Prelude

Parkorn Wangpaiboonkit ’15 quickly rants against coddling English. 

Poon wrote this short piece as a prelude to a paper he had written for RHET 401 back in 2013. He recalls from his own experiences and from that of his fellow international students the frustration of being coddled and convinced that their English, however patch-worked and broken it may be, had a legitimate place within the classroom. Poon wrote this piece as an output for that initial frustration and to put into perspective that international students themselves might have a different mindset on that concept of welcoming all sorts of Englishes. While this piece no longer represents his attitude on the matter, two years out it preserves a strong belief that he held at the time, a sentiment that he’s certain many other international students in any English-speaking institution still share. 


International students comes to the United States to willingly face cultural challenge, to undergo rituals of social- cultural- lingual- self-morphing so that in the end after all the language-immersion-torture we can proudly emerge victorious, one step closer to taking the image of that ideal white man or ideal white woman, as perfect as our childhood post-colonial culture media influences have set them up to be.

Growing up only one generation removed from subsistence farming, students of my background were bombarded from childhood by cultural messages which point to the idealization of the white man’s way of life. To speak English with the perfect diction of the revered Mr. English “earns-twice-your-dad’s-salary” Professor is desirable. To play the piano or the violin well is desirable, not the ระนาดเอก or the ซอสามสาย. To idolize Americans as perfect is ok because it was ok for our primary school teacher to crawl on her knees in order to approach an American man of “higher status” than her. America is better. Americans live an elusively perfect life that we don’t live and can’t possibly understand at our current intellectual level. America is better because our country has no space program while America has the Star Wars space program.[1] These are the messages that students of my generation have been raised upon. For us, and for our families, coming to a college in America means getting the best preparation we can get in order to successfully rise in the society we know – to emulate the white man’s way of speech and thought.

American institutions of higher learning say they want international students because of the diverse cultural perspectives they provide. International students unconsciously say we want to be here because we want to be taught something we can’t possibly find at the perfectly fine universities we have at home. We want to be taught the way of the successful white man.

We want to speak English.


[1] Personal conversation with drill sergeant. Territorial Defense Military School. Bangkok, Thailand. 2010.

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