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. 

Challenging Current Practices in ELT Materials Design

This month we published Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development edited by Dat Bao. In this post Dat introduces his book and explains what inspired him to put it together.

I am lucky to have been involved in many materials projects with scholars who have taught me a great deal about this field: Brian Tomlinson, Alan Maley, Hitomi Masuhara, Rani Rubdy, Martin Cortazzi, to name a few. From 2000, as a student at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK, until the present day, as a lecturer at Monash University in Australia, I have worked together with these scholars in evaluating course materials, writing textbooks, conducting research and publishing the outcomes.

Knowledge, however, does not come only from the expert. Sometimes those with less experience but with a passion for materials development, such as teachers, students and colleagues, can also have a say. These practitioners sometimes make insightful comments about things that I have never thought of. By interacting together, they exchange views, question practices, reject routine, and support or challenge one another.

Having worked closely with both experts and practitioners, I can’t help thinking that these two groups could learn from one another, and help reduce the sense of hierarchy between them. For example, sometimes studying an updated theory can help teachers improve classroom tasks; at other times, observing teaching practice or listening to a teacher’s perspective can make theorists rethink their ideas.

It was this thinking that inspired my new book, Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development, which began to take shape three years ago. In my own experience, this is a rare occasion on which I have managed to bring together well-known theorists and new researchers; experienced textbook writers and teachers who are users of those textbooks; and lecturers in materials development and their students.

The unusual combination of contributors has produced a range of fresh ideas about how to make English textbooks less boring and mundane. It must be said that a certain degree of negotiation among co-authors was needed to ensure that messages were clearly articulated. But in the end, the book is full of good ideas presented in a neat package with an array of helpful suggestions that are worth trying. Some examples include: what makes technology work best in a textbook, how to choose online resources with an effective learning impact, and in what ways can students be guided to become more creative.

Dat Bao (far left) teaching in the classroom at Monash University

I would encourage teachers, when going through chapters in the book, to visualise how ideas can be adapted to suit their tastes. I would also encourage readers to take notes and challenge what we say with your insights and questions. As they say, sometimes rules are made to be broken. Sometimes recommendations are made to be argued with. In this way, there should no end to what we can do to bring about optimal teaching and learning impact. I would very much like to see more debate around the topics that we raise, so that the field never settles, but remains active, in the same way that riding a bicycle requires the rider to be constantly moving forward to keep their balance.

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.

Our 500th Blog Post!

This is the 500th post on our blog since it first began in 2011! We started the blog seven years ago, not long after our website was updated. In this post we reflect on the blog and share some special highlights and interesting facts with you.

Our very first blog post…

…was written by our Editorial Director, Anna, who wrote about the Mobility Language Literacy conference she attended in Cape Town in January of that year. Since then, we’ve published hundreds of blog posts: interviews with authors and staff alike, guest posts written by everyone from our sales rep to Tommi’s mum, blog series such as an A-Z of Publishing and Publishing FAQs, conference reports, authors introducing their new books, visits to suppliers, our thoughts on issues in the industry, such as Brexit and the pricing of ebooks…and much more!

The majority of people who read our blog are in the US and the UK, but we have readers all over the world, in 146 different countries!

A map showing where in the world our readers are. Only the countries in white haven’t had someone read the blog while there.

Some of our most popular blog posts of all time

One of my personal favourites – a post written by Tommi’s mum, Marjukka, in celebration of International Mother Language Day about what her mother language, Finnish, means to her.

In which we spoke to Colin about the then-newly-published 5th edition of Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.

A post by editor Aya Matsuda on the inspiration behind her 2017 book.

A post in which series editor Ian Yeoman introduces the background to the new series and discusses the future of travel.

A pair of complementary posts from 2011 and 2013 respectively in which Tommi explains how the money from our books is spent and why we price our ebooks as we do.

Highlights of 2017

2017 has been a bit of a milestone for us, with lots to celebrate, and naturally we have written all about each highlight on our blog. Firstly, in February we published our 1000th book, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (6th Edition). On top of this, we also hit 35 years since the company began. To mark it, we published Celebrating 1000 books in 35 years of Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters, a great post written by Tommi, in which he reflects on the last 35 years and discusses how the company and wider world of publishing has changed over time.

Anna and Sarah celebrating 15 glorious years at CVP/MM

In addition to this, Sarah and Anna, who joined the company within months of each other back in 2002, celebrated their 15 year anniversary working at CVP/MM. Of course, the occasion called for a blog post, and we published an interview with both Sarah and Anna looking back on their first days, biggest achievements and favourite memories.

Our blog was originally created as a place to share news, but it has become so much more than that. We hope that it gives readers an insight into what goes on behind the scenes and allows them to get to know us and the company a bit better. We look forward to the next 500 posts!

Flo

 

Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language

Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language

This month we are publishing Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda. In this post, Aya explains how the research she carried out for her first book with us, Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language, provided the inspiration for this new edited volume.

The central question that this book explores, as the title suggests, is how to prepare teachers to teach English as an international language (EIL). Two theoretical chapters present complementary approaches for EIL teacher education while program models and pedagogical ideas from various institutions in over 15 different countries collectively present a wide variety of options available for teacher educators working in different contexts. The goal is not to propose a one-size-fits-all curriculum but rather to illustrate diverse approaches that would move the field toward a shared goal of preparing teachers who can meet the diverse needs of English learners today.

The idea of teaching EIL–an approach to English language pedagogy that acknowledges the linguistic, functional and user diversity of the language and aims at preparing English learners to use the language effectively in this complex ‘English-speaking world’ today—has been the central focus of my professional work for the past decade or so. In 2012 I edited a book, Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language, which laid out the foundation of teaching EIL and also showcased various programs, courses, and lesson ideas that reflects the principles of teaching EIL. The new book, Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language, in a sense, is a sequel to that book.

Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International LanguageThe publication of Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language gave me an opportunity to connect with many English language teachers world-wide. Those who said they have read and enjoyed the book or who attended my conference talks or workshops on this topic were also teacher educators, which I was very excited about because I believe in the vital role that teacher education plays in bringing in changes to educational practices. Many of these teacher educators were frustrated – they were interested in the idea of TEIL and wanted to implement it in their teacher preparation courses or curriculum but they were not sure exactly how to do so, especially when there are strict constraints of government-controlled teacher certification requirements or lack of support from their colleagues. I also learned that there are many teacher educators who were already incorporating the notion of teaching EIL into their teacher education programs and were willing to share their stories. I felt the need to bring these teacher educators together so that we can share our stories and learn from each other’s experience.

This is how this edited book was born – to create an intellectual space where teacher educators in different contexts with shared goals and interests can discover each other and start talking to each other, and where we can get inspirations and ideas that would allow us to make real changes in our own contexts. I am grateful for the hard work of all teacher educators, and specifically the ones who shared their experience in this volume, and look forward to the innovative changes that this book will bring to the practices of EIL teacher education.

For more information about this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in Aya’s previous book Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language.