Book Review – English as an International Language Essay
Book Review – English as an International Language
The blurb of this contribution to the scientific research of English states that this language does not only matter in the context of linguistics but also in other subcategories of science like “sociocultural, political and pedagogical” fields. The reason is seen in the matter of English being a lingua franca that is used in all areas of these studies and therefore the book’s goal is to take a closer look into the complexity of the international usage of English. The book is kept in a light tone of brown on the outside.
On the cover there is a picture of a globe published in Digital Shock in 1997, obviously underlining the focus on inter-nationality. Title and Editor are kept in white. The book spine gives a short introduction about the focus and provides the reader with some quotes of well-known scholars like Janina Brutt-Griffler and Ryuko Kubota. At the beginning of the book, the lists of acknowledgments, contributors and abbreviations are located, followed by an overview by the editor Farzard Sharifian.
The work is split into four parts namely: 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. All of the parts contain 3 essays, except the fourth chapter that provides five different endings. In order to give a brought overview, I will summarize each essay in short and name the convincing and the missing points.
The introduction states that the focus of this book is “on communication rather than on the speakers’ nationality” (p. 5). The reason for this focus lies within the critique that English language teachers express while looking at the results of such a research. This reveals a unilateral measure, excluding the scientific field of English language teaching and underlining the focus on more political issues. However, it already gives a certain sense to the difference between English as an international language (EIL) and English as it is taught in school.
This overview deepens on the following pages dealing with the difference of “politics, policies and practices” (p. 6) and the more precise definition of EIL. By looking closer on attitudes and identities, the author takes position in recent debates and controversies e. g. based on the “NS-NNS accent”. Even though he declares an assumption stating that “English native speakers have no difficulty understanding each other” (p. 8) to be wrong, he at the same time provides the readers with the pro and contra arguments in such a debate.
Due to the fact of his entry being more or less an introduction, Sharifian succeeds in not going to far into detail but giving hints of what will be dealt with in the following. The starting chapter is mainly concerned with the politics influencing English as an international language. The first essay is contributed by Adrian Holliday, professor for linguistics at the Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK. He argues that English as a lingua franca cannot be dealt with on sociolinguistic grounds alone but must be seen as phenomenon of changing ownership.
With this statement he does not question the lingua franca movement but rather points out possible problems resolving from this point of view (p. 21). After providing the reader with background knowledge of the movement establishes a distinction of native and non-native speakers based on the question whether or not this is a distinction to be made on linguistic or political foundation. In the end he comes to the conclusion that due to their distance to the language, non-native speakers are more critical about English as a lingua franca.
With the combination of political and linguistic approaches, Holliday provides the reader with a real sense connection of the two fields and therefore this entry is an appropriate contribution to the subject of the book. The next essay is written by Sadia Ali, anthropological linguist from Zayet University. Her focus lies within the field of EIL in the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) (p. 34). In order to do so she reflects upon the experience of English teachers within this council. This is a major contrast o the focus that Sharifian declared in the beginning of the work. However, by finding out that the employed people in this field are usually native speakers, Ali continues by analyzing their experiences within the alien culture (pp. 40-42). Through the research on the students perceptions, she also enlightens the flip side of the issue and comes to the conclusion that even though the qualification of a teacher does not depend on his/her being a native speaker, hiring processes are still unfair and not adjusted to the actual needs.
Additionally, she proposes to give up older convictions of regarding correct English as an attribute of native speaker (pp. 51-52). Marko Modiano from the University of Stockholm takes the same line with the slight adjustment of rather concentrating on European language teaching which in his opinion failed. By providing the reader with tables that reveal the multilingualism in Europe and its state, he claims that the policy of staying with this system causes the failure of English language teaching (pp. 70-76).
Even though the arguments seem convincing, Modiano totally neglects the opposite view of English being just used in order to simplify international economical or cultural processes. The second part of the book deals with the characteristics of EIL in particular. The first contribution by David Li, Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong, aims to research the views of non- native speakers towards intelligibility and identity. In short the discussion whether native speaker based pedagogical models are useful or if pluricentricity should be the norm.
Based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data using a semi-structured questionnaire he comes to the conclusion that teachers should raise the awareness of their students for other varieties of English rather than sticking to a native-speaker based model in order to “encourage the learners’ confidences in their own English varieties” (p. 110). The sixth chapter is published by Enric Llurda is a Professor Applied Linguistics at the University of Lleida, Spain. His scrutiny is located within the fields of native models among second language users and teachers and their pervasiveness.
He establishes a connection between non-native English speakers and the phenomenon of the Stockholm Syndrom (p. 119). He claims that non-native speaking English teachers are accepting proposals and formulation “that relegate to mere spectators and at times executioners of native speaker norms” (p. 119). After establishing a connection between these teacher and EIL, he further describes the attitudes between the two and comes to the conclusion that there is a “need to overcome non-native English speaking teachers and their subordination to native speakers models” (p. 28). Additionally, he provides possible solutions e. g. to gibe teachers more opportunities to develop their language skills. (pp. 130-131). EIL migrant teacher identities is the field of investigation of Bojana Petric, a lecturer at the Department of Language and Linguistics at the University of Essex. Taking into consideration the mobility of English language educators, she wants to give an overview into the role of a migrant teacher within his/hers classroom. Her results are based on interviews with four English teachers in Hungary.
These interviews brought her to the conclusion that various factors have an influence on the teachers’ constructions of identities. However by admitting that e. g. gender, race or class have also impact to a certain extend she reveals that the research on this field is just one out of many to tackle the issue of migrant teachers (pp. 148-149). The third part of the entire book already gives an impression of more future oriented essays, aiming to improve backward conditions.
The first essay subscribe to that and is written by Vaidehi Ramanathan, a Professor for Socio/Applied linguistics at the university of California, and Brian Morgan from the the York University in Toronto. From a more critical point of view the two argue that globalization makes the problem of classes and their inequality more complex than before and has therefore also an influence on teaching English to speakers of other Languages (TESOL). The interesting thing about this article is the structure of it. Both authors engage in some kind of dialogue and thus the arguments add up and reflect upon each other.
Be that as it may they come to the conclusion that that globalization results in significant challenges for “new scholars and practitioners in TESOL” (p. 166-167) which at the same time help lead to new possibilites in ways of approach. While all preceding chapters deal with whole parts of the globe e. g. the Eastern bloc, chapter 9 focuses on preparation programs in Japan for English teachers. Aya Matsuda, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, takes a stand in the debate about the Japanese action plan “to ‘cultivate Japanese with English abilities. (p. 169) and in how far World English and EIL are incorporated into such a program. In order to do so, she used a questionnaire for Universities having an accredited teacher preparation program to collect the information needed. After the evaluation she draws to a close that the current preparation programs are “attempting to increase their students’ awareness of the sociolinguistic complexity” (p. 87). However, it will take more time to further improve these programs and to make them a good instrument to change the teaching methods and hence our society.
The test that almost every student of English has encountered during his studies is the TOEFL. For this reason, Sarah Zafar Khan, director of the Effat English Academy at Effat College in Saudi Arabia, puts tests like this in comparison to the notion of English as an international language. She basically questions the dominance of standard American variety of English and the parts of the TOEFL test. In short is there a hegemony or not. To provide a practical example she integrates a case study from Saudi Arabia (pp. 195-197).
Through her research, she sums up that students are able to use English for communicative reasons, still, they are not explicitly acquainted to the standardized American English occurring in the TOEFL. Thus she demands a change in the system of English testing for non-native speakers (p. 204). In the fourth part of the book, Paul Roberts and Suresh Canagarajah (the first is a publisher of ELT books and worked as an English teacher in 8 countries, the other Professor for Language Learning at Pennsylvania State University) open up with a glance spoken English in an international encounter.
In order to do so, they concentrate on a conversation between five non-native speaking persons, all of them with a different nationality. Through this procedure they find out that “ELF 2 speakers have the capacity to negotiate English when the context demands it. ” (p. 224). Due to the fact that capacities like this have been left out of linguistic literature so far, the assumption may come up that this is just possible because of the special circumstances both authors created. Be that as it may, it reveals that the strategies of communication are based on the circumstances and not on capability of the speakers themselves.
The twelfth chapter is written by Sandra Lee McKay, Professor for English at the University of San Francisco. She concentrates on the pragmatics and EIL pedagogy. The author desires more attention to the teaching of pragmatics in English as an EIL. Mainly paying attention to L2/L2 interactions, the foundation for her argument is built upon the hybridity of modern interactions in English (pp. 127-128). The outcome of her research is that non-native speakers of English are more likely to use constructions or words of their L1 systems.
In cases such as this, she proposes the working out of a specific communicative strategy to clarify certain concepts of English (p. 251). The final chapter fourteenth chapter with scholarships and the role of English connected to it. Andy Kirkpatrick, Head of the English Department at the Hong Kong Institute for Education, considers “the implications of the rise of English as the international language of scholarship for the dissemination of indigenous knowledge. ”(p. 255). The main source of his investigation is Chinese medicine and its international transition.
With this he proves that a cultural property such as traditional medical procedures, are widely spread across the globe through the help of English language. Still he thinks that this is not a thread to the Chinese tradition because the medical procedures still vary even if they claim to be Chinese. In brief the change in Chinese medicine would have sooner or later anyway (pp. 266-268). The final chapter is contributed by Eric Anchimbe, assistant Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Bayreuth.
He analyzes the differences of local and international standards. Therfore he concentrates on Indigenized Varieties of English that have spread in the recent decades and are also referred to as New Englishes. In the following he underlines the differences e. g. to non-native Englishes (pp275-277). Anchimbe proves that the variation of English is not only based on misconception but “asymmetrical power relations as well as social constructs sustained through colonially-inherited discourses” (p. 84). Also, to him it is inevitable that the language of English changes like everything in the progress of globalization. All in all the contributions to the book are more than satisfactory concerning the actual goal announced by Sharifian in the introduction. However, it is sometimes hard for the reader to draw the connection between goal and entry of the book. The single texts are easy to approach and combine statistical research with comprehensible conclusions.
Another point that is well done, is the fact that all texts are written from different authors from different parts of the world. This is of course necessary for a book that researches international facts in English, still the range of countries taken into consideration is remarkable. One point that does not succeed is the division into different chapters and parts. First of all it really confusing regarding the fact that there are so many texts. Also the division does not make sense because many texts have similar approaches and goals and are still not part of the same chapter.
In comparison to other linguisitic books of research the topic is rather detailed. Therefore some entries appear to repeat many facts from each other. Still, by taking a closer look to the chapters, it becomes clear that every author uses the points for different ways of arguing in favor or against his topic. I think this book would make a great contribution to every language class. It shows that English is not only substantial in English speaking countries, but all over the world due to economy and culture and the influences of globalization.
Subject: English language,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 24 November 2016
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