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English as an International Language
Perspectives and Pedagogical Issues
By Farzad Sharifian
Multilingual MattersCopyright © 2009 Farzad Sharifian and the authors of individual chapters
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English as an International Language: An Overview
For better or worse, by choice or force, English has 'traveled' to many parts of the world and has been used to serve various purposes. This phenomenon has created positive interactions as well as tensions between global and local forces and has had serious linguistic, ideological, sociocultural, political and pedagogical implications. Many publications have been devoted to the study of the worldwide spread of English. Processes, implications and consequences have been explored (e.g. Abbott & Wingard, 1981; Bailey & Görlach, 1982; Brutt-Griffler, 2002; Crystal, 1997; Graddol, 1997; Hardin, 1979; Hassall, 2002; Holliday, 2005; Jenkins, 2000, 2006a; Kachru, 1986; Kirkpatrick, 2007; McKay, 2002, 2003; Nakamura, 2002; Smith, 1983; Strevens, 1980). The roles that English has played in the lives of individuals as well as communities range from marginalization and hegemony on the one side to empowerment and upward mobility on the other. As Kachru (1996: 135) puts it, 'the universalization of English and the power of this language have come at a price; for some, the implications are agonizing, while for others they are a matter for ecstasy'. Recent decades have witnessed scholarly inquiry and unprecedented lively debate about these issues (e.g. Burns & Coffin, 2001; Canagarajah, 1999; Pennycook, 1994; Phillipson, 1992; Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1996; Rubdy & Saraceni, 2006).
As English rapidly develops more complex relationships within and between communities of speakers around the world, the dialogue addressing its role as a global language needs to continue to expand. Established arguments and positions regarding politics, policies, pedagogies and practices of English as an international language, as well as its socio-linguistic and sociopsychological complexities need to be revisited, raising new sets of questions. Also, in order to explore these issues from a truly global perspective, it is necessary to open the forum further to scholars from underrepresented regions in the world, who would be able to explore yet untouched issues. This volume is a step towards achieving these aims.
But first, there seems to be a need to clarify what EIL refers to. A good number of discussions in the context of the globalization of English have centered around the use of umbrella terminology. While this overview chapter does not intend to engage in a terminological debate within the field, it aims at clarifying what EIL, as a unifying theme for this volume, stands for.
What is EIL?
In general, we can say that English as an International Language refers to a paradigm for thinking, research and practice. It marks a paradigm shift in TESOL, SLA and the applied linguistics of English, partly in response to the complexities that are associated with the tremendously rapid spread of English around the globe in recent decades. My mention of 'thinking', 'research' and 'practice' above is not meant to suggest that research does not include thinking or that practice excludes thinking. In fact, to engage in practice, informed by the perspective of EIL, is to engage in critical thinking and research.
It is important to emphasize that EIL does not refer to a particular variety of English. Some scholars confuse the term 'International English' with EIL. The use of an adjective plus 'English' often suggests a particular variety, such as American English, Singaporean English or Chinese English. Thus 'International English' can suggest a particular variety of English, which is not at all what EIL intends to capture. EIL in fact rejects the idea of any particular variety being selected as a lingua franca for international communication. EIL emphasizes that English, with its many varieties, is a language of international, and therefore intercultural, communication.
As a paradigm, EIL calls for a critical revisiting of the notions, analytical tools, approaches and methodologies within the established disciplines such as the sociolinguistics of English and TESOL, which explored various aspects of the English language. One of the central themes of EIL as a paradigm is its recognition of World Englishes, regardless of which ' circles' they belong to (Bolton, 2004; Kachru, 1986, 1992). Kachru (e.g. 1986, 1992) described the role and use of English around the world using a model that has three concentric circles: Inner-Circle, Outer-Circle and Expanding-Circle countries. In Inner-Circle countries, English is used as the primary language, such as in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada. Countries located in the Outer Circle are multilingual and use English as a second language, such as India and Singapore. In Expanding-Circle countries, the largest circle, English is learned as a foreign language, such as in China, Japan, Korea and Egypt. Some scholars use the term 'World Englishes' in a limited way to refer only to Englishes in the Outer-Circle countries. However, my usage of the term covers all Englishes from all circles.
The EIL paradigm also emphasizes the relevance of World Englishes to ELT (Matsuda, 2002, this volume). EIL contexts are ones in which English is used between speakers coming from different cultural and national backgrounds. In response to the rapid development of new Englishes, in particular in what was termed 'Expanding-Circle' countries, it has become safe to replace terms like 'English speakers coming from different cultural and national backgrounds' with 'speakers of World Englishes'. Again, it should be stressed, this terminology is not restricted to any narrow sense of English used only in Outer-Circle countries.
As Canagarajah (2006) observes, World Englishes can no longer be viewed through the 'three Circles' metaphor for various reasons. These include the spread of Outer-Circle Englishes and Expanding-Circle English into the so-called 'Inner-Circle' countries. As a large number of speakers from the Outer-Circle and Expanding-Circle countries now live in the Inner-Circle countries, even native speakers of English are increasingly exposed to World Englishes. This means revising the notion of 'proficiency' even for the English of native speakers. Canagarajah (2006: 233) maintains that, 'in a context where we have to constantly shuttle between different varieties [of English] and communities, proficiency becomes complex ... one needs the capacity to negotiate diverse varieties to facilitate communication.'
I can provide an example of the complexity of World Englishes from Australia, a country that has generally been viewed as an Inner-Circle country. Here, English has developed into a codified variety which has its own dictionary and a recognized 'standard' Australian dialect. However, Aboriginal people in Australia have indigenized English to Aboriginal English, which acts as a lingua franca between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people as well as among Aboriginal people who speak mutually unintelligible Aboriginal languages. But Aboriginal English has not been viewed as an Inner-Circle variety, even though it was developed in an Inner-Circle country. Also it should be noted that a large number of Australians speakother World Englishes such as Indian English, Chinese English, Malay English, and so on. In a sense Australia, and countries like Australia, encompass all three circles, hosting many World Englishes. Thus, successful communication for many Australians requires what Canaragajah (2006: 233) refers to as 'multidialectal competence', part of which is 'passive competence to understand new varieties [of English]'. This observation is not just true of Australia. It is gaining global validity.
EIL does not only have implications for mapping the scope of the World Englishes paradigm but it also engages with it at the level of theory. World Englishes can, and have started to, make a significant contribution to the EIL paradigm through the new approaches employed over the last few decades in the study of that field. These include established sociolinguistic approaches as well as more recent approaches such as those from cultural linguistics and cognitive linguistics (Polzenhagen & Wolf, 2007; Sharifian, 2006, this volume). These approaches can provide deeper insights not only into the nature of world Englishes but also about communication across Englishes, an issue which lies at the heart of EIL. This area, however, is still in its infancy (see e.g. Wolf & Polzenhagen, 2006).
EIL has also started to develop a close affinity with research in the area of intercultural communication. As said before, EIL recognizes that English is widely used for intercultural communication at the global level today. It is becoming increasingly recognized that 'intercultural competence' needs to be viewed as a core element of 'proficiency' in English when it is used for international communication (see also Sharifian, this volume, for the notion of meta-cultural competence).
Given the fact that the bulk of research in the area of intercultural communication has focused on English as a medium of communication, the results can readily be applied in EIL training and teaching. In fact some scholars of EIL have also written in the area of intercultural communication (e.g. Holliday et al., 2004) and many, if not all, have referred to intercultural communication in their discussions of EIL. It should of course be added here that most studies of intercultural communication in English have, up until now, focused on NS-NNS inter-cultural communication. Henceforth, what is needed in the EIL paradigm is an expansion of the scope of speech communities and interlocutors engaged in intercultural communication, especially as most instances of intercultural communication in English today takes place between its non-native speakers.
It should be mentioned here that while the EIL paradigm does problematize the polarization of the English speaking world into native speaker/nonnative speaker, it does include so-called 'native speakers' of English. There is after all no word in the phrase 'English as an International Language' that would automatically exclude the native speakers of the language. However, in the context of the globalization, or what I have termed glocalization (Sharifian, forthcoming) of English, EIL recognizes the fact that the distinction between who is and who is not a native speaker is not always clear-cut. The focus in the EIL paradigm is on communication rather than on the speakers' nationality, skin color, and so on, those factors which in the metaphor of 'Circles' acted as symbolic markers of the politicized construct of 'native speaker' (e.g. Brutt-Griffler & Samimy 2002). However, while it lasts, this construct can serve as a springboard for ELT scholars to criticize fundamental notions that are often assumed to capture realities.
From a methodological perspective, the EIL paradigm draws on the established research approaches within the areas of sociolinguistics and applied linguistics but also welcomes the newer qualitative approaches that have emerged in the social sciences. These include narrative inquiry (e.g. Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) and ethnomethodologically-oriented interviews (e.g. Seidman, 2006). As English has played a multitude of roles in people's lives, and many speakers of English have developed complex relationships with the language, such that it has touched their identities, cultures, emotions, personalities, and so on, so the stories they tell about their relationship with it reveal significant links between language, culture and identity. These stories may best be captured through methods such as narrative inquiry and autoethnography (e.g. Ellis, 2004). English has also come to be used by communities of speakers on the internet, a phenomenon which may best be captured by cyberethnography (e.g. Hine, 2000). Such methods are currently underutilized in the field, but we are witnessing more and more scholars using methodologies which tap into speakers'/learners'/teachers' lived experiences and the meanings that they make out of these in relation to English. Some chapters in this volume reflect this trend.
The topics covered in the volume represent the variety of arguments and research questions that characterize EIL as a paradigm for thinking, research and practice. The volume also represents the diversity of the research approaches and methodologies that have been adopted to address these questions. These include dialogue, discourse analysis, narrative and conversation analysis. In general, the contributions to this volume fall within the scope of the following subthemes, which are used as a basis forstructuring the book. It should, however, be noted that most chapters engage with issues that may relate to two or more of these subthemes:
(1) Native/non-native divide: politics, policies and practices.
(2) EIL, attitudes and identity(ies).
(3) EIL, teacher education and language testing: gaps and challenges.
(4) The scope of EIL: widening, tightening and emerging themes.
Native/Non-native Divide: Politics, Policies and Practices
One of the themes that can broadly be associated with the EIL paradigm is research on English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) (e.g. Jenkins, 2006a, 2007; Seidlhofer, 2004). This line of research aims at characterizing communication in English between people from different linguistic backgrounds. For example, it explores the communication strategies employed by non-native speakers of English when they communicate with each other. Holliday's chapter considers the criticism that has arisen in some quarters that the ELF movement has only focused on the linguistic code and has failed to engage with the political ideological dimensions of native/non-native distinction. This involves taking it to task for seemingly ignoring issues of self-image and identity in users of English. He observes that in many cases, the categorization of speakers into native/non-native has a nonlinguistic basis; for example, it may be based on the colour of skin and the racial background of one's parents.
Holliday also explores the ideological and political consequences of labeling speakers using the Centre and Periphery metaphor, which is again closely linked with the native/non-native dichotomy. He reminds us that such classifications are more ideological than geographic or linguistic. Throughout his chapter, Holliday reveals how a native-speaker ideology and, the Centre/Periphery categorization underlie a great deal of discrimination, for example discrimination in hiring practices in the ELT profession.
The issue of native speaker/non-native speaker (NS-NNS) is also explored in the chapter by Ali, but in the context of Gulf Corporation Council Countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman). She observes that in these countries English is increasingly being used as an international language between the local residents and expatriates who come from many other countries. One of the main themes of Ali's chapter is the prevalence of discrimination against nonnative speakers, particularly those from the Outer-Circle countries, in hiring practices in ELT businesses in these countries. She observes that ELT institutions still largely prefer Western teachers of English, mainly due to the learners' assumed preference for native-speaking teachers. Ali explores the experiences of five English teachers from Outer-Circle counties who are currently working in GCC countries. She reports their frustration with the extent to which the native/non-native divide has disadvantaged them career-wise.
Ali also explores the perceptions of a group of students in relation to native/non-native teachers. She observes that the students' perceptions range from unawareness of the native/non-native divide to the attribution of certain linguistic features and teaching approaches, not necessarily positive ones, to native teachers. For example, some students view native teachers as having incomprehensible accents, being less strict or having less experience. Ali observes that when asked about the desirable qualities of an English teacher, none of the student participants in her study proposed a Western/English background. Interestingly, many students in her study expressed a willingness to be involved in the selection of English teachers at their institutions. The findings of Ali's seem to confirm the context-dependability of students' perception of native/non-native, a point which is also acknowledged in Li's chapter. The point is that students do not have a preference for native teachers of English in all countries around the world.
Modiano's chapter discusses the role of English and the current status of EIL in the European Union (EU). He first stresses the overlap between the paradigms of EIL and World Englishes. Both acknowledge the diversity of norms and forms in English which has resulted from its globalization and internationalization. Also, both challenge the traditional approaches to ELT that promoted undue prescriptivism and that denied the sociolinguistic reality of English in today's world. Modiano observes that ELT in EU is yet to be informed by the developments in the EIL paradigm for several reasons. He observes that while some practitioners have come to sense the global force of English, they still feel uncertain about its implications for their classroom practices. As such, Modiano maintains that Native-speakerism is still the dominant ideology in European ELT.
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Table of Contents1) English as an International Language: An overview Farzad Sharifian Native/Non-native divide: Politics, policies, and practices2) English as a lingua franca, ‘non-native speakers’, and cosmopolitan realities Adrian Holliday3) Teaching English as an International Language (EIL) in the GCC countries: The Brown Man’s Burden Sadia Ali4) EIL, Nativespeakerism, and the failure of European ELT Marko Modiano EIL, attitudes, and identity(ies)5) Researching NNSs’ views toward intelligibility and identity: Bridging the gap between moral high grounds and down-to-earth concerns David C. S. Li6) Attitudes towards English as an International Language: The pervasiveness of native models among L2 users and teachers Enric Llurda7) I thought I was an Easterner; it turns out I am a Westerner!: EIL migrant teacher identities Bojana Petrić EIL, teacher education, and language testing: Gaps and challenges8) Global warning? West-Based TESOL, class-blindness and the challenge for critical pedagogies Vaidehi Ramanathan and Brian Morgan9) Desirable but not necessary? The place of World Englishes and English as an international language in English teacher preparation programs in Japan Aya Matsuda10) Imperialism of international tests: an EIL perspective Sarah Zafar Khan The scope of EIL: Widening, tightening, and emerging themes11) Broadening the ELF Paradigm: spoken English in an international encounter Paul Roberts and Suresh Canagarajah12) Pragmatics and EIL Pedagogy Sandra Lee McKay13) Cultural conceptualisations in English as an International Language Farzad Sharifian14) English as the international language of scholarship: implications for the dissemination of ‘local’ knowledge Andy Kirkpatrick15) Local or international standards: Indigenised Varieties of English at the crossroads Eric A. Anchimbe