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English in the world today
English in the world today

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Who speaks English? (Part 3)

Activity 6

Further examples of the personal language histories of people from around the world can be heard in the short video interviews below. The map indicates the places in which the interviewees were born – although as you will hear, many of them have moved around the world. Choose five or six of the interviews and, while watching them, consider again the questions about language and identity from above. As you are watching, compare your own answers with those given in the interviews.

Benjamin Zephaniah

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid001_320x176.mp4
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Colin Goh

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid002_320x176.mp4
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Derek Simpson

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid003_320x176.mp4
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Garth Judd

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid004_320x176.mp4
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Jennifer Childs

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid005_320x176.mp4
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Jung Chang

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid006_320x176.mp4
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Li Xiang

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid012_320x176.mp4
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Megumi Inman

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid007_320x176.mp4
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Njabulo Ndebele

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid008_320x176.mp4
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Roline Salomans

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid009_320x176.mp4
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Sindiwe Magona

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid010_320x176.mp4
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Vatsala Vedantam

Download this video clip.Video player: u214_openlearn_vid011_320x176.mp4
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Comment

What is noticeable from all these interviews is that everyone has a slightly different experience of the language and that their attitudes towards it depend on the specific context in which they are using it. Often, as people pass through different stages in their lives – and especially as they move from one place to another – these attitudes will alter, and their own language practices will adapt to their new environment. For all the interviewees, however, English is not only important as a means of communication, but as part of the way they see themselves and how they are perceived by others.