POLISH SPEAKERS AND THEIR COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE IN THE WORLD OF CHANGING ENGLISH: THE CASE STUDY ON THE INTELLIGIBILITY OF A GROUP OF POLISH USERS OF ENGLISH
Jan Długosz Univeristy in Częstochowa (POLAND)
The world witnesses the unique situation where the English language plays the role it has never experienced before. There is a plethora of opinions explaining why English has gained such outstanding significance. While some of them claim that this has happened as a result of actions aiming at the creation of linguistic dominance, which is a direct consequence of imperialist and colonial past (Phillipson 1992), others believe that the spread of English was a natural process stimulated by diverse international activities referring to the growth of trans-continental business enterprises, education, travelling and media (Crystal 2003). Whatever the reason is, the enormous popularity of English has generated general interest concerning the ways in which it is used and who its present-day users are. Many researches are based on the traditional division of the English-speaking world into the inner circle, the outer circle and the expanding circle (Kachru 1985) but particular attention is focused on the countries of the outer circle and the expanding circle due to the astoundingly rapid spread of the English usage in their area. The implications of that popularity encompass frequent modifications of the native standards of English that are caused by the influence of the speakers’ language background and other languages dominant in a given area. Consequently, those modifications lead to the appearance of local varieties of English that in some extreme cases can become pidginized and thus hardly understandable by other users of English, especially native speakers. On the other extreme of linguistic changes we can observe quite an opposite process that is influenced by the multitude of non-native speakers using English in international communicative contexts who want to be internationally intelligible. Consequently, English has become a modern lingua franca that is used worldwide and in all walks of life. When considered from this perspective, English has been frequently referred to as Globish – the variation of English used for successful international communication.
Poland is among many other countries where the importance of English is steadily increasing. Belonging to the group of countries classified as the expanding circle, Poland grapples with educational challenges concerning teaching and learning English. Although English is an obligatory subject on all educational levels, some Polish users still seem to be lacking confidence in that aspect. The aim of this paper is to analyze the communicative competence of a group of Polish users of English. On the basis of the case study conducted among Polish students the author would like to analyze to what extent phonetic, grammatical and lexical deficiencies and mistakes influence the intelligibility of spoken utterances. The research was divided into two parts: first, the subjects were asked to read some excerpts and then they were asked to produce a short description of their last holidays. Their utterances were digitally recorded and presented to a group of listeners of various origin and linguistic experience. Next, the listeners were asked to transcribe the recordings and assess the intelligibility of the speaker. The transcriptions were used by the author to identify the problematic areas and to assess the general level of intelligibility of a given speaker. Additionally, the reasons causing unintelligibility or communication breakdowns were identified.