In the contemporary interpretation, the concept of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) is conventionally utilized to denote a special sociolinguistic category, in particular, a functional type of language that is used as a medium of intercourse between speakers of different languages in the certain spheres of the interaction (Jenkins and Leung 2). As the process of globalization began its rapid development, the world started to experience the need for a sole communication tool that could be used in many different countries.
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In the modern world, the English language takes the position of the leading language used for global communication. English has been playing this role for many decades now. As a result, the agenda of teaching this language, as well as the education for teachers, has been significantly influenced by its role as a lingua franca (Deniz et al. 144).
However, regardless of the active research regarding the effect produced by the status of English as the global communication language, the changes it inflicted on the education for teachers of the English language remain underresearched. The purpose of this paper is to provide a historical perspective on the establishment of English as a lingua franca and then move on to the modern state of affairs and the impact produced by the current status of the English language on teacher education, the way English is taught these days, its use as an instrument for intercultural communication.
English as a Lingua Franca: A Historical Perspective
Initially, a lingua franca implied a specific language form based on the vocabulary of French, Provencal, and Italian languages which originated in the Middle Ages for the negotiations of Arab and Turkish merchants with Europeans and existed in the form of “Sabir” until the 19th century (Wansborough 42).
The establishment of English as a lingua franca was a lengthy phenomenon that was not a planned action. It can be noted that English became a lingua franca due to several factors that eventually led to its transformation and popularisation so that it became convenient for the speakers of different first languages to embrace English as the means of global communication. To be more precise, the factors that contributed to the becoming of the modern lingua franca include the simplicity of English and ease of learning, its adaptability, a wide geographical distribution that made it reach every continent, and the strong and influential positions of the nations that use it as their native language in the world (Abdullah and Chaudhary 129-131).
The establishment of English as a lingua franca stretched throughout many centuries with the colonization practices of the British Empire and the United States of America, the amplification of their power after the Second World War, and the developed status of the other countries that use English as their native language in the modern history (Abdullah and Chaudhary 130-133). The final significant step towards settling as a lingua franca the English language has made at the onset of the computer technology era where the first and most popular computer programs were written using English and soon initiated that the spread of the Internet that also used English as its core language.
English as a lingua franca was called differently, depending on time: “new English” (pidgin), newspeak, and English as a means of teaching and learning (Mallette 89). The very possibility of applying the term to distinguish language objects speaks in favor of interpreting it as a function that is performed by different versions of the English language (Björkman 25).
Differently put, the earlier perception of English as the language spoken primarily in the United States and the United Kingdom has eventually changed as this language started to be employed for various types of casual, professional, and official communication all around the world. The versatility of the English language that occurred due to its wide use for numerous purposes and by the representatives of various cultures has been the focus of scholarly research since the 1980s (Schneider 59).
Accepted as the language of communication is such fields as business, commerce, medicine, and science, the English language as a lingua franca started to reveal some of its disadvantages. In particular, this language seemed to have a vocabulary that was underdeveloped and unadjusted for deeply professional and scientific communication; also, the use of this language was commonly associated with poor performance and command due to the interference of native languages of the speakers; in turn, many norms, notions, and expressions were distorted and provided flawed information (Baker, “English as a Lingua Franca” 8).
The significant popularity of English in the modern world occurred because the key educational systems of the world, namely, those of the UK, the US, Australia, and others are based on the use of English in the field of education (Danielson 69).
The popularity of the education of foreign citizens in schools and universities of these countries is supported by some new national trends in the educational systems of different states using English as a means of instruction, even though English does not have official status in these countries (House 60). For instance, in some Scandinavian countries, MSC is taught in English. Due to such phenomena, English is also known to function as an intermediary language between speakers within one nation in situations where none of the participants are native speakers.
ELF versus ENL and EFL
The current state of the process of globalization is reflected in the new paradigm of the forms and functions of the English language in contexts that go beyond its original national identity. The mentioned paradigm that is also known as a new English paradigm was proposed by Kachru, who distinguishes between the three circles of the utilization of English in the modern world, including inner, outer, and expanding ones (Kalocsai 19).
The inner circle is limited by borders of the so-called native context of using English in countries that are historically considered to be English-speaking, for instance, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, South Africa, among others (Gu et al. 138). The above circle focuses on English as a Native Language (ENL).
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In its turn, the outer circle is formed by the national variants of the English language, the World Englishes, which have spread in the countries of the post-colonial world in such countries as India, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya, and other national varieties of English. Finally, the third circle of expanding refers to the context of the use of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) where it is not the second state language and does not play any role in the performance of the core state functions, be it political or social aspects (Saito 1087).
These are the countries of Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa where English is considered as a way of integration into the global economic, political, and educational space. While each of the specified circles may inevitably comprise some errors associated with interpretation, Deterding reckons that the consideration of this theory allows observing the actual situation in the evolutionary processes of English as a lingua franca and makes it possible to provide an objective description of it as a special linguistic form (58).
In that way, when juxtaposed with the Three Circles Model proposed by Kachru, English as a lingua franca concept discussed by Deterding in his multiple works provides a more general and thus more flexible perspective on the phenomenon of the global expansion of this language. In particular, the ELF category is less focused on the geographical location of the world’s Englishes and is more determined to study the dynamics according to which the expansion happens and the outcomes that it brings about. Consequently, it is possible to note that regardless of its applicability to the real course of events, Kachru’s classification is less relevant to the contemporary use of the English language as a universal tool for communication between representatives of different cultures speaking different native languages.
More to the point, it seems essential to pinpoint the findings regarding ELF in the context of language peculiarity discovered by the VOICE team. As an organization, VOICE was created by its leader and director Barbara Seidlhofer, and represents an international corpus of oral texts of English as a lingua franca that is based in Vienna. The aforementioned organization defines ELF as “any use of English among speakers of different first languages for whom English is the communicative medium of choice, and often the only option.” (Seidlhofer 7).
Focusing on spoken data, VOICE shows that ELF significantly changed, and language contacts played an important role in this change. According to Cavalheiro, the hybrid nature, receptivity, and flexibility about the external influences are the defining features that allow the English language not only to develop but also to transform the national identity of people speaking it (21-27). Differently put, international speakers of English as a lingua franca tend to transform the language continuously using bringing new notions and words into it, by adding concepts and sharing knowledge (Cavalheiro 11).
In that way, cultural identities begin to be shared as well and interact with one another by expanding one another’s cultural identities. Nowadays ELF is the most widely utilized language all over the globe that embraces personal, professional, and cultural spheres of communication.
Features of ELF
The major characteristic of a global language is wide use in various settings by the speakers of different first languages. The pronunciation and general sounding of such language can be heavily affected by the users’ ways to speak the language. As a lingua franca, English has some core and non-core features that are required for its broad use and comprehension by non-native speakers. As explained by Deterding and Mohamad, the former features are required for the maintenance of intelligibility of the language between non-native speakers in international settings (10-11). These features include the following:
- All consonant sounds apart from [θ], [ð] and [ɫ].
- Initial clusters of consonants.
- Nuclear stress.
- Mid-central NURSE vowel.
- Distinctions between lengths of vowels (Deterding and Mohamad 11).
When it comes to the non-core features, they do not play an essential role in the maintenance of communicational success between international speakers of lingua franca. The non-core features of English as a lingua franca include the following:
- Final clusters of consonants.
- Consonant sounds [θ], [ð] and [ɫ].
- Reduced and weak forms of vowels.
- Intonational tones.
- Lexical stress.
- Stress-based rhythm.
- Individual vowel quality (Deterding and Mohamad 11)..
Interestingly, due to the idea that the non-core features of the language are not obligatory as parts of the language teaching program, many teachers disagree with the latter list and believe that some of the features it includes (lexical stress and vowel quality) are very important and should be taught as essential features of the English language. Also, many experts argue about the grammatical variations in different forms of English as the lingua franca the examples of which are presented in the next section.
The issue is that due to the alterations in the perception of the language features that are more and less essential, the entire approach to the teaching of language, as well as its aspects that will or will not be included in school curriculums. In that way, does the assumption that such forms are suitable for oral informal communication to make them acceptable in the official written language? (Alsagoff et al. 33). Will they be equally appropriate in different situations of communication? (Schmitz 277).
Moreover, regarding the core and non-core features of the English language as a lingua franca, it is important to mention that the representatives of different regions of the world tend to disregard some of the non-core features and follow the others. To be more specific, Deterding and Mohamad point out that due to various vocal specificities of the world’s languages, the ways of the pronunciation of sounds in the English language may vary (11-12). In particular, the speakers who come from some of the Asian cultures tend to replace the sound [θ] with [t] in some words and then keep up with the native-like pronunciation in others.
English Language Teaching and ELF
Seidlhofer describes the most common peculiarities that occur in the course of ELF teaching (Cogo and Dewey 62). Among the typical errors, one may note the loss of inflection -s / -es of modern verbs in the form of the third person, use of relative pronouns who and which as interchangeable, the use of redundant pretexts, redundant explicitness, etc. In this connection, several questions arise: should English-focused teachers formulate the skills of using such forms, showing tolerance to them or correcting as mistakes? (Jenkins, English as a Lingua Franca in the International University: The Politics of Academic English Language Policy 78).
The analysis of various approaches to the solution of these issues makes it possible to agree with Prodromou, in the opinion of which it would be “irresponsible to encourage learners to assume that they can do the standard forms of the language” (Sowden 92). Such an approach ensures training communicants with rather limited language resources, “denigrating core standard English grammar only serves that strengthened power of those who have ‘have’ standard English grammar” (Sultana 223; Sung 47).
In other words, in countries of the expanding circle, the goal of education should be to choose a variant of English that has a lot in common with the inner circle English. However, students should prepare for communication with speakers of different versions of the English language, having specific features, not just British or American English. According to Murray, the receptive acquaintance with the peculiarities of ELP expands the linguistic consciousness of students and implies the formation of productive skills of reproducing learning options (322).
Due to several reasons for historical, political, economic, technical, and linguistic nature, the world community voluntarily selected English as the language of international communication and a lingua franca (Crystal 40). To introduce the students to different versions of the English language, the inclusion of World Englishes samples in teaching activities is a reform that transforms the course of learning.
Among the participants of learning, there are not only the representatives of the countries of the inner circle but also those of the countries of the outer and expanding circles (Jenkins, “English as a Lingua Franca from the Classroom to the Classroom” 489). This will form the students’ understanding that English is an intermediary in communication between citizens of the whole world and prepare them for communication with potential interlocutors.
The local English-language press seems to be a rather beneficial source of information regarding the local version of English of a particular region – The Times of India (India), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), or The Straits Times (Singapore) (Ke and Cahyani 31; Kirkpatrick 136). For example, it is possible to offer students to compare the websites of English-language newspapers of two different countries for lexical and grammatical differences.
Thus, teaching English as a lingua franca involves, on the one hand, learning the correct pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, and, on the other hand, the formation of intercultural literacy. (Paltridge and Starfield 19) To cope with such a task, non-native speakers of the language are to make every effort to become, according to Alptekin, “successful bilinguals with intercultural insights and knowledge” (Hynninen 302; MacKenzie 33). At the same time, it is evident that, as stated by O’Regan, the methodological aspects of ELF teaching require the deeper study and the subsequent reform to enhance the efficiency of communication in a multicultural community (548).
English as a Lingua Franca and Culture
Non-native speakers use ELF through various cultural references. Because of the international and intercultural nature of a lingua franca, as well as the mixture of the projections of various identities that it contains due to the continuous transformation, this language has to be taught with the consideration of its unique paradigm. Specifically, being a lingua franca, the English language now exists between cultures and serves as a link maintaining them in connection with one another; as a result, it becomes affected by the versatility of cultures using and thus its teaching and vision may need to be transformed as well.
Not many investigations raise the question of culture teaching in the ELF paradigm. One of the new studies of intercultural communication among seven users of English in Thailand by Baker “revealed cultural frames of reference perceived of and made use of in a hybrid, mixed, and liminal manner, drawing on and moving between global, national, local, and individual orientations” (“The Cultures of English” 567).
To be more specific, the speaker meant that cultural perceptions are a part of the context of the English language, and thus it needs to be taught taking into account cultural sensitivity principles. In other words, the perception of culture changes according to the needs of interlocutors in the ELF context. The use of English as a lingua franca in intercultural communication changes the correlations between language, culture, and nation.
The representatives of various nations speak English using word order, structures, and phrases other than native speakers following the rules embedded in their culture. Dombi claims that “the underlying motives of intercultural interactions are mutual understanding and negotiating meaning, rather than projecting native-like command of the language” (186). Accordingly, the interlocutors in the ELF context possess different cultural frames of reference than native speakers.
During intercultural communication in the ELF context, the perception of cultures is constantly changing in response to the needs of interlocutors (Meierkord 57). Cultural frames of references switch from global to the local level at every moment when a person needs to use a new strategy in his or her speech. The changing nature of references in an ELF context attests to the absence of any particular culture in such intercultural communication.
Nevertheless, language cannot exist without culture. All interlocutors contribute their cultural references creating a common medium for communication with predefined anticipations and beliefs. At the same time, the participants of intercultural communication in the ELF context develop a new perception of their society and can use various cultural frames of references suitable for particular situations.
Therefore, the use of the English language as lingua franca is crucial for the development of cultural frames of references and abilities to communicate effectively on the intercultural level. The theoretic knowledge about the correlations between language and national culture is important, but it does not give an intuitive understanding of different references on the global, cultural, and individual levels.
Using English as a lingua franca, non-native speakers include not only their cultural references in the communication but also their limited understanding of either British or American English. They create unique rules of communication based on the understanding of several languages and intuition. Therefore, people speaking English as a lingua franca develop their own culture with characteristics that are not equal to the sum of all cultural references included in the speech.
The scientists use two distinct approaches to study lingua franca referring to the type of communication (Baker, “Culture and Language” 71). Non-native speakers use the English language chiefly for business cooperation and learning purposes. These preferences predefine the nature of the culture forming in the process of non-native communication.
According to Baker, “English as a lingua franca (ELF) studies, intercultural communication research and English language teaching (ELT) have all been concerned with ideas of ‘successful’ communication and the competencies needed to achieve this” (“Culture and Language” 70). Therefore, non-native speakers using English as a lingua franca are more focused on the distinct result of their interactions than native speakers. Business or education acts as a ground for the culture of a lingua franca communication. People exchange their views and expectations about various solutions for studying and working creating a common medium for relationships between parties from different cultures.
The concept of turn is another important feature of lingua franca communication. All people taking part in the discourse follow the unspoken rule of turn-taking. In every speech, the interlocutors have to speak one after another to be understood by others. In a lingua franca communication, this rule is crucial because the parties often do not understand the English language to the extent needed for fast switching between interlocutors.
Baker claims, “what is central to these early statements is the fact that overlapping speech is regarded as being erroneous and a violation of some rule” (“Culture and Language” 75). People get used to the smooth change between speakers, and abrupt interjections are considered to be rude, even though they might sound neutral in native-speaker communication. In lingua franca interactions, the interlocutors can predict the words and phrases of others for a quicker exchange of thoughts and ideas. Overlapping speech creates hindrances for this course of action. Therefore, the culture of a lingua franca communication contains some unique rules that must be obeyed by all interlocutors for the effective exchange of ideas.
English as a lingua franca creates a new communication culture based on different interpretations of the words and structures used traditionally in the English language. Even such common discourse markers as yes/yeah are changing in the course of a non-native communication. According to House, “speakers of English as a lingua franca in academic consultation hours tend to strategically re-interpret certain discourse markers to help themselves improve their pragmatic competence and thus function smoothly in the flow of talk” (57).
The speakers of the English language as a lingua franca use the discourse makers chiefly to connect their thoughts in one understandable speech. Non-native interlocutors experience difficulties in finding appropriate linking structures in the English language. The discourse makers help them to continue speaking even if they lose the main thread of their speech. The words yes or okay cease to agree with some facts. Instead, they mark the end of each thought expressed by the speaker. Therefore, English as a lingua franca possesses its unique communication culture based on rules of pragmatic use.
English as a Lingua Franca in Intercultural Communication
To communicate successfully with one another, speakers of different mother tongues require a common language the knowledge of which they would share. Today, English serves as the universal tool for communication between the representatives of different cultures. As specified by Dombi, non-native speakers of this language in the contemporary world outnumber its native speakers (184).
As a result, with the emergence of English as a lingua franca, there appeared several issues regarding its use and standards. In particular, the norms of this language are currently the focus of multiple discussions as the universal tool for communication needs to be diverse and fit the needs of speakers from different cultures (Dombi 184). Since the ownership of this global language is now questioned, it becomes difficult to identify who or which culture should serve as the provider of standards working as the basis of the ELF teaching paradigm.
Many of the English language learners prefer learning on the language norms posed by native speakers because this would increase the professionalism of their command. At the same time, this perspective in English teaching makes it complex to distinguish between ELF and EFL teaching paradigms (Dombi 184). In this regard, Illes noted that learning foreign language stands for the acquisition of the pronunciation and competence similar to those of native speakers (4).
However, since many native speakers (especially the native speakers of ELF) do not have experiences of learning any other languages; and as a result, they may not understand the difficulties the English language learners face in terms of cultural differences (Illes 4). Consequently, the unnecessary and complex standards and norms of the ELT could be altered by the native cultures of the learners.
Regarding the teaching of English as lingua franca, culture teaching represents the presentation of the language as a means for intercultural communication (Grazzi 57-58). In particular, the flexibility of ELF teaching should be based on the absence of a single target culture as the carrier of the language norms (Bowles 197). In other words, the development of cultural awareness and sensitivity is to be the major focus of the new teaching paradigm in the context of English as a lingua franca.
Issues in ELF and Teacher Education
As specified earlier, Dombi noted that the number of speakers of English from whom this language is not native outnumbers the native speakers of English (184). This language is now used as a global means for communication and is often spoken between the representatives of different cultures. As a result of this massive important role in the English language fulfills and its global presence, the language is heavily impacted by the contexts in which it is used.
Additionally, from the ELF perspective, English no longer should be viewed as owned by one or several native speaking cultures. In the contemporary world, this language is seen as the link between multiple cultures in highly important spheres such as education, science, business, and commerce. Consequently, the way this language is taught will change as well using dropping the image of a single carrier culture, as well as focusing on the role of intercultural communication tool this language fulfills today. In turn, the change in the context of the language and how it is taught and presented to the learners require significant alterations in the way the English language teachers are trained for practice all around the world.
According to Cavalheiro, “teacher education programs are the ideal way to introduce new approaches to ELT, as both theory and practice play a crucial role in the training and development of trainees” (3). New teacher education programs are needed because many professionals working decades in their sphere hesitate to change their views on the approaches to the English language. It could apply to all teaching, but it is crucial in the ELF context. According to Sifakis, “there is evidence to suggest the existence of a mismatch between what ESOL teachers seem to believe about the English that they teach to their non-native learners and the competences and abilities that they believe these learners need when communicating” (346). They do not see the peculiarities in the use of ELF believing in the effectiveness of their teaching methods.
New education courses can help to develop the teachers’ perception of ELF as a means of intercultural communication. In all countries around the globe, language teachers know about the international position of English, but they generally do little to enhance their methods. Their approaches are originally aimed at anglophones, but ELF teaching deals with non-native speakers. Teachers should discuss the position and the use of ELF in intercultural communication to understand the need for change in their methods.
Active exchange of experience among language professionals will lead to the development of their view on English as a lingua franca. Unfortunately, previous language teaching can hinder the enhancement of new approaches because people support their attitudes with their positive experiences (Cavalheiro 17). Young teachers tend to be more willing to broaden their views on ELF than their senior colleagues are. At the same time, experienced teachers suppose that people learn English primarily to communicate with non-native speakers, while young members of the profession think that the majority of their students want to work in English-speaking countries.
The development of English as a lingua franca calls for the appearance of innovative teacher education programs. Sifakis claims, that “ELF teacher education can gain enormously by implementing the rigorous, reflection-based transformative methodology of adult education theorist Jack Mezirow’ (345).
There are a lot of issues connected with the terms and classifications of a lingua franca proficiency. Teachers of foreign languages do not always follow the common classification of language proficiency in assessing the abilities of their students. The same happens with grammar, lexical uncertainty, and pronunciation. Therefore, language teachers need to learn universal rules for teaching non-native students.
There is a distinct mismatch between the expectations of ELF learners and teachers. Non-native speakers want to learn English as a lingua franca in all diversity of forms that a language can have for the most productive communication. Teachers traditionally choose between British English and General American limiting the experience of their students. English as a lingua franca creates a complex fusion of lexical and grammar rules to serve the needs of the non-native interlocutors.
According to Sifakis, “this covers elements of the ELF lexicogrammar such as the non-use of the third person singular marker, the all-purpose use of question tags, the heavy reliance on verbs of high semantic generality” (346). The teacher education programs should consider this difference of ELF from the language types used by native speakers.
Sifakis claims that Mezirow’s transformative adult learning paradigm “aims at enabling ESOL practitioners to become fully aware of the characteristics and challenges that ELF discourse and teaching engender and, essentially, open up to change by realizing and transforming their worldviews and perspectives about ESOL teaching” (352). The teachers learn the needs of their students and the ways to address them. The model consists of five stages.
At the preparation stage, the educator acknowledges the peculiarities of non-native language teachers and decides how to create groups. The participating teachers give their answers to a questionnaire about their jobs, learning process, and interests. They also describe how they use lingua franca and in what situations. At this stage, participating teachers should outline their awareness about errors in the use of English.
At the identification stage, participating teachers speak to learn each other better, paying special attention to their awareness about the components of ELF communication. The educator should give them the notion of basic issues found in ELF. The participants analyze the examples of ELF discourses to recognize the problems of non-native communication.
At the awareness stage, the educator provides the participating teachers with selected articles on ELF that assess the issues allocated during the identification. The educator should encourage dialogues in the groups to include more complex themes. Nevertheless, the topics should be familiar to the majority of the participating teachers.
At the transformation stage, the topics of the discussions revolve around the individual issues of the participating teachers in the ELF communication and their professions. The educator should encourage participating teachers to talk about the positive impact of ELF on their professional identity.
At the planning stage, the participants should be aware of all underlying issues of ELF communication and be able to build their educational programs. Therefore, Mezirow’s transformative adult learning paradigm immerses the teachers in the ELF surroundings to allow them to understand the issues and peculiarities of non-native communication.
It took a long time for the English language to grow into one of the most commonly used languages all around the globe and eventually be transformed into the universal means of communication between representatives of different cultures. Over the last century, English has cemented its position as a lingua franca – the language that the speakers of various mother tongues use to understand one another and the language that dominates such essential fields as science, education, business, and commerce.
In the contemporary world researchers and language professionals agree that English as a lingua franca represents a unique socioeconomic category. Differently put, as a language, English serves as a functional means of intercultural and international communication. This language possesses a set of characteristics and traits that have made it easy to learn and understand so that it suits its functional purpose.
The establishment of English as a lingua franca was a long historical and social process that included may significant global events such as colonization, imperial acquisitions, wars, financial crises and changes, and the rapid development of technology. Due to all of these events, the English language had an opportunity to find its way to all continents and most countries. At first, this language was seen mostly as inseparable from its major native cultures and countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada among others. However, over time it grew into a lingua franca – the language that belongs to the entire world and needs to be transformed and taught by the diversity of nations that rely on it.
The role and the existence of ELF in the global community can be described from two perspectives, functional and descriptive. For a correct analysis of English as a lingua franca, it is necessary to define, who, in which circumstances, and for what reasons realize this function. Taking a descriptive approach, it is crucial to underline that the communication arising from the implementation of ELF does not always contain the structures and word order of the standard English language.
Exploring ELF from the historical point of view makes it possible to compare ELF with English as a native language and English as a foreign language. A significant part of it explored the relations between English language teaching and ELF, stressing the need for reformations in ELT for more effective implementation of ELF. According to O’Regan, the methodological aspects of ELF required the deeper study and the subsequent reform to enhance the efficiency of communication in a multicultural community (548).
The role and implementation of ELF in intercultural communication were described with special attention to the cultural references implied by all interlocutors. As a result, the contemporary world is in need for new teacher education programs to enhance the view of professors on ELF, as senior teachers tend to resist changing their views on their methods, whereas young members of the profession may be more open to exploring the implementation of English as lingua franca in the society (Cavalheiro 31). All of these changes and transformations were made possible due to the influence of various cultures on this language that exposed it to diverse settings and needs.
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