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University of Belgrano - B. A.

in English
Variation in the Language
Ana Laura Bozzani
LANGUAGE VARIATION IN ARGENTINIAN EFL TEACHERS

Introduction

“Do you speak English?” Is a question we usually take for granted taking into account that a
quarter of the world’s population is already fluent or competent in English. “British political
imperialism had sent English around the globe, during the nineteenth century. During the
twentieth century, this world presence was maintained and promoted almost single-handedly
through the economic supremacy of the new American superpower.” (Crystal)

It is true that the “coexistence of British and American English as the two most widely
spread varieties of the language creates confusion among learners and teachers around the
world.” (Parini) However, it is also true that as economics has replaced politics as the chief
driving force, American English seems to have been exerting greater influence on British
English than vice versa.

The study examines whether the age factor plays an important role in the preference for
Americanisms in a small number of writing pieces from EFL teachers in Argentina. This
study is consistent with previous research (Parini, 2002) in that “there is inconsistency in the
use of features of British and American English in the language produced by Argentinian
EFL teachers. Furthermore, it is in a rather erratic way that this variety-mixing occurs since
the results seem to suggest that the teachers in the study use features of English without
knowing to which variety they belong.

Theoretical Framework

“There is little question that English is the most widely taught, read and spoken language
that the world has ever known. The uses and users of English internationally have been
discussed profitably in terms of three concentric circles: The inner circle which comprises
the old-variety English-using countries where English is the first language […] the outer
circle which consists of countries where English has a long history of institutionalised
functions and countries in the expanding circle as is the case of Argentina where English is
used as a foreign language mainly in specific fields such as science, technology and
business.” (Kachru)
University of Belgrano - B. A. in English
Variation in the Language
Ana Laura Bozzani
Argentine speakers of English look up for models and standards in the inner circle,
especially British or American varieties of English. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out
that American English has grown steadily in international significance since World War II
parallel to the growth of U.S. political, economic, technological and cultural influence
worldwide. American English is currently the dominant influence on World Englishes
largely due to its wealth, its population growth, its international political and economic
position and appeal of American popular culture on language and habits as well as its
magnitude of higher education, publishing industry, global mass media and technology.

If this influence is such, therefore, there is no reason why we should not believe that even
though an increasing number of EFL teachers are trained mainly on British English during
their course of studies in Argentina their English may not show-reflect this trend-impact-
force.

Method

The sample consists Argentinian EFL teachers with university degrees from teacher training
colleges. All of them have been trained on British English and are used to teaching mainly
with British material.

The participants were asked to translate a text from Spanish into English within a time
frame?? of twenty minutes. The corpus is unbalanced in gender terms because only one was
male. The key measure used in the paper is frequency of use of American words since there
are 12 words in the text that can lead to the use of either the American or the British variety
of English.

Results
An stated in the introduction, an initial evaluation of the data collected showed consistency
with research done by Parini (Parini 2202: 26) because “the data collected indicated that
although the subjects had been taught British English during their course of studies both at
school and at university, features of American English were present in their productions.”
A first look at the information in Fig. 1 (See Appendix) shows that the use of Americanisms
among the younger teachers outnumbers instances of American words among the elder ones.
University of Belgrano - B. A. in English
Variation in the Language
Ana Laura Bozzani
At this point it may be useful to point out that despite the corpus consisted of 5 texts – each
of them with 12 words which could refer to American or British English- most features were
common to both varities that is the reason why they are not taken into account in the study.
The same happens with the word programme which shows a difference in spelling rather
than a lexical feature.
On the whole, subject A (22 years ols) seems to have the greater influence of American
English on her writing since 9 words out of 12 show this variety, whereas the text produced
by subject B (27 years old) has more inconsistency because 7 out of 12 words are
Americanisms. The degree of variety-mixing in the written sample of subject C is not as
high as in subjects A and B since only 4 words represent the American variety.
Finally, subjects D and E who are 46 and 51 years old respectively had the same quantity of
Americanisms (only 2 words), which reflects a lower influence of this variety in their
language repertoire.
Since it was not possible to find a variation pattern we might assume that the preference for
one or the other variety may have been erratically.

Conclusion

On the one hand, the results seem to be helpful to cast light on the frequency of
Americanisms in the written production of some EFL teachers. We might say that in
Argentina, the younger an EFL teacher is, the higher the possibility to use American terms at
least when it comes to the written medium. This variety-mixing and specially this preference
for American terms may be due to the great influence of American English by means of the
mass media, the technology as well as the film, music and publishing industry. However,
those teachers with a more traditional background or model seem to be more reluctant to this
influence, which could be related to either a more conservative view or less contact with all
these technological advances. To sum up, the teachers in the study – specially the younger
ones- seem to be “rather in two minds whether to adopt the more traditional model or the
American model,… thus creating a rather confusing picture due to the fact that linguistic
boundaries are …difficult to define.”

On the other hand, it is vital to point out the limitations this study has due to the fact that it
consists of a small-scale project. Therefore, more research should be done on the oral and
University of Belgrano - B. A. in English
Variation in the Language
Ana Laura Bozzani
written language of Argentinian EFL teachers comprising tasks which range from the more
formal to the less.

Taking into account the lexical features examined in the study, we might say that the age
factor could influence on variety-mixing but it would only be once we had enough research
carried out on this that we will be able to state that this really takes place.

Worldwide communication centres on English, which however radiates out into British,
American or many other World Englishes producing clarity here, confusion there, and
novelties and nonsense everywhere. This latter-day Babel manages to work despite its
chaotic result and blurred edges. Nevertheless, it is extremely important that those many
people now learning English should have some idea what they may be getting into when
they choose to learn one variety or another. There is really no way to learn a foreign
language without also absorbing a great deal of its social, political and philosophical
outlook. This is equally true whether one chooses to learn British or American English. It is
for learners themselves to choose, but they must have all necessary knowledge available to
them in order to make informed choice. Whether they ultimately choose British, American
or any other language altogether.

Throughout this study, what we can be certain of is that there is some dynamic linguistic
relativism related to variation and change. As regards this, it would be advisable to bring to
mind what Stravinsky argued in his Poetics of Music (Ch. 5): “ A renewal is fruitful only
when it goes hand in hand with tradition”.

Bibliography

Appendix
Model in Spanish to be translated into English
Una mañana en la autopista camino al aeropuerto, Juan piensa en el avión que lo trasportará
directo al paraíso: sus vacaciones. De pronto, el golpe de una piedra que rompe el parabrisas
del auto comienza a interrumpir su sueño. Decide no permitirlo. Detiene su auto, saca del
baúl el equipaje y se dirige hacia una estación de servicio para obtener ayuda. Luego de
caminar bajo la lluvia haciendo señas a autos, colectivos y camiones, llega a su destino y
gracias al conductor del noticiero se entera que todos los vuelos han sido cancelados a causa
del mal tiempo. “¿Alquilar un auto? Imposible.” Escurriéndose los pantalones, se sienta a
mirar el programa comiendo galletitas y papas fritas. De su chaleco mojado saca papel y
lapicera y escribe una nota que luego mandará por correo. Está dirigida a su jefe y dice:
“Este año tampoco me tomo vacaciones. Es mucho para mí.”
University of Belgrano - B. A. in English
Variation in the Language
Ana Laura Bozzani

Transcription of the handwritten sample produced by subject A (22 years old)


One morning in the highway to the airport, John thinks about the airplane, which will take
him straight to heaven: his vacations. Suddenly, the impact of a stone, which breaks the car
windscreen, starts to break his dream up. He decides not to let it do it. He stops his car, takes
out the baggage from the trunk and goes towards a petrol station for help. After walking
under the rain, hitchhiking to cars, buses and trucks, he gets somewhere and though the
news presenter, he hears that all flights have been cancelled due to the bad weather. “ What
if I hired a car? Forget about it.” Draining his pants, he sits to watch the program, eating
cookies and French fries. He takes out from his wet vest some paper and a pen and writes a
note that he will mail later. It is addressed to his boss and it says: “ This year I am not taking
vacations, either. It is too much for me.”

Transcription of the handwritten sample produced by subject B (27 years old)


One morning driving along the freeway on his way to the airport, John thinks about the
plane, which will take him straight to heaven: his holidays. Suddenly, the hit of a stone that
smashes his car windscreen begins to break up his dream. He decides not to allow that. He
stops his car, pulls the luggage out of the boot and heads for a gas station in order to get
help. After walking under the pouring rain signalling for a lift to cars, buses and trucks, he
gets to his destination and thanks to the newscaster he learns that all the flights have been
cancelled due to bad weather conditions. Rent a car? Impossible. Wiping the water off his
trousers, he sits to eat some cookies and fries watching the news programme. From his
drenched waistcoat he takes a piece of paper and a pen and writes down a note, which he
will then send by mail. It’s addressed to his boss and it runs: “ This year I will not take my
holidays. This is all too much for me.”

Transcription of the handwritten sample produced by subject C (37 years old)


One morning on his way to the airport, John is thinking about the plane that will take him
right away to paradise: his holidays. Suddenly, a stone smashed on the car’s windscreen and
his dream began to shutter. He definitely won’t allow this to happen. He stops the car, takes
the luggage out of the boot and heads towards a gas station to get some help. After a long
walk under the rain waving at cars, buses and trucks he finally gets to his destination.
Thanks to the newsreader he finds out that all flights have been cancelled due to the bad
weather. “Hire a car? No way”. He wrings out his pants and sits to watch the program
while eating some cookies and fries. He takes out a pen and a piece of paper from his wet
vest and writes down a note he will be sending by mail later. It’s addressed to his boss and
reads: “I won’t go on holiday this year either. It’s too much for me.”

Transcription of the handwritten sample produced by subject D (46 years old)


One morning on the motorway, on his way to the airport, John thinks about the plane, which
is going to take him to paradise: his holidays. Suddenly, the knock of a stone, which breaks
the car windscreen, begins to disturb his dream. He decides not to allow this to happen. He
stops the car, takes the luggage out of the trunk and goes toward a petrol station. It is thanks
to a news programme presenter that he gets to know that all flights have been cancelled due
to bad weather. “ Hire a car? Impossible.” Unwetting his trousers, he sits down to watch the
programme while eating biscuits and chips. He takes a piece of paper and a pen out of his
wet waistcoat and writes a brief letter, which will be sent by mail afterwards. It’s addressed
to his boss and it says: “This year I will not go on holiday either. It’s too much for me.”
University of Belgrano - B. A. in English
Variation in the Language
Ana Laura Bozzani

Transcription of the handwritten sample produced by subject E (51 years old)


One morning, while driving to the airport, John is thinking about the plane that will take him
straight to paradise – his holidays. Suddenly, a stone impacts his windscreen and interrupts
his daydreaming. But John is determined not be distracted from his aim. He stops the car,
gets his luggage out of the trunk and starts walking trying to find a petrol station to get help.
After walking under the rain, waving at cars, buses and lorries, he finally gets to the airport.
There, a news program reporter is announcing that all the flights have been cancelled
because of the bad weather. He considers hiring a car but rejects the idea. ‘Impossible,’ he
thinks. Trying to get rid of the water in his pants, he sits down to watch the news program
while eating biscuits and chips. He takes a piece of paper and a pen out of his wet vest and
writes a note addressed to his boss, which he will later send by post. It says: ‘I’m not having
holidays this year either. I cannot just cope with all that pressure!

Fig. 1 Production of Americanisms in the written samples of Argentinian EFL teachers

51 years old
46 years old
37 years old
27 years old
22 years old

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
AMERICANISMS