Global English: English is changing the world - In what way is the world changing the English language and the way it will be taught?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2009

20 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. The global spread of English

3. English as a lingua franca
3.1 Traditional language standards vs. English as an international language
3.2 Towards a definition of “New Global English”

4. The future of teaching English
4.1 Traditional standards (EFL & ESL)
4.2 Teaching English as an international language (EIL)
4.2.1 Basic Global English
4.2.2 Content and Language Integrated Learning
4.2.3 A realistic future

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

The history and wide distribution of the English language - originally an Anglo-Frisian dialect first taken to Southern Britain by Germanic settlers in the 5th century and spoken by only a few - has been a most remarkable and unparalleled one. Nowadays, English is the world language, influencing each and every single aspect of the daily and professional lives of millions of people on an international scale.

The metaphor of the Global Village often represents the ubiquitous process of globalisation - a phenomenon that has shaped the existence of mankind in the last couple of decades. Countries all over the world cooperate with each other on economic, cultural, political and scientific levels. Communication in all of these areas is ensured mostly through the use of the English language. It is remarkable, though, that English is only in the fourth place in terms of native speaker ranking and that its proportion is decreasing steadily. Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Hindi all have more native speakers than English. Yet what makes English so important is its use as a lingua franca - an international language that is used for communication by speakers of different languages. Estimates claim that about 1 billion people - that is about one sixth of the world population - have at least some knowledge of English and in most countries it has become one of the basic necessities in professional life.

Does this development have any influence on the way we as future professionals explore, describe and - above all - teach the English language? Do native speakers still ‘own’ English or is it rather ‘Globish’, ‘Franglais’ or ‘Denglisch’ that should be taught? In this term paper I aim to offer some answers to these questions and examine different theories of teaching English as a global language.

I will begin with a short chapter about the global spread of English and continue by discussing the difference and competition between traditional language standards and the new role of English as an international language. I will then briefly describe some features of “Global English” before I will deal with my main point - the future of English teaching. Here, I will at first describe the characteristics of the traditional methods - English as a foreign language (EFL) and English as a second language (ESL) - and then have a closer look at two newer models - Basic Global English (BGE) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). I will conclude this paper by trying to postulate a realistic future of English language teaching - in schools as well as universities - by considering a variety of different scientific proposals.

2. The global spread of English

The history of the English language has been a remarkable success story. However, what are the main reasons for this success and why has English become even more important in the last twenty years?

Popular belief often claims that English is a language that is somehow easier to learn than other languages. This is, however, not true, because English is in many respects fairly difficult1, especially for speakers with a mother tongue that is not an Indo-European language.

In fact, several geographical and historical factors as well as sociocultural ones have caused the initial spread of English.2 From the 17th to the 20th century both British and American colonialism carried the English language to all five continents. In some areas, English speakers largely displaced pre-colonial languages (USA, Australia) whereas in others, only a proportion of the native population acquired English - mainly as a second language (Nigeria, India). Subsequently, in the Caribbean - particularly in Jamaica - the slave trade led to pidgin versions of English that later creolised.3

Furthermore, from the beginning of the 19th century onwards, English-speaking countries accounted for most of the world’s innovations, “resulting in a new terminology for technological and scientific advances.”4 The leading role of Britain in the Industrial Revolution was later inherited by the United States, which had become the fastest growing economy by the end of the nineteenth century. This encouraged many people to learn English because they wanted to discuss technological advances and take part in the economic wealth these advances brought about. Put simply, “one of the primary reasons for the spread of English is that it has been in the right place at the right time.”5 All the above-mentioned reasons only explain the initial spread of English, but what is feeding the very recent developments that have led to an internationalisation of the English language and challenge the traditional categories in which English is classified?

Demography is of essential importance when examining the internationalisation of English. In less developed countries, populations are rising, whereas ‘First World’ countries tend towards a senescence of society and a decreasing population. This changes the demographic balance between languages sustainably because above all it is younger people in third world countries who learn and use English in their daily lives. In particular migration has long-term consequences on language spread. Many migrants come to English-speaking countries to work and live there and influence language change, specifically in pronunciation (accents) and grammatical structures. Furthermore, one should not underestimate the importance of international tourism, which is growing steadily. Encounters involving native speakers are declining, and research shows that “three quarters of visits involved visitors from a non-English-speaking country travelling to a non-English-speaking destination.”6 This illustrates the importance of international face-to-face communication and the demand for either foreign language learning or the use of English as a lingua franca.

The dominance of western economies is now being challenged. The process of outsourcing the secondary (manufacturing) sector to third world countries has been going on for several decades, but did not have such a major impact on language change, because most of the employees did not need to use English or in fact any lingua franca. Yet this process has taken on a whole new dimension, because in the last few years we have found many services being transferred to countries like India or China. Owing to the massive decrease in the cost of telephonic communication, many English-speaking call centres are operating from India, Bangladesh or other ‘outer circle’ countries. We can even witness professional tutors from India providing one-to-one tutoring to Californian schoolchildren via the Internet7 or local news for a New York newspaper edited in Bangalore. Moreover, much high-end engineering research and intellectual work is moved to developing countries as the quality increase in national education creates suitable employees.

Technology also plays a major part as it enables globalisation and the spread of English via the Internet, telephone and mass media. Furthermore, through the use of English as an international language, a greater variety of viewpoints are represented.

Further factors that nurture the spread of English in its new dimension are International organizations (of which 85 % make official use of English), publications, popular music and the American dominance in the motion picture industry,8 which is especially important in countries such as the Netherlands, where the population is to a large extent exposed to subtitled versions of American films and series.9

English is thus “at the centre of many globalisation mechanisms”10 and although its position as a native language is challenged by Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin and Arabic, its impact as a second and especially international language will increase further.

3. English as a lingua franca

3.1 Traditional language standards vs. English as an international language

What is Standard English? This is perhaps one of the most controversial issues in modern linguistics, but still, there exists a certain consensus amongst teacher]s that some ‘Standard English’ is what should be taught to learners of English as a foreign or second language.

There has always been a certain disagreement about the notion of Standard English, especially, about which linguistic levels are involved. Some linguists claim that it only applies to grammar whereas others maintain that it extends to lexis, discourse and pragmatics as well.11 Another arguable point is whether pronunciation is also part of it or whether any accent can be used when speaking ‘Standard English’.

A very general definition is that a standard is a codified variety that is accepted by a larger speech community and serves as a model to them.12 Most linguists detach ‘Standard English’ from pronunciation and mainly refer to written English when they use the term. Although most linguists do not relate the notion of ‘standard’ to a specific dialect spoken in a certain country, it has mainly been two forms that have served as a model to foreign learners in the last couple of decades: British English in Europe and South Asian countries and American English for Latin America and south-eastern Asia.

And yet, these norms are now being challenged. English is gradually used mainly as a lingua franca between non-native speakers leading to a decreasing importance of native- speaker accents. Research shows that even international students can find it difficult to integrate with the native speaker community and therefore re-evaluate the usefulness of a particular variety for their own purposes.13 They do become more aware of the qualities of a ‘native speaker’, but their learning goal is mostly defined as someone who speaks ‘International Standard English’. They achieve “an increased awareness of what is really important in any international context and that is the ability to understand and to be understood.”14

When people learn a foreign language other than English, they mostly do so because they are interested in the culture of the language communities, or they need to learn it because they want to live in this culture. Yet this no longer holds true for the majority of people learning English. The main purpose is now that of being understood internationally. “Beneke (1991) assumes that 80 % of interactions in which English is used as a foreign or second language happen without the presence of native speakers.”15 English is used as a lingua franca in international communication between non-native speakers and consequently, we can witness a development away from traditional native speaker standards towards a new, more global, functional and international one.

But is it only one variety - “Global English” - the world is striving after? The most important terms that have emerged in connection with this are Global English, Global Language, International English, International Language, International Auxiliary Language, International Standard English, World English, World Englishes and World Language. We can argue that these terms refer to usages rather than varieties, because varieties must be viewed as distinct forms of a language that are classified in various categories.16 When examining Global English, we can witness an enormous spoken diversity and heterogeneity, because speakers use oral forms of ‘Global English’ that are strongly influenced by grammatical, lexical and pronunciation patterns of their respective mother tongues.17


1 cf. Meyer, Paul Georg et a32005 (12002).Synchronic English Linguistics - An Introduction. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, p. 233

2 cf. McKay, Sandra Lee. 2002. Teaching English as an International Language. OUP, p. 15

3 cf. Leith, Dick. 1996. “English - colonial to postcolonial.” In: Graddol, David et al. 1996. English - history, diversity and change. London: Routledge, p. 211

4 McKay, Sandra Lee. 2002, pp. 15f.

5 McKay, Sandra Lee. 2002, p. 16

6 Graddol, David. 2006. “English Next.” English Language Research. British Council. 10 Sep. 2009, p. 29

7 cf. Graddol, David. 2006. p. 35

8 cf. McKay, Sandra Lee. 2002. p. 16f.

9 cf. Berns, Margie; de Bot, Kees. 2005. “English Language Proficiency at the Secondary Level: A Comparative Study of Four European Countries.” In: Gnutzmann, Claus; Intemann, Frauke, eds., pp. 210f.

10 cf. Graddol, David. 2006. p. 40

11 cf. Gnutzmann, Claus. 2005b. “’Standard English’ and ‘World Standard English’. Linguistic and Pedagogical Considerations.” In: Gnutzmann, Claus; Intemann, Frauke, eds., p. 107

12 cf. Mesthrie, Rajend. 2000. Introducing Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh UP, p. 20

13 cf. Adolphs, Svenja. 2005. “’I don’t think I should learn all this’ - A Longitudinal View of Attitudes Towards ‘Native Speaker’ English.” In: Gnutzmann, Claus; Intemann, Frauke, eds., p. 129

14 ibid., p. 130

15 cf. Gnutzmann, Claus. 2005b, p. 116

16 cf. ibid., p. 112

17 cf. ibid.

Excerpt out of 20 pages


Global English: English is changing the world - In what way is the world changing the English language and the way it will be taught?
RWTH Aachen University  (Institut für Anglistik, Amerikanistik und Romanistik)
Hauptseminar Sociolinguistics
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
462 KB
Globish, Global Englisch, Denglisch, Franglais, Spanglish, World Language, Globalisation, Lingua Franca, English as a Lingua Franca
Quote paper
Marc Hempel (Author), 2009, Global English: English is changing the world - In what way is the world changing the English language and the way it will be taught?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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