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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Beliefs about English: Korean postsecondary short-term study abroad learners in Canada Kim, You Mi


English has been associated with “development” and “globalization” (Pennycook, 2007; Phillipson, 2008) and the importance of English education has been emphasized in many countries including South Korea. As the notion of “English as a global language” spreads, skills in English are emphasized as compulsory to live in a global world and an increasing number of students leave their home countries to acquire such skills (Park & Bae, 2009; Waters, 2006). Their motivation to pursue language learning is closely related to their beliefs about the target language; these beliefs are not neutral or objective but ideologically shaped. However, English language learners’ beliefs in relation to ideologies have not been sufficiently explored. Drawing on the concept of language ideology (Thompson, 1990; Woolard, 1998), this study investigates the beliefs of English language learners—specifically, postsecondary Korean adults who participate in short-term study abroad in Canada—toward English, learning English, and using English. It also examines how these beliefs influence the learners’ notions of their mother tongue and study abroad experiences. The study identifies two core values that such learners place on English: (1) English is a competitive tool which enables them to get a job in Korea and (2) English is a global language which enables them to connect to other foreigners throughout the world. The study found that the participants viewed Korean—their mother tongue—as a local language only for Koreans. In addition, they believed they would acquire English skills at a native speaker’s level of fluency through simple exposure and in a relatively short time. Thus, they struggled with negative self images as ashamed and inferior learners. These results indicate a need for a critical approach to English education.

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