THE IMPACT OF LANGUAGE AND GENDER ON PERCEPTIONS OF MANDARIN AND ENGLISH SPEAKERS
Detenber, B.H., Hong, S.H., Koh, H.J., Lau, K.H., and Haridas, S., Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Development of national identity is closely linked to language and its use in the public sphere. In Singapore, the government has actively promoted the use of Mandarin to foster greater social cohesiveness and to enhance the economic competitiveness of the country. In a multilingual society where the use of English predominates, the Speak Mandarin campaigns have met with some success. A question arises as to what impact people's choice of language will have on how they are perceived. This study examines whether the use of either English or Mandarin affects bilingual Singaporeans' perceptions of the speakers. It also examines the role that speaker's gender plays in influencing perceptions, as well as the gender of the listener. In an experiment with a mixed-model factorial design, 106 participants (42 men, 64 women) who were equally proficient in English and Mandarin listened to a prerecorded message twelve times, as three men and three women read it in each language. Participants were asked to evaluate each speaker on 17 items that were used to form three composite measures with good reliability: Competence, Personal Integrity, and Social Attractiveness. Repeated-measures ANOVA models reveal that language and speaker gender influence perceptions independently and also interact. Results indicate that participants rated Mandarin speakers lower on Competence and Social Attractiveness, but higher on Personal Integrity, with speaker gender affecting the strength of the language bias. The findings are discussed in terms of attribution theory, gender role socialization, and stereotyping.