—This paper is based on an exploration into the phenomenon of English Corner. English Corner seems a curiously Chinese thing, rarely observed in its public format outside of the People’s Republic of China. It is characterized by ad-hoc, relatively unorganized gatherings of people, who meet together on usually a weekly basis in a public place or inside the confines of a university, to practice speaking English. Attendance is voluntary and in its public format, free of charge. But in as much as it brings together groups of ESL (English as a Second Language) learners whose prima facie intention is to practice their oral English, English Corner can be seen as an informal learning strategy. The researcher’s approach to understanding English Corner is ethnographic and observational, attending and observing meetings as they take place, interviewing randomly selected participants. The researcher is also interested in the future of English Corner as a public forum in the face of social media and online-moderated communication. Preliminary research outcomes suggest that people attend English Corner for a variety of reasons; certainly to practice oral English but also to expand social contacts, deal with work-related and personal problems, and not least to search for potential partners! While there appears to be no moderation of the group, research also suggests that there are some subjects which are typically avoided in English Corners (ie. “taboo” subjects).
—Empowerment, English as a second language, foreign expert, group dynamics, informal learning.
D. A. Kellaway is with the British Council‟s English Language Teaching Development Project (ELTDP) in Sabah, Malaysia (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Cite:David A. Kellaway, "English Corner: At the Crossroads?," International Journal of Social Science and Humanity vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 191-195, 2013.