International Students’ Attitudes towards Malaysian English Ethnolects

  •  Shadi Khojastehrad    
  •  Shameem Rafik-Galea    
  •  Ain Abdullah    


Language attitudes are learned and formed in our social environment through hearing others referring to certain groups or people’s languages and cultures, and also by exposure to particular varieties spoken in the context. This might lead to stereotyping English and its native speakers (McKenzie, 2008). In this sense, it is pedagogically significant to unveil learners’ language attitudes towards a target language in order to prevent negative impression towards that certain variety and consequently inevitable communication failure with the members of that particular speech community. The present study explores the attitudes of international students living in Malaysia towards Malaysian English. The main objective was to examine the respondents’ attitudes towards the Mesolectal variety of Malaysian English spoken by the three main ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese-Malaysian, and Indian-Malaysian. A matched-guise questionnaire was used to elicit information from the students and obtain their responses towards six samples of Malaysian English accents from both male and female speakers. International students from selected Malaysian universities were asked to listen to the recorded speech samples and were then asked to rate the speakers using 15 bipolar adjectives on a Likert scale which were split into two sections of speaker’s style of English speaking and social attractiveness, and finally they were asked to guess the ethnicity of the speakers. The findings show that there is a positive linear relationship between attitude towards the Malaysian English variety spoken by each ethnic group, and the intelligibility of that certain variation, which directly affects the listeners’ evaluation of the speaker’s social attractiveness too.

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