The Prince of Wales …. described American English as “ very corrupting ” and emphasized the need to maintain the quality of language after giving his backing to the British Council’s English 2000 project… Speaking after the launch, Prince Charles elaborated on his view of the American influence. “ People tend to invent all sorts of nouns and verbs, and make words that shouldn’t be ”.
Those who spoke the language of Beowulf did not view themselves as speaking “old English”. They did not view their language [8 th -11 th Centuries] as a developmental stage of some future language, any more than we do so today.
(Brutt-Griffler 2002, World English. A study of its development , p. 3)
With the exception of orthodox religious observance, language use is the only form of behaviour I can think of where intelligent and highly educated people still defer without question to ancient authorities, treating arbitrary pronouncements on subjunctives and semi-colons, their origins long forgotten and their logic obscure, as sacred commandments or unbreakable natural laws.
(Deborah Cameron, review of Hitchings, The Language Wars , in the Guardian Review , 12 February 2011)
Universities develop academic skills in the global standard form , so far as written English is concerned, in order to generate graduates with international competence … In spoken academic English too, learning must be based on the lexis, grammar and much of the pragmatics of the global form …
(Phillipson 2010, Linguistic Imperialism Continued , p. 206)
On the one hand, we have actual descriptions of certain “ observed regularities ”
But on the other hand, ELF use is also inherently fluid:
“ ELF users exploit the potential of the language, they are fully involved in the interactions, whether for work or play. They are focused on the purpose of the talk and on their interlocutors as people … absorbed in the ad hoc, situated negotiation of meaning”
(Seidlhofer 2009, ‘Common ground and different realities’, World Englishes 28/2: 242).
… the crucial terms ‘community’ and ‘variety’ are, by and large, still used in the same way as they were long before the days of mass international air travel, let alone electronic communication
… at a time of pervasive and widespread global communication, the old notion of community, based purely on frequent face-to-face contact among people living in close proximity to each other , clearly does not hold any more…
A much more appropriate concept is that of communities of practice characterized by ‘mutual engagement’ in shared practices, taking part in some jointly negotiated ‘enterprise’, and making use of members’ ‘shared repertoire’ (Wenger 1998:72ff.)
Members of ELF communities of practice make “use of a shared repertoire which is jointly developed …. to suit the particular purposes of their common endeavour. In other words, ELF speakers with their individual backgrounds and resources contribute to a situational resource pool which changes as speaker constellations change. ”
(Hülmbauer 2009, in Mauranen & Ranta (eds) 2009, p. 325).
The notion that English varieties can only develop in intra (vs inter) group communication “looks back to the nation state past and to the construction of identity rooted in territory . Henceforth, it may well be that identity will derive from the transnational networks that are interest and work based and which cross territorial frontiers ”
(Wright 2004, Language Policy and Language Planning , p. 177)
English is a translocal language , a language of fluidity and fixity that moves across, while becoming embedded in, the materiality of localities and social relations. English is bound up with transcultural flows, a language of imagined communities and refashioning identities.
(Pennycook 2007, Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows , pp. 5-6)
Misinterpretations of ELF from two main ideologies:
One group argue that ELF is unitary and monolithic
The other group argue that ELF means ‘anything goes’ and that NNSEs should conform to native English.
… some French and German speakers have invented English words which do not exist in English … The true repository of English is its native speakers, and there are so many of them that they can afford to let non-native speakers do what they like with it so long as what they do is confined to a few words here and there.
( Trudgill 2002, Sociolinguistic Variation and Change , pp. 150-151)
A few years later: begrudging acceptance (for the wrong reason)
... it has been suggested that it may not make too much sense always to insist on close adherence to native-speaker models, especially where these cause difficulty . Why should Italians spend hours of effort mastering the English th sounds if they are going to be speaking English to Russians who cannot pronounce these sounds either ? Does it matter if Polish people say The possibility to solve this problem (rather than The possibility of solving this problem as ENL speakers would), if they are talking to Finns who would probably make the same mistake themselves?
( Trudgill & Hannah 2008, International English 5 th ed., pp. 7-8)
“ to create an international exam we started by hiring item writers from the UK, the US and Australia …”
“ The first thing we look for is comprehensibility – are they [non-native speakers] understandable to the native speaker?”
( Interview in EL Gazette Sept 2008, p.10)
A Malaysian student’s IELTS experience … [the IELTS] listening is really classic British voice , er British accents that we never heard it beFORE. And then they talk about the er lunchbox . When I reach HERE, then I know what is lunchbox that the children bring to school [all laugh]. I never heard about lunchbox, I never heard about all those things …. (Jenkins & Maringe, focus group data)
A Chinese academic’s experience of publishing in an academic journal
… it will no longer be necessary (as is the case with the author of this article who, incidentally, has never set foot in an English-speaking country) to have her China English adapted to one of the two standard varieties by a member of the Inner Circle , in order to ensure its acceptance at an international level. We need one circle, not three .
(Hu 2004, ‘Why China English should stand alongside British, American, and the other ‘world Englishes’ ‘, English Today 20/2: 32)
Implications for English language teaching practices (for now)
Having an ELF approach involves:
developing accommodation skills even when they result in ‘non-standard’ forms (ie. a focus on successful communication vs ‘correctness’ in the narrow sense)
not discouraging codeswitching/creativity
accepting vs correcting the observed regularities
familiarising learners with a wide range of kinds of Englishes
see the key literature on all this, especially:
Walker 2010, Teaching the Pronunciation of ELF (OUP)
Seidlhofer 2011, in press, Understanding ELF (OUP)
Not forgetting implications for native English speakers too!
… in many international fora, competent speakers of English as a second language are more comprehensible than native speakers, because they can be better at adjusting their language for people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
I see that if I’m in the middle of people that are not English and they’re speaking English and so there is no problem understanding them. Probably my obstacle was to understand like really English people talking
(Italian student, in LINEE Project , Work Package 7)
English next: The new language which is rapidly ousting the language of Shakespeare as the world’s lingua franca is English itself [i.e. not Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic etc.]. But this is not English as we have known it, and have taught it in the past as a foreign language. It is a new phenomenon …
(Graddol D. 2006, English Next , London: British Council, p. 11)