Global Englishes in Asia: 10 Things for Language Teachers to Take Away

This month we published Critical Perspectives on Global Englishes in Asia edited by Fan Fang and Handoyo Puji Widodo. In this post the editors list 10 important things for language teachers to take away from the book.

As language researchers and practitioners, we frequently encounter the unequal use of languages where different languages co-exist. This inequality happens because some languages are deemed as dominant or major languages, while others are considered minor or underrepresented languages from socio-historical and socio-political perspectives. In more multilingual contexts, socio-economic and cultural globalisation exerts influence upon the status of a particular language. For example, English has gained popularity as an international language, a transcultural language, and a global lingua franca in which people of different countries with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds interact with each other for different purposes, such as education, business and tourism.

Critical Perspectives on Global Englishes in Asia reframes our English language education by situating the theory of Global Englishes into English language policy, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Here are 10 important things for language teachers to take away from the book:

  1. Raising a critical awareness of the global spread of English to challenge the ownership of English – as English is used as a global language, no certain country can really own the language
  2. Going beyond the prescribed language curriculum to experience real-life communication with people of different lingua-cultural backgrounds – it is important to go beyond classroom instruction and encourage independent learning for learners to discover linguistic and cultural diversity
  3. Engaging with both native and non-native English accents themselves and providing such accent exposure to students – this is of pivotal importance because many textbooks today still focus (only) on Anglophone varieties of English and may serve as an agent of the native speakerism ideology
  4. Focusing on communication strategies instead of teaching dominant English accents through drilling from a de-contextualised approach. Language teachers may teach students how to re-appropriate their own English accents
  5. Understanding and introducing local varieties and other varieties of Englishes so that students can increase their awareness of different Englishes used in different countries
  6. Designing curricula that fit their students’ needs and goals of English learning – it is important to contextualise ELT practices
  7. Designing testing and assessment that contextualise the situation of learning and reflect students’ needs. Language assessment can be New Englishes-sensitive
  8. Understanding linguistic and cultural diversity and respecting students’ use of L1 and translanguaging practices – learners’ linguistic resources should be recognised instead of reinforcing an English only classroom
  9. Challenging the fixed native speakerism model and norm of English language teaching – such awareness should also be developed in job application and recruitment processes
  10. Challenging the native/whiteness privilege and non-native/race marginalisation to readdress both teachers’ and students’ identities

This edited volume both theoretically and practically addresses various issues and involves both established and emergent scholars to present a critical perspective of English language education in the Asian context. We understand that such ‘things to take away’ may not be generalised in every context. The issue, however, is how language educators, policymakers, and recruiters view the English language from an ecological perspective to respect multilingualism and multiculturalism.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila.

Can Adult Language Learners Acquire a Native-speaker Accent Just by Listening?

This month we published English-Medium Instruction and Pronunciation by Karin Richter. In this post the author talks about what led her to study L2 pronunciation in adults and what we can expect to learn from the book.

Do university students who listen to regular lectures with native speakers improve their pronunciation skills?

Can adult language learners pick up a native-speaker accent just by listening? Or is there little hope because they are probably too old for acquiring a native-like accent? This book presents a longitudinal research project exploring exactly these questions. My interest in the topic arose out of my involvement in two core areas of educational linguistics, namely the current spread of English-medium instruction (EMI) at European universities and the development of L2 pronunciation skills in adult learners. Let me tell you how and why I set out on this exciting journey.

Why study adult pronunciation?

In 2003, the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) in Vienna, where I was teaching ESP courses at the time, pioneered a new programme – part of a growing wave across Europe: EMI. The UAS jumped on the bandwagon and was one of the first in the country to offer a bilingual (English/German) Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship with up to 50% of the classes taught in English mostly by native speakers. In those early days of the EMI movement, it was hoped that the use of English to teach content courses would simultaneously enhance students’ content and language competence, based on the assumption that the learners benefit from ‘two for the price of one’. However, there was – and still is today – little research yet conducted to confirm this hope.

Interestingly, at the time, I was not only teaching a wide range of Business English courses at the UAS but also Practical Phonetics at another educational institution, namely the University of Vienna. Questions began to rise in my mind and I wondered how the EMI students’ increased exposure to English through their native-speaker teachers impacted on their foreign (Austrian) accent in English. I was curious what was going on implicitly, without any specific effort or attention. Essentially want I wanted to find out was: Do the students simply pick up the teacher’s accent without studying pronunciation or is it irrelevant what accent (foreign or native) the teacher has because adult learners at this stage have already passed the critical period for acquiring a native-like accent? As an experienced pronunciation teacher, these questions spurred me to embark on an empirical study in which I monitored the EMI students’ pronunciation for three years, looking in detail to see if they were making any gains or if they were hitting a wall because of their age.

What’s in the book?

The book begins with a comprehensive account of the rise of English-medium instruction in European higher education, examining the role of English as a Lingua Franca and exploring further questions about native-speaker norms. Then it goes on to discuss how languages in general and pronunciation in particular are learned in the EMI classroom and which factors (such as age, gender, musicality, attitude or motivation) influence L2 pronunciation mastery. Each chapter provides a thorough review of the literature, which then serves as the basis for the presentation and interpretation of the findings of my own study of Austrian business students at the UAS, whose pronunciation development I tracked over the entire duration of their Bachelor studies.

What did I find?

  • Do university students who listen to regular lectures with native speakers improve their pronunciation skills?
  • At their age (most of them were in their early 20s) can they make any significant gains with pronunciation at all?
  • Do EMI programmes result in considerable language development despite little to no explicit language instruction?
  • Do additional activities within and outside the programme influence their pronunciation more than just sitting in on lectures with the content area professors?
  • What are the main features of the Austrian learners’ accent in English which they were struggling with the most?

You’ll have to read the book to find out….

What contribution does this book make?

This book goes beyond the context of the particular case here. It addresses the burning issue of linguistic gains in tertiary EMI classrooms and also provides longitudinal data on L2 phonological changes in adult learners. Hence my purpose in embarking on the study and writing this book was to offer a valuable contribution to both the field of bilingual education as well as second language acquisition. I hope that the findings presented in this volume will spark new ideas for future studies in a fascinating field and that researchers as well as programme designers, teachers and students interested in English-medium instruction and second language phonology will find it a worthwhile and inspirational read.

Karin Richter

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like English-Medium Instruction in Japanese Higher Education edited by Annette Bradford and Howard Brown.

 

The Impact of English as a Lingua Franca on EFL Teaching

This month we published English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila. In this post the editors discuss the rise of English as a Lingua Franca and its impact on EFL teaching.

Thinking about the function and impact of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) is not new. The fascination for the global character of English has been around for at least four decades. Scholars have been discussing and analysing the (mostly idiosyncratic) uses of English by so-called “non-native speakers”, predominantly people working in the field of banking and economics, since the late 1970s. Those were simpler times. As the 20th century gave its turn to the 21st, and as the internet took the world by storm, people, and not just businessmen, needed a quick and easy way to communicate, to exchange ideas, to become understood and to express themselves on a global level. English was the ideal vehicle for this. Everything happened so fast. Suddenly, there were millions and millions of instances where people (yes, mostly “non-native”) were using English without the least concern for established norms. When you want to communicate and be understood, you have to consider what the other person is able to understand and therefore you are bound to tailor your entire linguistic behaviour (i.e., choice of words, intonation, speed of delivery, etc.) to the communicational needs of the circumstance; you find that your interlocutors feel and act very much the same way.

This is fine, except that now it is suddenly happening everywhere and by everyone. Online and offline, in virtually all geographical latitudes, people use English when no other language is shared, and even when this is the case, English seems to be the “go-to” primary linguistic vehicle. All this makes the task of describing and making sense of what is happening fascinating but extremely taxing. There are simply countless contexts and situations where English may be used by the “non-native speaker”, and these contexts are now many many more than those demanding compliance to the native-speaker norms will ever be. Even native speakers have to buy into this ELF mindset if they want to successfully communicate with non-native speakers.

On top of everything, the critical perspective in applied linguistics, developed in the 1990s, shook scholars’ confidence in many of the perceptions and terms that had shaped the field for decades. Certain things that were considered fundamental in applied linguistics and foreign language teaching were fundamental no more, the very notion of the “native speaker” being one of the first in the fray. The cornerstone of modern linguistics, the native speaker, was deemed not useful and more a politically incorrect term that fails to describe reality and, to make matters worse, carries with it a string of convictions that are old-fashioned and, well, plainly wrong. Also consider the notion of “mistake” and that of “feedback provision” in the EFL classroom: what constitutes a mistake is arguably no longer a simple matter of looking up the grammar of English, and how the teacher will focus learners’ attention to different aspects of their use of the language is no longer straightforward.

Of course, we are not arguing that EFL, as we all understand it and have experienced (or are experiencing) it, is not still valid. Far from it. It’s just that it is now becoming clearer that so-called EFL-focused practices tend to be predominantly (some would say, exclusively) native-speaker-oriented, and this is the remit of a huge and highly profitable field in applied linguistics and teaching, called high-stakes testing. But the world is not the same as it was 30 or 20, or even 10 years ago and the point that we and the other authors make in the book is that this needs to be reflected in the way that English is taught.

In a nutshell, this book aims to present the case of ELF for EFL contexts. The colleagues that wrote the various chapters are top scholars in their respective fields and the cases they are presenting in each chapter are grounded in extensive research they have undertaken. What we are concerned with is making sense of the impact that ELF can have for teaching, and specifically EFL teaching. We have done our best to incorporate all aspects of EFL teaching, including pedagogy, materials evaluation, teacher education, policy, assessment and testing. Our ultimate aim is to kickstart a dialogue on the principles and processes of what we call ELF awareness in EFL teaching. ELF awareness is a lot more than awareness of ELF: it first and foremost incorporates an awareness of context and an appreciation of pedagogical style, learner needs and usage of English inside and outside the EFL classroom and, fundamentally, an awareness of our attitudes and convictions regarding English.

Nicos Sifakis, sifakisnicos@gmail.com

Natasha Tsantila, ntsantila@acg.edu

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda. 

Can English be used for good?

This week we published Patricia Friedrich’s new book English for Diplomatic Purposes which is the first of its kind to examine the use of English in diplomacy, combining theory and practice to offer a ground-breaking volume for all those working in this field.

English for Diplomatic PurposesCan English be used for good? This question is at the center of my academic practice and was also the driving force behind the invitations I made to colleagues around the world, asking them if they would like to contribute to this book we created, English for Diplomatic Purposes. The fact that these nine researchers/practitioners and I embarked on this creative journey means that we believe it can.

English is often linked to a dramatic colonial past, and to both imperialism and the demise of minority languages at present. While these dynamics cannot be ignored, there is another side to English: that of an important lingua franca, one that brings people together, but that also changes wherever it goes, given local cultures and needs.

This is the backdrop to the book we wrote. How do we reconcile these paradoxical aspects of English and emphasize the uplifting, empowering and life-affirming purposes of the language? First of all, we teach it from an inclusive, summative perspective, and not from a deficit one. This means adding to the students’ repertoire of languages, reaffirming that the languages and varieties that they already speak are valid, functional and representative of their identities and cultures. It also means communicating to native speakers that English is manifested in many different forms. That speaking a variety other than the standard, in contexts where those varieties are called for, is actually a sign of understanding of audience, and that given such fertile variation, linguistic meaning needs to be negotiated in context.

That brings us to the very topic of the book – negotiation and English in diplomatic contexts. While we were familiar with many great pedagogical works that focused on business communication, we believe that the specifics of diplomatic communication called for special pedagogical tools as well. Noticing that those were hard to come by, we decided to start the conversation by writing chapters ourselves. Diplomatic negotiation, dialogue and agreement are special because they go much beyond deal-making, trade exchanges and business alliances. While diplomatic communication is not always synonymous with peace-seeking, we would like to see that facet of diplomacy as the ultimate goal of these exchanges. This applies to the big picture – countries, regions, economic blocks – but also, to a surprising degree, to our own individual lives.

The contributors and I invite you take this journey into the English language’s potential to bring people together in diplomatic conversation and to add your own ideas to the conversation.

For further information about the book, please see our website.

Bringing together ELF and intercultural communication research

Earlier this month we published The Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions of English as a Lingua Franca edited by Prue Holmes and Fred Dervin. In this blog post, the editors explain how, until now, the fields of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) and intercultural communication have remained quite separate but their book brings them together. 

The Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions of English as a Lingua FrancaThis book is the first of its kind. It brings together two very popular, yet separate, fields of research: ELF and intercultural communication. Although these two fields have been very productive and at the centre of scholarly and societal discussions in recent decades, their potential intersection has seldom been discussed in scholarly work. We started the project because we believed that ELF without interculturality—as much as interculturality without input from studies on lingua francas—is a little-investigated area and thus represents an opportunity to question orthodoxies and enrich research in both fields.

Our understanding of interculturality acknowledges the socially-constructed nature of intercultural communication, and the limitations of discourses of “cultural difference”, “respect for other cultures” and “tolerance” perpetuated by powerful institutions, the media, and even early scholarship in the field. Interculturalists are moving beyond these conceptualisations towards more politically-informed perspectives of intercultural encounters. What consequence does this move have for lingua franca research and pedagogy, and for ELF in particular?

In his foreword to the volume, Michael Byram notes that our book “may also turn out to be controversial … and all the better so.” Yet our main objective is not to create a polemic, or to nurture or perpetuate spurious disciplinary boundaries, but to open up fertile and interdisciplinary discussions of the cultural and intercultural in lingua franca communication. The introduction and nine chapters that compose the volume, as well as the stimulating commentary chapter by John O’Regan, all discuss how “culture” and “interculturality” can be understood, theorised, and operationalised in ELF, and the implications for pedagogy. The book will therefore appeal to researchers and teachers working in the fields of intercultural communication and language, in particular ELF, and on lingua francas other than English.

For more information about this book please see our website