English and the International Student: Getting Started, Getting on and Being Understood

  • Peter Kell
  • Gillian Vogl
Part of the Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects book series (EDAP, volume 17)


This chapter identifies the nature and impact of English as a global language in higher education across the globe. It explores the reasons for the growth of English as the language of transnational higher education. It also explores the dilemmas between the notion of standardised English and hybrid local varieties of English which emerge in many countries in Asia where English is a second language. This chapter discusses how these differentiated varieties of English are spoken, encountered, mediated and negotiated by international students in the university and in their host communities. Using some research on the English language in an Australian university, many of the experiences describe the challenges associated with ‘getting started’ and ‘getting on’ and ‘being accepted’ in a new and often unfamiliar linguistic environment. This chapter also describes how the university teaching and learning process are changing in the context of growing numbers of Asian students with diverse English language skills and abilities at a time when resources are stretched and diminishing. The challenges for teaching and academic staff in dealing in an environment where other varieties of English are present and emerge in the academy are also discussed. This chapter describes the way in which the notion of learning has been radically radicalised around stereotypical views about how some, mostly Asian international students have been ‘conditioned’ to learn. Assumptions that Asian learning is reliant on rote learning, exam-driven memorisation, passive responses to the learning process and uncritical attitudes are seen by many host institutions as confining the learning potential of many international students. These dilemmas and tensions around perceived needs for students to be more independent in their learning and the nature of the debates about ‘dependent’ learners are discussed in the context of the changing learning environment in higher education which includes the use of new technologies of learning, temporary workforces and intensified teaching workloads for academics. This chapter describes some of the factors associated with the English language and its relationship to the internationalisation of higher education and its profound influence on the lives and experience of international students. The movement of higher education beyond the boundaries of the nation state has been attributed to the spread of global languages, and this has been seen as an enabling factor for the mobility of students across the globe. The rapid growth in the transnational markets in higher education has been influenced by the growth of English as a global language and its growing use as the dominant language in commerce, information technology and education. The global status of English is not accidental and is the product of the legacy of colonial domination by the British Empire, the hegemony of the American empire and its cultural and economic products, as well as pragmatic and deliberate policies of English-speaking nations to sell English as the language of globalisation and higher education.


High Education English Language International Student Asia Pacific Region Australian Government 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Kell
    • 1
  • Gillian Vogl
    • 2
  1. 1.School of EducationCharles Darwin UniversityCasuarinaAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Research on Social InclusionMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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