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English Language: Opportunities and Challenges Essay


At the dawn of the new millennium, it became obvious that the English language was no longer the property of solely the people that spoke it inherently – instead, it was suddenly clear that English turned into the lingua franca for the global community (O’Regan, 2014).

In many ways, technological progress is the primary factor to blame for launching the process of English becoming internationalized. With the IT breakthrough, the rapid development of the Internet, and most of the people on it all the time, the process of acquiring English language skills is unstoppable (Jenkins, 2015). The unceasing globalization process that was launched in the 20th century and has been going on ever since it can be viewed as another reason for English to become internationalized (House, 2013). As a result of the metamorphoses described above, the English language has become global. In the 21st century, it does not belong only to the people that consider it their native tongue; instead, it is owned by the global community (Sung, 2014).

The changes that the English language has undergone have shaped how it is taught, which can be attributed to the alterations in both students and teachers. For instance, English can be taught not only to NNSs but also by NNSs. The alterations that the globalization of English implies beg a lot of questions. For example, one may wonder what dialect of English (i.e., British, American, Australian, etc.) is acceptable as the global one, or whether NNSs can be considered as appropriate instructors for teaching EIL students the basics of English phonetics, etc. (Uygun, 2013).

Daily Englishness and English as an International Language

Another issue that the globalization of the English language implies concerns the concept of teaching English as EIL. McKay and Bokhorst-Heng (Yang & Chen, 2014) mention the concept of bilingualism as an inevitable consequence of the language globalization, as well as the fact that the variety of English dialects have emerged.

On the one hand, the idea of encouraging bilingualism among learners is rather positive since it will help students acquire essential skills and be proficient in two languages. On the other hand, the statement made by McKay and Bokhorst-Heng makes one question the nature of bilingualism as a phenomenon.

It is a common misconception to view bilingualism – or multilingualism, for that matter – as the ability to speak two languages impeccably, i.e., having the command of both languages as one’s mother tongues (Deniz, Ozkan, & Bayyurt, 2016), However, according to the current interpretation of the phenomenon, the subject matter merely implies that one is capable of communicating fluently in two or more languages (Young-Lee, 2013).Herein lies the possibility for different Englishes to emerge. A combination of multiculturalism and multilingualism allows for taking the language to the international level and appropriating it by everyone who speaks it (Khamkhien, 2013).

It is quite remarkable that the English language enjoys much more success in the global arena as the lingua franca for the representatives of different cultures than the artificial languages created specifically for international communication. Although the languages such as Esperanto have been designed specifically to be easily understandable to every speaker of the language belonging to the Romance and Germanic groups, English remains dominant as the international one. This is even more impressive, it has spawned a variety of dialects that people can use instead of their native tongues (Hillard, 2014).

Global Ownership of English: The End of the UK’s Cultural Dominance

Dialects and International Uses: What Makes English Global

However, it is not the common use of the English language that allows the members of different nations, cultures, and ethnicities to own it. On the one hand, the fact that the English language has become so widely spoken across the world is supposed to imply that the United Kingdom and its culture are currently dominating the world (Poynter & Nolan, 2014). On the other hand, one must admit that learning the British version of the English language is no longer the priority among EILs. Instead, learners aim at acquiring the general skills that will help them communicate their ideas clearly and accurately (Renandya, 2015). As a result, the concept I received pronunciation as the ultimate goal of learning the language seems to have become obsolete (King, 2013).

As stressed above, the process of globalization and the technological and economic breakthrough, which made the United States popular, has had its toll on the globalization of English. The importance of multiculturalism, especially as far as the coexistence of the learners’ culture and the English one is concerned, has outweighed the gravity of mastering the received British pronunciation (Wahid & Sulong, 2013; Mahboob & Golden, 2013).

Furthermore, the fact that new opportunities have appeared for merging the English language and one of the NNS learners needs to be addressed. With numerous pidgins and dialects used as the means of communication between the representatives of different cultures, the fact that the English language is owned globally at present cannot be doubted (Edge & Mann, 2014).

Implications for EIL Pedagogy: Choosing the ‘Right’ English

The changes to the concept of the English language mentioned above have had a tremendous impact on the teaching process. Apart from opening a plethora of opportunities for NNSs teachers to become English language instructors, the alterations taking English to the global level imply that the focus should be shifted from the phonetics to other aspects of mastering the language (Cheung, Said, & Park, 2015). Therefore, when considering the effects that the concept of the global English has had on the process of teaching, one might assume that most of the changes boil down to the pronunciation issue (Ilieva, Li, & Li, 2015).

However, a closer look at the subject matter will show that the issue is, in fact, much more profound. The appearance of the global English language opens opportunities for teachers to merge cultures of the target language and one of the learners, therefore, creating the environment, in which students will feel comfortable and, thus, inclined toward acquiring new skills and knowledge (Hall, Wicaksono, Liu, Qian & Xiaoqing, 2013).

Moreover, as stressed above, the chances for NNS teachers to introduce the students to the world of the English culture has emerged. Because the number of learners is growing consistently, there is an urgent need to expand the concept of language teaching so that the instructions and the guidelines could be provided by an NNS teacher (Norton, 2013).

Last but not least, the significance of shedding light on different varieties of English needs to be listed among the crucial implications of English becoming global. Students need to know that they are not restricted by their origin and ethnicity in mastering English – quite on the contrary, they are capable of creating something unique and beautiful with the help of their cultural background and the newly acquired English speaking skills (Lapidus, 2013).

Teaching English as an International Language: Chances and Obstacles

Lesson One: A Teacher Must Learn to Respect the Local Needs

Even in the environment that can be described as extremely diverse, a teacher is capable of meeting the essential needs of all the participants involved by making efficient use of all the resources available (Chu & Walters, 2013). An instructor must bear in mind that EIL need especially close attention as the communication process between them and the teacher is going to be hampered due to the language barrier. Studies show that the efforts made by EILs in their academic progress are not always gratified as the target audience is typically viewed as the source of problems for the school and the teachers: “multilingual students, especially those learning English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D), are not always viewed positively in regards to school participation and academic achievement” (French, 2015, p. 2). Thus, a teacher must make sure that the needs of the identified members of the school are defined and met accordingly. For instance, it is strongly advised that the educator should consider the students’ cultural background to determine the strategy that will help get across the cross-cultural messages (Kim, 2013).

Finally, the fact that the current suggestions regarding the teaching of EIL, as well as the TESOL practice, in general, are based on assumptions rather than facts. Differently put, there is a need for research that will help identify the problem areas, as well as the approaches that can be adopted to manage the current concerns. Thus, it is imperative to collect the feedback and the reflections supplied by NNS teachers that have at least one experience with an EIL student or a group of students. The analysis of the combined evidence with the further identification of the recurrent patterns and the isolation of specific occurrences will help determine the patterns of teaching that are bound to lead to a positive outcome (Ye, 2013).

Lesson Two: Local Culture and Its Impact on the Learning Process

As stressed above, the teacher must be able to understand the needs of the students as the representatives of a particular culture. At this point, the significance of translanguaging as the essential teaching practice that an English instructor needs to implement must be mentioned. By incorporating the concept of translanguaging into the learning process, one is likely to create the environment, in which the students will learn the English language more efficiently (Zhu & Hamid, 2013).

The phenomenon of translanguaging is typically defined as the process in which an educator uses two or more languages to render a specific idea, explain a certain language-related rule, create a plausible simulation of the required environment or get any other message across so that EIL learners could understand it and accept it for the further use in the corresponding situations (Lu, 2016).

For example, translanguaging can be viewed as the means of helping the learner develop their cognition of the target language (Ugorgi, 2013). Furthermore, the use of translanguaging, which the concept of English as the international language allows for, can pave the way to introducing students to the concept of code-switching. Although the subject matter cannot be considered a part and parcel of everyday English use and is a means of scaffolding learners to acquire the necessary language skills, it helps enhance the cognition process.

As de Bres and Franziskus (2014) explain, the process of code-switching is most likely to be implicit at this point and, therefore, passed unnoticed by the students: “Another feature of the diaries was their lack of explicit mention of mixed language practices such as code-switching. Some of the diaries noted several languages used during one activity, e.g. ‘speaking in English and Latvian’ at a party” (de Bres & Franciskus, 2014, p. 70). Nevertheless, the fact that the learners engage in the identified practices, and independently at that, shows that the incorporation of translanguaging into the learning process is crucial to the further success of the students.

Opinions and Facts: Why McKay and Bokhorst-Heng May Have a Point

English Taking over the World – or the World Taking over English?

The ideas expressed by McKay and Bokhorst-Heng are based on a range of doubtless facts. One might argue that learning the English language is not mandatory for [people all over the world., which is true – outside of the English-speaking countries, the language is viewed as the second one and is not viewed as a necessary subject to study. However, a closer look at how the modern world functions will show that the command of English determines the degree to which one is capable of communicating their needs. Indeed, the language is typically used as the lingua franca in the course of international negotiations, as well as regular communication, including both a face-to-face and a mediated one. Furthermore, English is linked directly to the information technology used nowadays regularly.

As a result, an increasingly large number of people speak English every day, most of them belonging to different ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures. Each of the participants of the global communication introduces new elements into the language, thus, shaping it and helping it evolve. The innovations that the English language has witnessed, however, beg the question of whether it changes for better or for worse, either offering new and exciting opportunities or losing the features that made it unique.

Therefore, it can be agreed that the influence is reciprocal – the English language both changes its structure and the environment in which the people using it communicate. Moreover, the language shapes people’s identity, allowing them to acquire new characteristics and qualities, therefore, exploring diversity and their role in it. English is no longer a tool for successful communication but the means of bridging different nations and the people belonging to various cultural environments.

EIL and Its Challenges: The Language That Belongs to Everyone

Though opening a plethora of opportunities for the members of the international community, the current concept of English as the global language also implies a variety of challenges, the question regarding the norm being the primary one. Indeed, in the era of countless varieties of the English language, all being accepted as legitimate and worth existing, one may be confused about which of the “Englishes” should be taught to students. Jenkins answers this complicated question, also pointing to the fact that the pronunciation norms are mostly the only character trait that sets the existing types of English apart (Huang & Pickering, 2015).

According to the author, there is no silver bullet in this situation; instead, a flexible approach including a combination of several teaching strategies is suggested. For instance, the teacher may consider creating a simplified version of the two languages (e.g., the phonological basis is taken from the students’ mother tongue, whereas the grammatical structure and the vocabulary are borrowed from the target one). However, the identified approach does not allow for retrieving intelligible results since the compromise will affect the pronunciation and, therefore, the recognisability of the words to a considerable degree. Therefore, the suggestion can hardly be viewed as viable in the context of an educational institution (Anari & Zamanian, 2014).

The international approach, which Jenkins singles out as a more promising one, presupposes that several models should be incorporated into the learning process and that the target language should be generalized, yet not to the point where it becomes overly simplistic (Jenkins, 1998). The approach allows singling out the characteristics of the English phonetics that are curial to the further understanding and learning of the language, at the same time leaving out the aspects that the learners may have issues with at the early stage of their skills development. Specifically, the idea of focusing on teaching EILs nuclear stress and the segments as the foundation for developing their understanding of the English language seems quite legitimate.

Therefore, no doubt attributing English to every person that learns to speak it triggers both an increase in chances for successful communication and a plethora of challenges, the education-related ones being the reason for concern. The ubiquitous nature of the language contributes to the creation of numerous dialects, making the communication difficult and threatening to create premises for misinterpretations of the messages.

Teaching English to Learners in the UAE: Implications and Challenges

A Deviation from the NS Model: Giving NNSs a Voice

Apart from the choice between different dialects of the English language and the challenges that EILs are likely to have with the development of the pronunciation skills, there is an obvious concern regarding the guidance of NNSs as teachers. The fact that NNSs finally appeared in the English teaching department is hardly surprising; with the increase in the significance of the English language as the lingua franca for the people all over the world, a pressing need to recruit more teachers to help people learn the required skills appeared. Since the number of NS teachers turned out to be insufficient, it was necessary to introduce NNS instructors to the process.

The innovation, however, begs the question of whether NNSs are capable of helping EILs develop the skills that will help them gain proficiency in the target language and, more importantly, develop an intrinsic understanding thereof. However, NNS teachers need to be encouraged to become an active part of the UAE educational environment. According to a recent report, NNSs experience significant pressure from their NS colleagues (Al-Asmari & Khan, 2014). As a result, the relationships between the NS and the NNS teachers inhibit the process of multilingualism development among the students.

Thus, there is a pressing need to give NNS teachers a voice so that they could create strategies that will help reach out to the EIL population. As a result, the patterns of successful communication between a teacher and a student and, thus, faster acquisition of the relevant skills can be found. Afterward, the focus can be shifted toward helping the learner dive into the English-speaking environment and feel free to express themselves as EIL speakers. NNS teachers, in their turn, as the people that have a personal EIL experience and are capable of sharing it with their students should be viewed as the primary candidates for assisting learners in addressing the obstacles that EILs face in the course of mastering the language.

Cultural Specifics of Learners: The Significance of the Background

Another tricky question that the process of teaching English to EILs entails is whether the instructor will be able to teach students the basics of plurilingualism. An essential concept that EIL students must be introduced to, plurilingualism can be interpreted as a conscious process of code-switching taken to the nth degree. As researchers point out, plurilingualism is the ability to switch between two or more languages consciously depending on the situation (Weber, 2013).

In this regard, the opportunity for students to practice their use of English in everyday interactions in their academic environment must be sought. Moore, Nussbaum, and Borras (2013) explain that lectures can be viewed as the tool for enabling learners to interact with the teacher and each other to train the necessary skills and acquire the plurilingualism abilities (Ke, 2015). To be more accurate, lectures serve a means of creating a context around a particular set of words and phrases, therefore, allowing the learners to experience the actual communication process and develop an intrinsic understanding of how similar situations can be approached from the perspective of an NS. In other words, the use of the “contextualizing devices used by lecturers to lead the audience to believe that what they are saying is being formulated for them on the current occasion” (Moore et al., 2013, p. 475) can be viewed as the direct effect of the global appropriation of the English language.

Thus, by taking the unique characteristics of the learners’ culture, in general, and the EILs’ language specifics, in particular, into account, a teacher may create a sustainable strategy that will help promote active learning in the environment of any classroom (Boyle, 2011).

Benefits and Risks of Teaching EIL in the Context of the UAE Environment

Accepting English at the Cultural Level: A Deeper Insight

Working in the environment of any EIL classroom is a major challenge, and the UAE one is not an exception. The fact that most of the students are likely to develop a local accent that will single them out as NNSs, however, should not be viewed as an immediate threat to their success and the chances that they may lose when interacting with native speakers. The threats associated with specific accents are common misunderstandings (Anbazhagan, 2015). The misconception mentioned above has been deemed as such recently, yet it still has a powerful effect on teachers and learners worldwide, and especially in the UAE, therefore, shaping the students’ attitude toward the process and even making them fear the immediate failure before even starting to practice English (Gomari & Lucas, 2013). It is, therefore, the teacher’s task to make sure that the learners realize the pointlessness of their fears and start conversing in English.

Based on the students’ fears mentioned above, it can be assumed that the lack of motivation that they contribute to is the primary risk of teaching EIL in the UAE environment. Since the globalization of English has reinvented the traditional ownership of English, making the language the new lingua franca, it will be reasonable to assume that the alteration in the self-perception of teachers can be used as the tool for improving the learning process.

The Threat of Losing Language Identity: When English Becomes Dominant

There is no need to stress that the English language is slowly becoming the primary tool for communication between the representatives of different ethnicities, cultures, and states. Therefore, the scale at which the English culture is absorbed by NNSs makes one question the effects of bilingualism on the understanding and acceptance of one’s native tongue. In other words, with the rapid growth of the influence of the English language on the communication and learning processes worldwide, people may abandon their own culture and language due to the lack of their significance in the global conversation process.

At the same time, the learner can expand their identity by embracing the opportunities that the second language provides them with. The links that the students may make with the community and their family by learning a foreign language may work on an even deeper level, such as working one’s way to ca change in the relationships with the family members:

He did not know French! Why had he encouraged me to study something he didn’t know himself? My view of my father as the authority on everything was shaken. And by studying French, I was embarking on a journey my parents had never taken. Many years later, as I became fluent, it was through French that I developed an identity far from the critical range of my parents’ surefire aim. (Nunan & Choi, 2010, p. 82)

Therefore, the acquisition of the skills relevant for speaking a second language, English being the case in point, has little to nothing to do with the loss of ethnic or cultural identity. Instead, one is likely to turn an entirely new page in their cultural and personal development along with academic growth.

Minimizing the Risks: How the Cultural Frailty of the UAE Can Be Reduced

Preserving the UAE Identity: Where the Emphasis Should Be Placed

As stressed above, the heavy emphasis placed nowadays on the English language as the tool of utmost importance for successful communication may impede the process of developing one’s cultural identity in the native language. The UAE students are especially vulnerable to the identified threat. Indeed, according to a recent study, the UAE community can be characterized by increase cultural frailty (Dahan, 2013).

A short introduction to the UAE history will reveal that it has been affected by the English culture and language greatly: “the overruling influence of English on multiple spheres of Emirati life” (Hopkyns, 2014, p. 3) makes the process of multicultural cognition rather convoluted and very complicated. Furthermore, Hopkyns (2014) stresses that “The unique combination of factors: demographics, complex history, and fast-paced change, when added to the strong presence of global English, lead to an exacerbated feeling of cultural fragility in this context” (Hopkyns, 2014, p. 3). Therefore, although there are currently very few commonalities between the English and the Arabic language the representatives of the culture have a very legitimate fear of losing a touch with their identity by embarking on the quest for searching the English one.

Therefore, the role of the native language(i.e., the Arabic one) must be emphasized greatly when helping the learners acquire the relevant English skills. The teacher will have to drive parallels between the structures of the languages, the images that are common for both of them the ideas that seem to be common for the English and the Arabic language, etc. Thus, the learners will be capable of developing an intrinsic understanding of English, which will, later on, help them become proficient in it.

Appealing to the learners’ identities can be carried out at the levels other than the ethnic one. For example, it may be a possibility to engage the students in the process of self-reflection by considering the issue of urbanism and evaluating the effects that it has had on the students’ lives (Scotland, 2014). Appealing to the elements of objective reality that they are familiar with, e.g., the concepts of urban life, the technological breakthrough, the information technologies that provide a plethora of communication opportunities, a teacher is likely to strike a chord with the target demographics, thus, creating the foil for the further successful interaction that will become the foundation for building English competence in the students.

An Analytical Approach to Understanding Change: Implications for Learners

Apart from providing learners with an opportunity to retain their cultural and linguistic identity at the same time learning new and exciting skills, the teachers should also consider the concept of suggesting the students engage in an analysis of their learning process.

The effects of the related activities are bound to be beyond impressive. For instance, it is expected that the analytical approach toward learning will help include a self-reflective element in the learning process. As a result, the participants are expected to gain the meta-cognitive skills that will serve as the foil for developing an understanding of how they acquire information, process, and remember it (Zhang & Zhang, 2013). As a result, the students will be able to learn new information and train new abilities within a much shorter amount of time since they will know which aspects of their activities they should place a stronger emphasis on. More importantly, the identified skills will help them participate in a lifelong learning process by becoming self-directed learners.

The focus on the development of not only an intrinsic understanding of the target language but also an analytical approach toward learning it can be interpreted as the essential implications of McKay and Bokhorst-Heng’s statement (Alsagoff, McKay, Hu, & Renandya, 2012). By revealing the effects that the recent changes in the global perception of English have had on the educational environment, the authors determined the scope and the area of the EIL teaching strategies for the next few decades.

Conclusion: English as the Language for Everybody

Summary: Challenges and Opportunities for Learners Worldwide

The fact that the English language has become a global heritage can hardly be doubted as the internationalization thereof has made the leeway for the creation of a countless number of dialects and variations of the language. As an educator, a teacher must provide EIL learners with the tools that will help them acquire multilingual abilities. Thus, active use of the techniques that will encourage the EIL to engage in conscious and subconscious code-switching should be viewed as appropriate tools for promoting a more active language learning.

It should be borne in mind that EIL students, in general, and the UAE learners, in particular, are likely to experience problems when trying to understand the mechanics of the English grammar, phonetics, etc. Thus, a compromise must be made to allow the participants to have an EIL experience. For instance, it is suggested that the instructor should consider inviting students into interacting with the instructor so that they could develop plurilingual skills.

The same approach can be suggested to implement an EIL project in the UAE educational environment. Because of the differences in the two languages (i.e., the Arabic and the English ones), the learners will need to deviate from the traditional model of simplified learning based on merging the two languages.

Recommendations: What May Improve the Process of Learning

The exploration of the learners’ cultural specifics can be viewed as by far the most sensible step in improving the learning process. After having a better understanding of what points of contact the UAE culture may have with the target one, an educator is likely to create an elaborate plan for helping students.

Herein lies the key principle of addressing the needs of EIL students, in general, and the UAE learners, in particular. To invigorate learners and create the environment in which they engage in the English learning process actively, a teacher must be aware of the cultural background of the learners. More importantly, an educator must find a way to help learners embrace their culture along with the English one. As a result, not only the process of learning English can be launched or stimulated but also the threat of the learner abandoning their own culture can be prevented.

Furthermore, a teacher must make sure that the strategies for encompassing the opportunities of multilingualism could be used when mentoring EIL students. As soon as the learners are introduced to the concept of multilingualism, they are expected to develop code-switching techniques and aptitudes at the subconscious level. The identified process, in its turn, will serve as the breeding grounds for the student to develop an identity in the target language similar to the one that they have in their mother tongue.

Finally, the significance of translanguaging as the means of helping students become more independent in their use of English needs to be mentioned among the essential strategies that a teacher instructing EIL students, in general, and the UAE learners, in particular, need to bear in mind.

Creating the environment in which students can safely acquire the necessary information and learn the skills necessary to become proficient in English is a challenging task, especially when it comes to addressing the needs of EIL students. However< by focusing on what makes the target audience unique and enhancing the process of the teacher-student communication by using the latest technological advances, one will be able to make the task much easier. It is important, though, to make sure that the needs of all stakeholders, including both the learners and the teachers, especially the NNS ones, are taken into account.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "English Language: Opportunities and Challenges." July 31, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/english-language-opportunities-and-challenges/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'English Language: Opportunities and Challenges'. 31 July.

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