English as a lingua franca. A new teaching paradigm?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

24 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. The role of English in the world
2.1 The global spread of English
2.2 English as a global language
2.3 Kachru’s concentric circles model
2.4 English as a lingua franca

3. Current research on ELF
3.1 Lingua Franca Core
3.2 Basic Global English
3.3 Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English

4. Teaching English as a lingua franca
4.1 The status of English at school
4.2 Teaching EFL vs. ELF
4.3 The concept of Standard English
4.4 Objectives in teaching ELF

5. Conclusion


1 Introduction

"If you stay in the mind-set of 15th-century Europe, the future of Latin is extremely bright," predicts Nicholas Ostler, the author of a language history called "Empires of the Word" who wrote a history of Latin. "If you stay in the mind-set of the 20th-century world, the future of English is extremely bright."[1] Indeed, the history and the world-wide distribution of the English language has been a most remarkable and unparalleled one. The language has developed into a global language which “[…] is dominant in a way that no language has ever been before.”[2] Yet what makes English so important is its use as a lingua franca.

Today, English is spoken by three times as many non-native speakers as native speakers. This phenomenon raises the question whether a standard should be established and how it should be taught at school. English as a lingua franca – a new teaching paradigm? This question will be discussed in this term paper.

I will begin with a short presentation about the distribution of English and its development into a global language. Kachru’s famous three-circle model describing the diversity of English speakers around the world will be examined with a critical eye. The chapter goes on by trying to define the term lingua franca. In chapter 3 the following current research projects will be presented: Lingua Franca Core (LFC) by Jennifer Jenkins, Basic Global English (BGE) by Joachim Grezga and Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE) developed by Barbara Seidlhofer.

Chapter 3 deals with the question of teaching English as a lingua franca (ELF). “English has become the second language of everybody. […] It’s gotten to the point where almost in any part of the world to be educated means to know English”[3] says Mark Warschauer, a professor at the University of California I will first of all focus on the status of English at school by looking at the curricula for teaching English in North-Rhine Westphalian grammar schools. Moreover, the difference between teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) vs. English as lingua franca (ELF) will be examined. Research has shown that native speakers and their Englishes have become relatively unimportant in international communication. Hence, does it still make sense to teach native-speaker norms? The concept of teaching Standard English will be critically analyzed. The last part of this chapter deals with objectives in teaching ELF as well its pedagogical implications.. I will conclude this paper by trying to postulate a realistic future of English taking the concept of ELF into account.

2 The role of English in the world

English is “[…] a language on which the sun does not set, whose users never sleep” (Quirk 1985: 1). The history and distribution of the English language is an unparalleled one. As an originally Anglo-Frisian dialect first taken to Southern Britain by Germanic settlers in the 5th century, the English language developed into the most widely spoken language across the world. Nowadays, English is dominant in a way that no language has ever been before. It is theleading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions. (cf. Crystal 1997: 87ff). Some linguists even say that English may never be dethroned as the king of languages.[4] Although there may be worldwide more native speakers of Mandarin Chinese, Spanish or Hindi, people generally use English as means of international communication. The following chapter will give a short insight into the global distribution of English and its use as a lingua franca.

2.1 The global spread of English

The history of the English language has been a remarkable success story. But, how did a former Anglo-Frisian dialect reach the status of a global language? What are the reasons for this success and why has English become so important in the last years? The popular belief that English is a language which is somehow easier to learn can definitely not be seen as a reason for its success since it is not true. English is in many respects fairly difficult, especially for speakers with a mother tongue that is not an Indo-European language. (cf. Meyer 2005: 233).

According to Crystal the global status of a language depends on the power of its speakers. (cf. Crystal 1997: 5) He claims that there are two main approaches for the worldwide distribution of the English language. Firstly, Crystal mentions geographical-historical factors and secondly he alludes to socio-cultural aspects that caused the initial spread of the English language. The geographical-historical approach shows how English has reached a position of pre-eminence. The socio-cultural approach shows why it retains this status. “The combination of these two strands has brought into existence a language which consists of many varieties, each distinctive in its use of sounds, grammar and vocabulary” (Crystal 1997: 29)

In terms of geographical and historical reasons it can be said that the present global status of English is the result of two important historical facts. The first event that marks the beginning of the global spread of the English language is the expansion of British colonial power since the 16th century. During the 19th century “British political imperialism had sent English around the globe” (Crystal 1997: 8) and by that time “Britain had become the world’s leading industrial and trading country” (ibid.). From the beginning of the 19th century, English-speaking countries accounted for most of the world’s innovations, “resulting in a new terminology for technological and scientific advances.” (McKay 2002: 15f). The leading role of Britain in the Industrial Revolution was later inherited by the United States, which had by the end of the 19th century become “the most productive and fastest growing (country) in the world” (Crystal 1997: 8). Thus, in the 20th century, the “English world presence was maintained and promoted, almost single-handedly, through the economic supremacy of the new American superpower” (ibid.). One can summarize that both British and American colonialism caused the initial spread of English since they carried the language to all five continents from the 17th to the 20th century.

The above-mentioned historical and political events encouraged many people to learn English in order to discuss the new technological issues and to take part in the economic wealth of that time. Graddol claims that English is “at the centre of many globalisation mechanisms” (Graddol 2006: 40). Technology also plays a major role in terms of socio-cultural factors since it enables the global spread of English via Internet, telephone and mass media. Further aspects 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 film industry which is especially important in countries such as the Netherlands, where the population is exposed to subtitled versions of American films and series (cf. Berns/ de Bot 2005: 210f).

McKay sees “[…] one of the primary reasons for the spread of English [in the fact] that it has been in the right place at the right time” (McKay 2002: 16). One can find the same words in David Crystal’s description of the global distribution of English: “Any language at the centre of such an explosion of international activity would suddenly have found itself with a global status. And English […] was in the right place at the right time” (Crystal 1997: 8).

2.2 English as a global language

According to Crystal, “a language achieves a genuinely global status when it develops a special role that is recognized in every country. This might seem like stating the obvious, but it is not, for the notion of ‘special role’ has many facets” (Crystal 1997: 2f). This ‘special role’ can be either the status of a “mother tongue” (ibid. 3) as in Britain, the status of an “official language in a country” (ibid.) like e.g. in India and the language’s “priority in a country’s foreign-language teaching” (ibid.) as “in over 100 countries, such as China, Russia, Germany [etc.]” (ibid). Crystal argues that “because of this three-ponged development – of first-language, official language, and foreign language speakers – it is inevitable that a global language will eventually come to be used by more people than any other language. English has already reached this stage” (Crystal 1997: 4).


[1] cf. Mydans, Seth (2007): „Across cultures, English in the world“ (accessed on 18.12.2011)http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/14/world/asia/ 14iht-14englede.5705671.html?pagewanted=all

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] cf. Mydans, Seth (2007): „Across cultures, English in the world“ (accessed on 18.12.2011)http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/14/world/asia/14iht-14englede.5705671.html?pagewanted=all

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English as a lingua franca. A new teaching paradigm?
RWTH Aachen University  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
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Ann Christine (Author), 2011, English as a lingua franca. A new teaching paradigm?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/263659


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