English as a Lingua Franca

Essay, 2018

7 Pages, Grade: A


English as a Lingua Franca

Lingua Franca (LF) is the term used when referring to a common language between interlocutors of different native languages, usually of also different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Back in the 14nth century AC, the expansion of trade between people of different ethnicities around the Mediterranean area, led to the creation of a pidgin language, a language with simple grammar and lexicon, which made communication between traders possible. This pidgin language was a mixture of mostly Italian with additions from other languages like French, Spanish, Arabic, Greek and Turkish. Today the term Lingua Franca has expanded to include vehicular languages used around the world used amongst people with different origins and native languages (Brosch 2015:71-85). English is the current, most widespread language to be used as a lingua franca, raising issues of proper definition, effective methods of research, successful teaching and evaluation and respect for the global multicultural environment of the world today.

Following the vast technological progress of the last decades, English has become the most widely spread lingua franca in the world. In the division of English varieties used by people all over the world, countries like the UK, USA, Australia and Canada imposed the language they spoke as settlers but at the same time received influence from the indigenous people of areas the settled to (Kirkpatrick 2010:2). Moving to the outer circle varieties, ELF use was also expanded in India, Pakistan, Nigeria and other countries in which trade and contact where frequent and local influence was greater due to large numbers of locals which now also use English also as a formal language (Kirkpatrick 2010:2). Countries like China, Japan, Russia and other countries that treat English only as a foreign language belong to the expanding circle. In these countries English might not have much to do with administration or formal use but due to the globalization of ELF the English language is more promoted and taught leading to the emergence of even more, new varieties of ELF (Kirkpatrick 2010:2). Communications have evolved to allow global interactions. Information and content are widely and in an immediate way accessed from all around the world. This brought on a multicultural diversion in many areas, one of them being language. English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) expanded more than any other language, both geographically but also in the variety of the ethnicities that use it (Dewey 2007:333-354). This led to extensive research both aiming toward a commonly accepted definition but also toward the understanding of how non native people use English as a common language for successful communication.

Growing interest in ELF has led researchers to choose sides and support varying definitions of ELF. The most substantial opposition involves the presence of native speakers in the interaction. According to Brosch (2015:71-85), one group of researchers supports that interactions which include native speakers of English should be excluded, while on the other hand many researchers including UNESCO and the European Commission acknowledge use of ELF even if native speakers participate. This second group is also supported by Jenkins (2009:200-209) who claims that native speakers are also obligated to alter their use of language when conversing with a non native to achieve comprehensibility. This implies that native speakers also accommodate according to the needs of intelligibility thus resulting in the use of English as a lingua franca.

Among important issues that arise because of the variation of ELF from ENL (English as a Native Language) is to be able to discriminate an error from a variant of ELF. This, along with other issues, is a question that is to be answered through data gathering and then analysis of those data in terms of how these items are used, their level of usefulness in successful interaction and how often they occur. (Jenkins 2015:71-85). For this purpose, various projects were set up, aiming to gather data related to EFL use both in academic environments but also concerning EFL users’ attitudes, feelings and perception while using EFL to communicate with other non native speakers. These projects gathered samples of actual EFL use that could be used to provide evidence for establishing linguistic rules (Dewey 2007:332-354).

One of the projects studying ELF is ELFA (English as an academic lingua franca), a project focusing mainly on collecting and analysing a large mass of academic context texts. The project started in the University of Tampere in 2001, collecting recordings of spoken English among international students but also guest featuring conferences or lectures or other academic events which included participation of non native speakers. Rising data collection led to similar projects like the Michigan Corpus of Academic spoken English and projects at the University of Helsinki and the Technological University of Helsinki involving this way various domains of EFL interactions. ELFA was completed in 2008 with one million transcribed words (Mauranen,Hynninen& Ranta 2010:183-190). SELF (Studying English as a foreign language,) another project set up also at the University of Helsinki, turns the focus on the participants’ points of view, locating personal points of weakness in EFL use and using observations from the collected data to try and resolve problems that may relate to both students and teachers. Data from SELF come from observing natural interaction between speakers, interviews but also from written texts, collecting evidence of how communication is regulated in order to be efficient between speakers of English in a non English environment. SELF has a more social character since it deals with issues affecting speakers personally as well as academically. (Mauranen,Hynninen&Ranta 2010:183-190). The VOICE (Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English) a project which runs at the University of Vienna, places more gravity on spoken interaction, with special emphasis on choice of word and forms of grammar used, and no consideration for written influence, making this way the study of reception of speech and reciprocation thus intelligibility in the use of ELF, its major concern. (Seidlhofer 2001:133-158).

The great expansion of ELF mainly in interactions not including native speakers, has also led to the need of re-evaluating ways English language should be taught, regulating it as to cover the needs of non native speakers communicating with non native speakers. In relation to this and using the data already collected by the aforementioned projects some direction for the changes needed has been given for the changes required in EFL teaching. Intelligibility is deemed much more important than native like correctness. EFL users should be instructed how to interact, using EFL with respect to the multicultural environment they function but also they must become competent in reading and writing in order to accomplish their targets. In the same way, all ethnic backgrounds must be taken into consideration in regards of material used or teaching methods (Seidlhofer 2004:209-239).


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English as a Lingua Franca
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ISBN (eBook)
english, lingua, franca
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Elena Agathokleous (Author), 2018, English as a Lingua Franca, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/995910


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