World Englishes: Variety or Deficiency?

As you all know, English is spoken by a great amount of people in today’s world. It is no longer restricted to a mother country and its colonies. We can even dare say it has become a kind of “lingua franca” in international communications.

Some scholars are already talking about ELF (English as a Lingua Franca). Jennifer Jenkins , explains the term, “…ELF refers to English used as a common language of communication, or lingua franca, primarily among non-mother-tongue English speakers with various first languages. Although speakers of ELF can also be native English speakers and speakers from former British colonies such as India, the majority come from what is known as the ‘expanding circle’; that is, countries such as Germany, Brazil or Japan, where English is learnt and used but serves few, if any, institutional functions.”

Nowadays, most users of English around the world and most English teachers are NOT native speakers. And this is the point where all the questions come to my mind. Do students of EFL really need to acquire the so-called native-like competence? Isn’t it enough to be intelligible among the people involved in the communication?

A Frenchman called Jean-Paul Narrière (here you’ll find more information about it. It’s in Spanish because I couldn’t find anything in English.) has realised that not being able to speak perfect English in an international business context was an advantage. He found it easier to communicate with Japanese and Korean people in HIS English than for the native speakers to communicate with them. He decided to develop a theory that he called “Globish”. According to him, “Globish isn’t incorrect English, it’s “English light” based on a list of 1,500 core words.” People who support his theory believe that if they need English only for travelling and doing business, why torture themselves in the attempt to speak like a native speaker? And by the way, what does being a native speaker imply?

Brian Brennan points out that” I know many native speakers of English whose level of writing is below CEF B2 level. The CEF C2 band represents a level of linguistic sophistication that few native speakers have. Native speakers, too, are on a cline of competence. But all this begs two questions: What do learners mean when they say they want to learn English? And what models should they be provided with?”

Food for thought. What do you make of all this? Are these new “World Englishes” that are emerging a new form of what we usually call variety or just a deficiency? Looking forward to your comments.

Posted on February 22, 2008, in Reflections on Tefl/tesl and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. It is a fascinating topic you have brought up, Sabrina. What are the sources for the quotes you took from Jennifer Jenkins, Narrière and Brian Brennan? Do you have the links? I’d love to read more about it.

  2. Sabrina, you are a new edublogger. Always include the link to the people, blogs, posts you are quoting

  3. I agree with Bee: I would love to read your sources for this.

    Personally, I think that these different Englishes are varieties, not deficiencies. Communication is what matters, as far as I am concerned. As for what model students should be given, I think we as teachers can only give them our own model. But we need to stress that there are many ways to say almost everything in English. Even among native English speakers there is great variety. Once I taught in a university in Mexico with native English speakers from seven different countries. It was a fascinating linguistic experience.

  4. Thnaks Nancy, Barbara and Eduardo for the comments. The links from where i’ve taken the information are the following (I should have included them in the post. My mistake):
    1) This is only the abstract to a conference but I’ve found it quite interesting
    http://www.languages.unimelb.edu.au/postgraduate/conference/abstracts/Ike.pdf
    2) In this page you will find an article by Brian Brennan and inside it a link to an interview with Jennifer Jenkins. The problem is that you have to be a suscriber to the magazine to be able to read them.
    http://www.its-teachers.com/voices/106_world_englishes.asp
    Let me know your opinion after you read them.
    Kind regards Sabrina

  5. Sabrina, you should edit the post and include those links

  6. Hope now it is better. Thanks for all the help Eduardo.

  7. Sabrina, now your post looks much better

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