A Door to the World or to Just a Handful of Anglo Cultures? English as a Lingua Franca and Students’ Orientations toward English

| June 29, 2012
A Door to the World or to Just a Handful of Anglo Cultures? English as a Lingua Franca and Students Orientations toward English

Keywords:  English as a lingua franca, intelligibility, linguistic capital, norms

Mark Fifer Seilhamer
Nagoya University of Commerce and Business, Japan

Bio Data
Mark Fifer Seilhamer has taught English and linguistics courses in California, Hawaii, Guam, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan. He recently earned a Ph.D. from National University of Singapore and is presently an assistant professor at Nagoya University of Commerce and Business in Japan. His research interests include language & identity and the politics of English as a global language.

In applied linguistics circles, one of the most polarizing issues related to the global spread of English has been the English as a lingua franca (ELF) research paradigm, which focuses on English use for communication among speakers who did not learn English as a native language (ENL). ELF proponents maintain that non-native speaker interactions in which speakers have little use for native-speaker norms constitute much (perhaps even the majority of) English use in the world today, and that intelligibility and the development of communication strategies should, therefore, be the primary instructional objectives in many EFL teaching contexts. ELF critics, however, charge that a focus on mere intelligibility deprives learners of the valuable linguistic capital that comes with adherence to ENL norms and, furthermore, argue that EFL students themselves desire these native speaker norms. Teachers that recognize valid arguments on both sides of this debate are thus faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to emphasize ELF, emphasize ENL, or try to balance the two perspectives in their classrooms. Reporting qualitative data from my own multi-case study of Taiwanese learners/users of English, I will discuss students orientations toward English their associations of English with specific traditionally English-speaking countries (such as the U.S. and the U.K.) versus associations of the language with an imagined global community of English users. I will then proceed to discuss various ways that I have personally attempted to balance the ELF and ENL perspectives in my own English courses in Japan.

[private] See page: 69-90

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Category: Monthly Editions, Volume 61