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In the contemporary interpretation, the concept of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) is conventionally utilised 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). Nowadays English unequivocally takes the leading position among the modern languages, performing the aforementioned function. The idea of English as the language of a lingua franca assumes its description from the two perspectives, such as functional and descriptive (Berthoud et al. 388).
The former approach to English as a lingua franca raises the question of who, in which situations, and for what purpose realises this function. From the descriptive point of view, as stated by Mortensen, it is imperative to emphasise the formal content of a genuine speech product that results from the implementation of ELF, which is not always built according to the rules and norms of the standard English language (32).
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 that originated in the Middle Ages for the negotiations between Arab and Turkish merchants with Europeans until the 19th century (Wansborough 42). English as a lingua franca was called differently, depending on the epoch. For example, new English or newspeak at Renaissance and global lingua franca in the 20th century.
The historical past of English as a lingua franca, which served to denote a special linguistic form of communication between the representatives of different countries or nations, cannot be considered completely superseded by its modern notion as the designation of the function as such is evidenced by different interpretations of its use in relation to the English language (Schneider 72). Accepted voluntarily as a language of communication in the field of science, commerce, and other areas, the English language as a lingua franca focused on the poor quality of performance, the distortion of norms under the influence of the interference of the native language, and the poverty of the vocabulary (Baker 8).
However, it was also regarded as the function of an intermediary language between speakers within one nation, especially in a situation where none of the participants belongs to the 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 in 1992, who distinguished between the three circles of the utilization of English in the modern world, including the inner, the outer, and the expanding circles (Kalocsai 19).
According to Kachru, “the inner circle refers to the traditional cultural and linguistic bases of English” (356). Its 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, USA, Canada, South Africa, etc. (Gu et al. 138). The above circle focuses on English as a Native Language (ENL).
In its turn, the outer circle is formed by the national variants of the English language, the World Englishes, that have spread in the former colonies of the British Empire, such 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 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 other words, English as lingua franca presents plenty of benefits in understanding the contemporary forms of global English, including their causes, changes, and perspectives.
More to the point, it seems essential to pinpoint the findings regarding ELF in the context of language peculiarity discovered by the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE). The mentioned 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 noted that ELF significantly changed, and language contacts played an important role in this change. According to linguists, the hybrid nature, receptivity, and flexibility in relation to 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. Nowadays, ELF is the most widely utilised language all over the globe that embraces personal, professional and cultural spheres of communication.
English Language Teaching and ELF
In the XIX century, the policy of colonial expansion of the British Empire created conditions for the approval and further advancement of the English language. The 20th century was marked by the rapid development of the United States, and English became part of its economic, technological, and cultural influence. Today it is the most populous country in the world, in which the native language for citizens is English. The significant popularity of English in the modern world also occurred due to the fact that the key educational systems of the world, namely, those of the UK, the US, and Australia 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 any official status in these countries (House 60). However, it should be noted that the mentioned tendency is new and thus may be considered as the supplementary cause of ELF popularity.
Seidlhofer, the Director of Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE) project on the creation of the corpus of oral texts of English as a lingua franca, describes the most common mistakes occurring in the course of ELF teaching (Cogo and Dewey 62).
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Among the typical mistakes, one may note the loss of inflexion -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, a number of questions arise: should English-focused teachers of English develop the skills of using such forms, showing tolerance to them or correcting them as mistakes? (Jenkins, English as a Lingua Franca in the International University: The Politics of Academic English Language Policy 78).If we assume that such forms are suitable for informal oral communication, are they acceptable in the official written language? (Alsagoff et al. 33). Will they be equally appropriate in different situations of communication? (Schmitz 277).
The researchers hold different views on the functioning of English as a lingua franca. A number of linguists believe that ELF is used for communication purposes by two national groups and functions in parallel with the English of native speakers. Some linguists consider that English is a lingua franca in a number of areas of human activity, primarily in the areas of international relations, science, technology, international business, and tourism.
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 English forms of the language” (Sowden 92). Such an approach ensures training communicants with rather limited language resources, “denigrating core standard English grammar only serves to strengthen the power of those who already ‘have’ standard English grammar” (42). 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, and not just of British or American English (Sultana 223; Sung 47). 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).
The debates over the nature of ELF, who owns it, and also the connection to culture are rather multifaceted. However, reviewing the relevant literature, it is possible to summarize that ELF is a language of communication between people with different first languages and native cultures, including situations where English is native for one of the communicants. On the one hand, it significantly differs from the standard language norm and can be considered as independent language forms.
On the other hand, a lingua franca is a function of the English language, which acts as an intermediary language in various linguistic situations and spheres of the interaction. Consequently, learning English as a lingua franca involves learning two aspects: functional and descriptive. The functional approach focuses on the study of the characteristics of the implementation of the English language function of lingua franca: who, in what situations, and for what purposes uses English. The descriptive aspect implies the focus on formal content.
Reforming ELT by ELF
Due to a number of reasons of historical, political, economic, technical, and linguistic reasons, the world community voluntarily selected English as the language of international communication and a lingua franca (Crystal 40). In order 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, including prospective learners, there can be 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 interlocutions worldwide.
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) (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 standard inner – circle 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 is to make every effort to become, according to Alptekin, “successful bilinguals with intercultural insights and knowledge” (Hynninen302; MacKenzie 33). At the same time, it is evident that, as stated by O’Regan, the methodological aspects of ELF require a deeper study and the subsequent reform in order to enhance the efficiency of communication in a multicultural community (548).
Seidlhofer claims that “empirical work on the linguistic description of ELF at a number of levels has in fact been underway for several years now. Research has been carried out at the level of phonology, pragmatics, and lexicogrammar, which also offers an overview of descriptive work to date” (340).
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