The Question of Teaching New Englishes

Seminar Paper, 2004

10 Pages, Grade: 1,3 (A)

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I. The Question of Teaching New Englishes
1.1. New Englishes
1.1.1. Definition

II. Teaching World Englishes
2.1. Definition of ESL, EFL and EIL
2.2. Problems within the teaching of (New) Englishes
2.3. Example: Teaching situation in Tanzania in comparison to India

III. Conclusion

IV. Bibliography

I. The Question of Teaching New Englishes

In the period between the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 and the later years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II at the start of the twenty- first century, the number of speakers of English increased from a mere five to seven million to somewhere between one-and-a-half and two billion. Where- as the English language was spoken in the midsixteenth century only by a relatively small group of mother-tongue speakers born and bred within the shores of the British Isles, it is now spoken in almost every country of the world, with its major speakers being those for whom it is not a first language. (Jenkins, 2003: 2)

In countries like India, Nigeria or the Philippines[1] English is playing a more and more important role, not only for international, but also for intranational communicative purposes. The governments start to set a high value on the teaching of English as it was already done in Europe during the 19th century. Especially, in regard to the upcoming generation, who has grown up with a more westernised and therefore, a more "English" world than their parents, it is tried to prepare them for the global market, as well as for local problems. Together with these aims one question arises: What kind of English should be taught in school? Not only the people have changed, but also the language itself. So today, we have Indian English, as well as, Nigerian or Philippinean English, which on the one hand, are seen as individual languages and on the other hand are just defined as varieties of English.

After a short definition of these New Englishes, the main emphasis of this essay shall lay on the question of teaching English in countries where new Englishes are being established and on the problems that may occur. For a better understanding of these problems the teaching situation in Tanzania shall be compared to that of India.

1.1. New Englishes

By now, the term "New English" has been discussed several times. To understand the problem of defining them, one has to have a look at the spread of English in the world at first, which is rooted in colonial and migration history.

"The most influential model [...] has undoubtedly been that of Kachru [...]."(Jenkins, 2003: 15) in which he divides the Englishes into three concentric circles: the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle. (see Kachru 1992: 356) It goes without saying that even this highly recognised model has its obscurities and is in some parts one-sided. There are many grey areas between the circles, which are not explained or defined satisfyingly. For instance, there might be a high percentage of people within the Outer Circle who learn English as their first language and use it not only for official purposes, but also at home. The same change of importance is taking place in the Expanding Circle, where the status of English as EFL is replaced by ESL for example in the Scandinavian countries or Switzerland.

1.1.1. Definition

"The term 'New Englishes' covers a large number of varieties of English which are far from uniform in their characteristics and current use." (Jenkins, 2003: 22) But they are, for the most part, learnt as second languages or as one language within a multilingual context. According to Platt et al. (1984: 2-3), a New English has to fulfil four criteria: It has developed through the education system and in an area where a native variety of English was not the language spoken by most of the population. Thirdly, it is used for several different purposes among the users in a region. And, at last, it has become 'nativised' by adopting some language features of its own, like lexical or grammatical characteristics.

Even if some of the New Englishes have already codified their own standard, like for instance Standard Indian English or Standard Singaporean English, they are nevertheless often regarded as 'non-standard' by outsiders, especially by native speakers of English from a country of the Inner Circle and, as Jenkins puts it, "it is not uncommon even for their own speakers to regard them as second-best in relation to the Standard Englishes of the Inner Circle." (2003: 33). Due to the fact that even some speakers of New Englishes degrade their own language, it is harder for those languages to gain acceptance among the standardised native varieties of English, like British or American English. And even for some of the Inner Circle languages it is difficult to be adopted, as the example of Australia showed, where up to the 1970s "any distinctively Australian forms were regarded as 'bad' English." (Jenkins, 2003: 33).

II. Teaching World Englishes

In our times of globalisation and world wide communication, with the initiator being Western and therefore, mostly English speaking countries, there is a still increasing demand for learning and teaching English on all continents on earth. In the course of time, English has become an universal language or a so called lingua franca. But language itself is not a constant or unchanging element of culture. Those Englishes which are used for international communication purposes are no longer only the two main standard varieties British or American English. Why should Indian business managers communicate in Standard British English when they are all capable of interacting in Indian English pretty well ? Especially, when this holds the advantage of no one of the group being discriminated due to a lack of understanding a regional language. But this is only a typical situation for India.

In addition to the question of teaching English in general, another problem occurs: Which standard should be taught in schools? Or should they teach any standard varieties of English at all ? In this respect, one also needs to reflect on the choice of the teachers. But before an answer to all these questions can be found, the different positions of English need to be defined.

2.1. Definition of ESL, EFL and EIL

When it comes to the teaching of English, several distinctions have to be made. There is not only one model concerning the role English plays within a country. The next nearest to a native speaker status (ENL – English as a Native Language) is English being a country's second language (ESL). This is mostly represented by the countries of Kachru's Outer Circle with "institutionalised non-native varieties" (Kachru, 1992: 356). The Expanding Circle, on the other hand, includes countries, where English is used in EFL, English as a Foreign Language, contexts and has no official status, such as Japan or Germany. "Since the mid-1990s, it has become increasingly common to find EFL speakers referred to as speakers of English as an International Language (EIL)[...]"(Jenkins, 2003: 4), because they tend to use it rather for international communication or for interaction with each other than with native speakers of English. Finally, as it was already mentioned, these definitions are not true for each particular situation and overlapping is possible.

2.2. Problems within the teaching of (New) Englishes

However, these explanations do not state what kind of English is taught, i.e. British or Indian Standard English or another New English. But most of the time it is assumed that British English is taught because the teaching situation is still mainly seen "from the point of view of the native speakers of English" (Kachru, 1986: 115). This implies that the teaching happens, with no regard to the respective country, "to acquire native-like control" (Kachru, 1986: 117). But why should non-native speakers from completely different cultures speak perfect British Standard English and seek acceptance by a native speaker, when they never had the inclination to get into contact with native speakers or when they need English to communicate with either their own fellow countrymen or with people from other non-native English speaking countries.

Although many schools claim to teach Standard British or Standard American English, it is barely possible in reality. Firstly, non-native speakers who are learning English in a culture that is completely different from the British culture, like for instance Indians or Nigerians, will always "appear incongruent"(Kachru, 1986: 117) due to the fact that they lack typical mannerisms and cultural traits of the language's origin. This is the point when New Englishes may start to flourish due to a mixture of the language with the foreign culture and foreign linguistic patterns, acquired with the learning of a first language or other languages in general. It is not tried to gain native-like competence anymore but the 'new' characteristics are seen as artificial. And after these standardisation processes those 'characteristics' are maybe no longer regarded as common mistakes but as typical features of the New English and are widely accepted by the users among the speech community. A vivid example for this development is India.

Another problem maybe the fallacy that a native speaker of Standard English (mainly British) is a good teacher for his mother tongue. Yes, he has experienced his culture and can therefore provide his pupils with a deep insight to his culture and the culture that stands behind his English. But do his pupils want to acquire British culture? In most of the cases the main focus is put on communicative skills; i.e. it does not matter what Standard English is taught as long as they can communicate with other speakers. On the other hand, being a native speaker does not mean that the person is pedagogically able to teach English. He has not been through the process of learning the same language like a non-native teacher would have been (see Jenkins, 2003: 107).

In the end, it all leads again to the question of Standards. It seems impossible to find an international consent with which all countries would agree. "There is no academy for English with the specific tasks of overseeing the standards and suggesting policies for overall standardisation" (Kachru, 1986: 117), as we have, for instance, in France. Although their work does not have the same impact that it had in former times, it at least provides a central forum where different opinions can be discussed, as well as language policies.

2.3. Example: Teaching situation in Tanzania in comparison to India

Both of the two countries have been British colonies during imperialistic times and in both of them British English was taught. There linguistic development, however, was completely different. First of all, Tanzania has only a short history of British colonialisation, so there was less time to establish the English language in all institutions of the country than it was for example in India, where as early as 1600 the East India Trading Company was founded; or 1672 the Royal African Company in Westafrica. Therefore, an English speaking tradition had been established in Westafrica and South Asia before the first British settlers have even come to Tanganyika.

And even when they were there, the British colonists did not seem to have a larger interest in spreading their language all across Tanganyika. Some scholars even claim that the British government did not have any language policy, at all (Schmied, 1985: 29). It looked more as if they wanted to leave these problems to the education department who forwarded this task to the missions. So at the beginning of Tanganyika being a British colony, English was taught in schools as a Foreign Language (EFL) but only with minor or no focus on it, although secondary education was held in English. During the 1930s it was tried to enlarge the importance of English in Tanganyikan education by starting English classes in primary classes already. But they only succeeded in strengthening the position of English during the 1960s, shortly before the independence of Tanzania, when the English language was equated with education and modernity and had nearly become a second language (ESL) that was used not only for politics or education but also in the media.

In the meantime, the national language Swahili was gaining more and more importance and emerged to the official language of Tanzania that was universally spoken. After Tanzania had become an independent republic[2] the government started to repress the teaching of English and launch a monolingual language policy with the main focus on teaching Swahili. The unification with Zanzibar, where Swahili was spoken as a mother-tongue, and the worsening relations to Western countries like the US, due to their policies in Africa, contributed to the increasing importance of Swahili and English developed from a Second Language (ESL) to a status between a Foreign Language and an International Language (EIL).

To sum it up, one could say that English has not maintained its status as a Second Language in Tanzania and is more an expression of an unfamiliar culture. It is mostly used for international purposes and, in regard to teaching situations, for secondary education like scientific subjects at university. Due to its weak position in the country itself, it is really difficult for the Tanzanian English to be accepted as an English of its own, as a New English.

In India, on the other hand, the situation is completely different. There, English has become a Second Language at the beginning of the 20th century and has ever since maintained or even strengthened this position. In 1950, the constitution of India, which was written in English, stated Hindi and English as the associate official language of India for another fifteen years. But this removal of English had to be abandoned due to the anti-Hindi feelings in the south. Besides, 14 other regional languages, like for instance Marathi or Gujarati, are announced as official regional languages. Whereas in the north of the country the Indo-Aryan language family is dominant and most of the people speak or understand Hindi, the South, where the people mainly belong to the Dravidian language family, cannot adopt to it. That is where English has become and still is important. The Dravidians rather prefer to speak English than to speak Hindi, the language of the 'rival' north. So in regard to the teaching of English, India shifted from a trilingual model during 1960s to a bilingual model. Unfortunately, the trilingual model, where the pupils were supposed to learn English, Hindi and their regional mother-tongue in school, had to be given up. This was in favour for the strengthening of English, although an 'Indianisation' of the language took place, i.e. that certain patterns an words of Indian languages were adopted and are now a regular and artificial part of the New English, the Indian English.

Due to the fact that English, or Indian English, is not only used for international purposes, but also functions as an intranational language in the media, the schools, at home or for other local functions, it has become widely accepted and the speakers themselves are able to identify with the language. English has somehow become an expression of their own culture. The speakers have become aware of the fact that they may not need to maintain the teaching and learning of Standard British English, but concentrate on the recognition of their own variety of it, which is more adjusted to the Indian culture and therefore more appropriate for the speaker community, who "finds expression in a linguistic variety with its own grammatical, lexical, phonological and discoursal norms." (Jenkins, 2003: 133).

II. Conclusion

English can no longer be offered, or received, as a 'possession' of the native speakers which foreign learners must aspire to. Nor is it any longer true that any and every learner should try to speak English like a Britisher or an American. (Smith, 1987: 169).

If there is a strong variety of English within a country that is widely recognised among the speakers and much better adopted to the own culture than the original Standard British English, why should not this New English be taught in school and become the new standard for the respective region ? It is much easier for learners to acquire a language in which they can identify their own culture.

With English being the lingua franca at the moment, it needs to adapt to the needs of its speakers all around the globe, although this means variation and change of old standardised habits and development of New languages or New Englishes. Many speakers of non-native varieties have realised that today and are proud of their English. The only people that need to change, are the native speakers of (especially British and American) English who still claim their language being the only standard English and therefore the only correct form.

IV. Bibliography

JENKINS, Jennifer.

World Englishes: A Resource Book for Students. London: Routledge, 2003.


The Alchemy of English: The Spread, Functions and Models of Non-native

Englishes. Oxford, etc.: Pergamon Press, 1986.


"Teaching World Englishes". The Other Tongue: English Across

Cultures. 2nd ed. Ed. Braj B. Kachru. Urbana, Chicago: University of Illinois

Press, 1992 p.355-365.


Englisch in Tansania: Sozio- und interlinguistische Probleme. Heidelberg:

Groos, 1985

SMITH, Larry E.

Discourse Across Cultures: Strategies in World Englishes. London, etc.:

Prentice Hall, 1987.


[1] In all three of these countries English is not a first language. But app. forty million people or even

more in each country speak English as their second language.

[2] Tanganyika became fully independent in 1961. In 1964 Tanganyika united with Zanzibar and was renamed the Republic of Tanzania.

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The Question of Teaching New Englishes
Dresden Technical University
"New Englishes"
1,3 (A)
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Question, Teaching, Englishes, New Englishes, Tanzania, India, Kachru
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Julia Paternoster (Author), 2004, The Question of Teaching New Englishes, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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