 9 NUS – a leading global university centred in Asia “a thought leader on Asian matters” (NUS Corporate brochure 2010) “distinctive expertise and insights relating to Asia” (NUS Vision) “competing with leading universities [in Asia and the west] to recruit the best minds” (NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, President’s Address, State of the University 2010) “key node in global knowledge networks” (NUS Vision). The student community is also highly diverse, with “international students making up 20% and 60% of the undergraduate and graduate student populations respectively.” (NUS Corporate brochure 2010). Todai 10 Instead of the wholesale adoption of English as the “global language,” “internationalisation” is not seen to be incongruent with the “Japanisation of Japan” (Hashimoto, 2000). English language dominance is to be resisted and deconstructed “Well, as a society, I think …it is nearly a cliché …but Japan is one of the most homogeneous societies in the world, even though we have a diversity element… language communication is virtually all in Japanese…. And also the fact that… Japan… more or less successfully achieve modernization without depending too much on the help of the outside world… This created …an atmosphere where somehow the system that exists now can manage all sorts of elements [without recourse to the outside world] … so despite the fact we need a lot of internationalization… it’s hard to achieve… real diversification” (Senior official#1, Todai, 2010) Todai 11 Todai’s current pursuit of “internationalisation” is articulated in terms of an “openness” and “responsibility” towards the future of “Japan”, “diverse peoples of the world”, and “human civilisation” in general, a discourse which attempts to transcend the particularities of nationality, ethnicity and language, and instead draw on the language of world solidarity and universal truths: “Japan too, is expected to display its unique characteristics and contribute to human civilization, as it opens itself to the world…. It [Todai] thus dedicates itself to pursue the truths and universal realities transcending national, ethnic, and language differences. One of our key missions [of Todai] is to constantly create and develop forums for education, research, and academic exchange in order to build bridges between different nations, regions, peoples, languages, and cultures-and thereby deepen mutual understanding on a global scale. By promoting international education and research, Todai will strive to broaden its internationalism and deepen its understanding of the various regions of the world, as it promotes education and research that aspires for truth and peace” (The University of Tokyo Guidebook, 2009) Todai 12 English language courses first introduced as early as in the 1980s in civil engineering in order to recruit students from Southeast Asia in tandem with the expansion of the Japanese construction industry in the region until recently not central to Todai’s internationalisation strategy: “I need to point out that some elements of internationalization, particularly in the form of the increase in international students has been achieved without depending very much on the language, of the English language of instruction… The largest international student body is Chinese …nearly 900 Chinese students…and the second is Korean …students…600 students…and then Taiwanese…These East Asian international students speak nearly perfect Japanese… Internationalisation has hence gone on without depending on the English language… I think that this is partly a blessing to us, because we don’t need to change the language of instruction…. But then, that has created … in a way, a narrowness of our internationalization… a narrow [band in] geographic distribution… Those countries that use Chinese characters… have a definite advantage in learning the Japanese language and so …Chinese, Korean… Taiwanese, they really, as I said, have a very good command of the Japanese language” (Senior official#1, Todai, 2010) Todai 13 Introduction of degree courses in English a recent effort: “Every effort is being made to increase the number of courses that are taught in English, enhance our services to international students and research fellows, and translate numerous administrative documents of the University into English. (Message from the President, The University of Tokyo 2010 Admission Information for International Students) Todai 14 Selected as one of the universities to promote internationalization in Japan under the Global 30 Project, Todai has begun to establish more courses in English, through which students are able to obtain their degrees move towards internationalisation with greater diversity? “Our current task is to broaden the scope of diversity…we need to go beyond East Asia…. And for that purpose, the need to increase courses taught in English is essential.” (Senior Todai official#1, 2010) “) Todai 15 While the declared aim is to allow international students with no prior knowledge of the Japanese language to complete their degrees in English, the subtext suggests that Japanese language proficiency is still strongly preferred: …prospective students need not have prior knowledge of the Japanese language...however, those who have learned Japanese in high school or other institutions are especially welcome…during their undergraduate studies, students are strongly encouraged to strengthen their Japanese language ability to manage themselves in the Japanese language so as to be able to take classes conducted in Japanese…such language proficiency may help students work in Japan or Japanese companies abroad after they graduate from Todai.... ...prospective students [who enrol in the advanced international program in economics] are those who can disseminate messages both at home and abroad from Japan’s own perspective without being limited to western ways of thinking. (The University of Tokyo 2010 Introduction of Courses in English, pp.5-6) “Although the program [graduate program in engineering] itself is in English, some Japanese skills will eventually be necessary for graduates who hope to work in Japanese companies…to address this reality, we offer a program that is seamlessly bilingual” (Senior official#2, Todai, 2010) 16 The perspectives of international students 1. Place of language in choice of overseas university 17 Table 1: Reason(s) for selecting the university the student is enrolled in University Attribute Reputation of university Latest knowledge and methods Reputation for quality and expertise of staff Reputation of programme Qualifications recognized by employers Education in Host Country Language (English in the case of NUS/Japanese in the case of Todai) Large number of international students University advertises itself strongly NUS 96.6 83.8 Todai 94.5 85.5 83.1 79.5 84.1 88.0 79.8 78.9 81.8 26.8 37.3 34.0 25.1 17.8 *Note: percentage “agree” = percentage of “important”+”most important” 1. Place of language in choice of overseas university 18 Table 2: Learning the Language of Country as a Reason for Studying in the Country _________________________________________________________________________ Variable NUS Todai t df (N=467) (N=232) _________________________________________________________________________ Wants to learn Language 3.18 1.98 17.679*** 697 (SD) 0.78 0.96 _________________________________________________________________________ Note: *p <.05; **p <.01; ***p <.005 1. Place of language in choice of overseas university 19 The representative from NUS (at a study abroad fair in Leeds, his home university) was telling me about all the places I could go, you can get lots of really nice cheap food, nice hot and sunny, and reassured me that everyone understood English… an English-speaking country in Asia would somewhat be an introduction, finding out more, I always thought I wanted to work abroad for some time. It sounded like a good idea to maybe work in Singapore or somewhere in Asia. (Tim, British undergraduate exchange student, NUS) I have a very good friend from childhood and he used to study in Japan on scholarship. He was there for two years as an undergraduate and still, he couldn’t catch up with the language. And now he has to come back and start everything all over again…. Japanese is one of the most difficult languages in the world. It’s very hard. I used to study Japanese and I think “Oh my God!”. It’s not for me…. English is definitely easier! (Thi, Vietnamese undergraduate student, NUS) 1. Place of language in choice of overseas university 20 …language wise it was a little difficult, their English is kind of, a bit different from normal so there was a bit of difficulty in understanding, like if you go to their research webpage and they talk about what they’re doing and you go like…’huhhhhh?’ I guess you just need to spend a lot of, a slightly longer time in trying to understand it, but it’s not that difficult, it’s not a big problem. (Charlene, Malaysian postgraduate student,Todai) It’s not that I don’t want to learn Japanese, I really want to learn Japanese because I think if you know Japanese in Japan, it’s much more convenient. But I thought maybe I should be focusing on my research because that’s what I’m getting paid for, …. But when my sensei said I should do it [learn Japanese], I should do it…. That’s why I felt like doing it, but then there was a point [where] I had too much work. (Abbas, Pakistani Civil Engineering postrgraduate student, Todai) 1. Place of language in choice of overseas university 21 As an international student, it helps if you have basic Japanese language ability, but I’m thinking what if you don’t have any of that, then it’s really difficult to communicate. Also, because of that, you’re not aware of the sort of support you’re able to get, because they can’t communicate to you. ‘Oh you actually can get this’, they can’t tell you… When I first went to class, everything, guidance, orientation, was in Japanese, like information on how to register for your classes, rules, these are all important things – everything is in Japanese. So you kind of like go ‘urgghhh!’, you’re totally left out in the cold. Of course you can ask them, but you need to speak in Japanese, they do give you handouts, but only a tiny part of it is in English, and you have the feeling that you’re missing out on a lot of information…. I feel it’s because the international student ratio is very small, so they can kind of get away with not having guidance in English…. I feel like I missed out on a lot of opportunities just because everything is in Japanese. (Charlene, Malaysian postgraduate student,Todai) 2. Coping with (un)familiar language environments 22 The scores of the international students’ listening, speaking, reading and writing in English (NUS) and Japanese (Todai) were aggregated to create an index of the students’ language proficiency. Figure 1 shows that the language proficiency of NUS students (from score 11 to 16) in English is generally higher than the Japanese language proficiency for Todai students. 35 30 Percentage (%) 25 20 15 10 5 0 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Language Proficiency of International Students NUS 14 15 16 Todai Figure 1: The Language Proficiency of NUS and Todai Students in the Host Language. 2. Coping with (un)familiar language environments 23 Table 3: Coping with the use of (Language of Country) _________________________________________________________________________ Variable NUS Todai t df (N=467) (N=232) _________________________________________________________________________ Coping with Language 2.92 2.72 3.465*** 697 (SD) 0.68 0.78 _________________________________________________________________________ Note: *p <.05; **p <.01; ***p <.005 When asked if they were satisfied with their adjustment with the host language, the lower mean score of 2.72 suggests that Todai students on the whole were less satisfied compared to NUS students whose mean satisfaction score was 2.92. 2. coping with (un)familiar language environments 24 While the NUS international students exhibited a higher level of proficiency and coping ability with the host language (English) compared to their Todai counterparts who had to wrestle with Japanese, the adjustment process was nonetheless significant if more subtle. People don’t even recognize me as an international student, they’d assume that I’m Singaporean and when they find out, they’d be like, “oh you’re Malaysian, (but) you speak English so well, you don’t look like a Malaysian”…it’s very irritating, insulting…the whole mentality that they are so much better than everyone else. (Jenny, Malaysian Chinese undergraduate student, NUS) That group didn’t let me participate much in the work, they didn’t trust me, gave me all the trivial tasks…when we have group discussions, they would say things like “does anyone have any idea what she’s talking about?” that kind of thing. Before coming [to NUS], I was working with an Australian boss. There was nothing wrong with me [in terms of English communication]. When I came here, the whole world shattered. I started to doubt everything, from my English to my competency, about everything. (Kim, Vietnamese undergraduate student, NUS) In the international classroom in Todai, courses where the language of instruction is officially English are often in practice conducted in dual languages. Hyun, a South Korean PhD student, explains: as some Japanese students are not comfortable with English, the “professors try to speak in English first, then afterwards explain in Japanese too”. In parallel fashion, mainland Chinese students studying in Todai who struggle with English may resort to Japanese instead. Hong (Todai) a Chinese PhD student, found oral English presentations and communication very challenging (given both her and her host’s inadequacies with the language) but was more comfortable with reading and writing in Japanese, primarily because of the large number of characters borrowed from Chinese: In my lab I was the only foreigner and the only girl. So I felt it wasn’t so easy to start my work, because there were many instruments I didn’t know how to use, or things that I didn’t understand, I found it hard to communicate with my labmates. Firstly, when I speak English, they won’t reject me but they find it hard to understand what I’m talking about, and it’s also hard for them to express themselves, *sigh* so I felt it was no use talking, so I might as well not talk. 25 2. coping with (un)familiar language environments 26 I actually think it’s less stressful here because as an international student in my lab, I get off with a lot, so they’re (Japanese labmates) all like ‘ahh, it is okay Charlene’. For example, during my lab seminars they have to translate some lab reports from English to Japanese, and present to everyone. I don’t have to present that because that’s not my native language, so I don’t have to present in Japanese, just in English. Also because their English level is not so good, I don’t get bombarded with a lot of questions. I think in Malaysia, I will not be able to get away with these sorts of things, because the language and everything is all the same. (Charlene, Malaysian postgraduate student, Todai) 3. Host language ability and formation of friendships 27 Friendship circle confined largely to co-nationals: When I came to Singapore, at the beginning, I just communicated with Chinese graduate students, because it’s easy, the first few months, because Singaporean English is very hard to understand, very fast… [Interviewer: But you can speak Mandarin to them [Singaporean Chinese]?] But some of them didn’t know Mandarin and they prefer to communicate with you in English, I think so. For me the definition of friends means you can talk to them about your real feelings (交心). [It is] difficult with locals … I think English is a problem….and also culture, a little bit different…And when you already know some [co-national] friends, … and you’d be lazy to go make some new friends, you won’t take initiative, especially we are already older, you won’t take the initiative, so everyone let it be (顺其自然,). (Minghan, Chinese postgraduate student, NUS) 3. Host language ability and formation of friendships 28 Hong, PhD student from China, bows to the invincibility of “the language barrier” despite an abundance of goodwill to form friendships across the divide: This [Japanese] girl has tried to make friends with me, she is my junior, so she felt, since I’m senior she should have good relations with me, she is very adorable, so if the next day is my presentation, she would put a note on my desk, ‘ganbatte!’[do your best!] Japanese are very good at drawing, so she’d draw a small bunny and even write ‘加油’ in Chinese characters, so she’s really adorable. But because of the language barrier, I really don’t know how I can communicate with her better, at most have lunch together, and return her some small gift. If she has any problems with her work, I can help her, but that’s it, I don’t really know what to say to her. She also doesn’t really know what to say, already she doesn’t like to talk much. The relationship among international students [in her lab] is really good, language wise, we can communicate more [using English], I’ve [gained] more understanding of Thai and Korean culture. With the Koreans, we would talk about Korean pop stars in dramas, singers, I think it’s quite fun and meaningful.... [I am] very close to the Thai student, his parents are Chinese ancestry, so I feel pretty close, though he doesn’t speak Mandarin, we feel closer. When foreigners come together, you are actually closer (外国人和外国人在一起，反而更亲密一 些). (Hong, Chinese PhD student, Todai) 3. Host language ability and formation of friendships 29 Interestingly not being fluent in Japanese did not affect third country friendships as the language of interaction among third country networks is most likely the major regional language, probably English and Mandarin. The relationship among international students [in her lab] is really good, language wise, we can communicate more [using English], I’ve [gained] more understanding of Thai and Korean culture. With the Koreans, we would talk about Korean pop stars in dramas, singers, I think it’s quite fun and meaningful.... [I am] very close to the Thai student, his parents are Chinese ancestry, so I feel pretty close, though he doesn’t speak Mandarin, we feel closer. When foreigners come together, you are actually closer (外国人和外国人在一起， 反而更亲密一些). (Hong, Chinese PhD student, Todai) 3. Host language ability and formation of friendships 30 25 Percentage (%) 20 15 10 5 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 Number of home country friends Todai NUS Figure 2: Home Country Friendships, Todai and NUS 6 7 3. Host language ability and formation of friendships 31 50 Percentage (%) 40 30 20 10 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 Number of third country friends Todai NUS Figure 4: Third Country Friendships, Todai and NUS 6 7 Conclusion 32 NUS leverages – with little hesitation – on its strong English language legacy to build close affinities with the AngloAmerican world of higher education and to compete effectively in the global league of universities. Todai treads a more ambivalent path towards internationalization, embracing a heightened discourse about folding language differences into the larger goal of world solidarity on the one hand, and maintaining the centrality of the Japanese language to the higher education landscape on the other, even as certain niche programmes take on English as the language of instruction (at least on paper). Conclusion 33 For both universities, language issues feature not only in institutional discourses about globalization but also in shaping international student mobilities and experiences. The relationship between host language proficiency and social adjustment is not a linear one. Instead, as seen in both the case of the English dominated environment in NUS and the more ambivalently layered environment with two dissonant languages (English and Japanese), the place of language as both enabler and constraint in the adjustment process is negotiated in the stream of everyday encounters.