Teaching in one’s 1st language vs. English as a lingua franca:

Linguistic performance and academic authenticity in the international university


Bent preisler

This project focuses specifically on Danish university teachers’ spoken discourse and interaction with students in a Danish-language vs. English-language classroom. The focus is on the relationship between linguistic performance and academic authenticity for university teachers teaching courses in both English and Danish, based on recent sociolinguistic concepts such as “persona,” “stylization” and “authenticity” (Bell, Eckert, Coupland, Bucholtz). Some guiding research questions:

•To what extent does it affect teachers’ scholarly and educational authenticity – hence their academic authority – that they have to authenticate themselves through language which is restricted by limitations in their own active (and the students’ receptive) language proficiency?

•What linguistic or pragmatic strategies take effect when the communication loses its anchorage in local (Danish) linguistic and cultural context? Do teachers use positive transfer of resources from the local language/cultural context to make up for potential problems?

The purpose is diagnostic with a view to identifying the “best practice” of university teachers who, without being native speakers of English, are to communicate their academic expertise through English in a multicultural learning environment. The project was introduced in Preisler (2008) below, based on sound recordings of semester introductions by three professors taking turns addressing the students. The data for the bulk of the project are interactions, video-recorded in  2010-2011, between teacher and students in a university seminar. The particular course components were taught in an English-language version to a linguistically diverse class of students by a teacher whose 1st language was Danish, and – for comparison – in a Danish language version taught by the same teacher to students from Denmark. Five sets of parallel course components, and three teachers, were recorded, amounting to 30 hours of multi-angle recording enabling the capturing of dialogic sequences. The analysis draws on aspects of interactional sociolinguistics and focuses on particular course activities that are comparable across the recordings (as presented in Preisler 2012, see below).

Preisler, Bent (2008) Teaching in a foreign language: Linguistic performance and academic authority in the international university’. In Haberland, Hartmut, Janus Mortensen, Anne Fabricius, Bent Preisler, Karen Risager, Susanne Kjærbeck (eds.) Higher Education in the Global Village. Roskilde Universitet: CUID. ISBN 978-87-920-2414-5. 103-122.

Preisler, Bent (2012), presentation given at Sociolinguistics Symposium 19 in Berlin, August 21-24, entitled ‘Teaching in one’s 1st language vs. English as a lingua franca: Linguistic performance and academic authenticity in the international university’ (in the workshop Sociolinguistic perspectives on the internationalization of HE).


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