Hong Kong Tertiary Students’ Language Attitude towards an unknown language with and without UK and Nigeria labels
Language is neutral but with social factors will become significant to people’s background and their impression to others. Different gender, socioeconomic status, as well as religion will have different language choices and language preference, so-called language attitude. Apart from these reason, nationality is also an influential variable. Language is divided into superiority and inferiority such as English is the most popular and people are eager to learn. Because of military power, economy, and international status if its adapted countries, it acts as lingua franca that mean a common medium of communication for the speakers from different countries. It indicated that people tend to choose advanced countries’ language. Nonetheless, this is just an observation to English by sociologist. This research was designated to study the feelings and perceptions of people towards some rare and strange languages, like Kanuri and Welsh. Supposedly, Kanuri that used in Nigeria would not be welcomed so much by people while Welsh that used in United Kingdom would be positively thought by others. Then, through the pattern of interviewees’ description on the languages, and the contrast of interviewees’ reaction after letting them know the origin of the languages, one of discussion in this research that was to find whether the reputation of countries affect people’s perception of the languages would be revealed. Also, this research would like to study the relationship between the degree of acceptance of various language of the interviewees and the number of acquired languages besides the biliteracy and trilingualism in Hong Kong.
Language is an essential tool to give a sense of determining people’s identity which would be reflected as members of group-ethics, religious, gender, and national as well (Edward, 2009). Listeners would also use their recognitions toward society in speech perception (Niedzielski, 1999). Then what extent the listeners did react to the language varieties, how much their perceptions on the presenters of these varieties could reveal (Edwards, 1992). There were many researches indicated that people would turn their impression of the spokesman and change their attitude. For example, thought of “German are harsh” would lead people just to focus on their harsh and guttural consonants; perception of “US Southerners are lazy” would make people just pay attention to their lazy and drawled vowels. Besides, once the listener had known the lower-status of the speakers, they would identify the speakers as unintelligent immediately.
On the other hand, a phenomenon that the employer preferred to choose a job applicant due to his “cultured” British accent, instead of a Southern-American due to his “unintelligent” dialogue. It showed that a powerful social influence in language could cover more than intended referential information ( Cargile et al., 1994). There were assumptions and values behind different language according to its nations belonged to. Therefore, listener’s perception was based on the social information of those nations. Then, which languages chosen by the speakers would shape the listener’s impression on themselves.
However, those cases mentioned appeared only western researches. Situations in Asian countries were questioned. There may be possibility for other countries having higher acceptance to different languages, regardless of the nationality choosing the language. Furthermore, the most used example was stating the language spoken by Southern American. Yet, according to Ethnologue: Languages of the World (2005), nowadays, there are 15 language families. The suggested and cited language in previous researches were tip of the iceberg. It may be a case of random by chance. Therefore, this research mainly focused on other two languages, say Kanuri and Welsh, plus aimed to study the relationship between the public relation of a country and people’s feeling toward its language or dialect.
The purpose of this research is to explore how people’s conception towards language affects their attitudes toward unknown languages. The research has been done via a brief survey, which primarily focuses upon a combination of two foreign languages which not be familiar with most Hong Kong university students.The findings from the research enabled the construction of a methodology for a small survey project on the theme. It was noted that there was considerable attitude changing while the language description shift.
Questions 8 and 9 have the same content, so does 10 and 11, 12 and 13. The content used is the Jesus Story on Youtube, which features over 200 languages but all tells the same content. The recording arrangement is as below:
Question 8: Kanuri (No label)
Question 9: Welsh (No label)
Question 10: Welsh (Nigeria label)
Question 11 Kanuri (UK label)
Question 12 Kanuri (Nigeria label)
Question 13 Welsh (UK label)
Question 8 and 9 are to eliminate influence on attitude due to phonological difference and speaker difference. The results of these two questions would act as the base attitude value towards the speakers and the phonological characteristics of the two languages.
The following are research findings:
Total respondents according to gender: Male 31.4% Female 68.6%
Question 8 (Kanuri: No label): 54/85 positive (63.5%)
Male: 18/27 (66.7%) Female: 47/58 (81.0%)
Major art: 4/8 science:7/11 SoSci: 15/22 Buis ½ other 18/24
Question 9 (Welsh: No label): 66/85 positive (77.6%)
Male:19/26 (73.1%) Female: 47/58 (81.0%)
Question 10 (Welsh: Nigeria label): 46/85 positive (54.1%)
Male:7/26 (26.9%) Female: 39/59 (66.1%)
Question 11 (Kanuri: UK label): 44/85 positive (51.7%)
Male 14/26 (53.8%) Female: 30/58 (51.7%)
Question 12 (Welsh: UK label): 52/85 positive (61.2%)
Male 18/26 (69.2%) Female: 34/57 (59.6%)
Question 13 (Kanuri: Nigeria label): 40/85 positive (47.1%)
Male 9/26 (34.6%) Female: 31/56 (55.4%)