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English as a Communication Language Compare & Contrast Essay

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Updated: Dec 25th, 2019


The speaking and writing of English as a communication language is now widespread with all the world continents well represented in most countries. Hence, it has grown to be a vital tool of communication on a global scale. The advent and advances made in the field of technology such as the invention of information tools namely internet, electronic mail, fax and telephone has accelerated the use of English language by far and wide.

People from various backgrounds and all walks of life seem to be embracing the use of English in their day-to-day lives. In addition, it is quite evident that the form in which most scientific-based data is stored and retrieved is in form of English. Specifically, it is also profound to note that over 80 percent of stored data has been expressed in English (Jenkins, 2002, p.90).

The past four centuries or so has also witnessed growth and spread of English language to an extent that is has infiltrated in locations where it is not an original mother tongue in spite of the frequent usage. Hence, it is highly likely that English speakers in the outer circle definitely outnumber those in the inner circle.

In this respect, the outer circle implies the English speakers who reside on the Diaspora and were once colonised by Britain while the inner circle are speakers reside in Britain and uses English as their mother tongue (Jenkins, 2006, p.166). One interesting thing to note that is that those who use English in the outer circle as a medium of communication have customised the language in order to fit the local cultural, institutional and professional needs.

In other words, they have become Englishers in a variety of way as far as the language is concerned. In fact, this is the origin of such terminologies like Kenyan English, Malaysian English, U.S English and so on. Nevertheless, countries that belong in the Expanding Circles category have undoubtedly experienced vast growth in English language.

Case examples include Continental Europe, Brazil, Thailand, Japan and China. In spite the widespread use of English the aforementioned countries, it is probable that the institutional functions of the language are not heavily felt in a similar way it is being experienced in learning institutions right from primary, secondary to tertiary institutions (Deterding & Kirkpatrick, 2006, p.396).

The reason behind this is the fact that English has been considered for long as a foreign language in the Expanding Circles and therefore only suitable as an official medium of communication with the native English speakers. However, times have passed when English language was merely learnt and used for the sole purpose of communicating with the original speakers.

It is currently being used, both socially and professionally, as a lingua franca and an inevitable tool for interacting with all and sundry. This paper will compare and contrast the various spoken World Englishes with English as a Lingua Franca as well as deliberate on the merits and demerits of adopting the different frameworks in both the written and spoken English.

Finally, the paper will offer an incisive look into the art of teaching English as a Lingua Franca in classrooms and whether it should be embraced or not.

Comparison of World Englishes with English

As already mentioned the native English language has transcended borders and adopted by various non-English speakers as a mode of communicating with those whose mother tongue is English. Needless to say, the language has been made familiar in various social and cultural backgrounds and is consequently being used as a global language, better referred to as the lingua franca of the world.

People from mixed backgrounds can now communicate with ease through English in spite of the fact that the language has been ‘personalised’ in an attempt to fit the local needs. Nonetheless, the emerging area of debate by most linguistic scholars in as far as qualifying English as a lingua franca is whether the native speakers of English can linguistically fit into the myriad of English hybrids that has been borne out of necessity.

Some critics believe that the integration of English as a lingua franca, by far and large, excludes the native speakers who may not change their language tastes and preferences for the sake of non-native speakers. Due to divergent points of view on whether English language can be treated as a lingua franca or not, then it is imperative to first of all explore the different possible features that may perhaps, qualify English language as a lingua franca.

There are two major forms that have been considered in the study of English as a lingua franca. These are phonology and lexicogrammar. In the latter case, the third person is zero marked with –s in the present tense. It is most commonly used by the East Asian speakers of English language as lingua franca.

According to the lingua franca perspective, the zero marking of the third person-s is often considered to be mistake of omission. It is unanimously agreed that the inclusion of –s is a mistake common among the non-native speakers and for a long period now, this form of linguistic failure is being corrected with the need to harmonise the world Englishes with the native one (Jenkins, 2002, p.88).

The problem associated with the use of unilateral idioms in ordinary conversations is a similar feature in both the native and non-native speakers of English. This has been found to be the major cause of intelligibility especially among English speakers in the Expanding Circles. Although both the native and non-native speaker will definitely understand each other when communicating, the introduction of unilateral idiomatic expressions may indeed be a challenge to the other speaker who does not understand the underlying meaning.

Nonetheless, we may make a perfect assumption that idiomatic expressions that are used in Britain or America do not cross the borders to locations where English is used as a lingua franca with customised meanings and applications. In some cases though, idiomaticity has been a major cause of concern among the Outer Circle group of non-native speakers.

In terms of phonology, most non-native speakers have found themselves in a tight situation whereby they are not in a position to linguistically use the right accent as expected by the original norms in English speaking. Indeed, there are certain aspects of pronunciation in native English that cause gross intelligibility in the usage of English as a lingua franca.

A case in point is the regular use of feeble formats of English language alongside other language elements that may affect understanding communication between two or more parties (Smit, 2010, p.43). For instance, assimilation and elision of parts of speech may notably affect the pronunciation of spoken words.

Although patterns in pronunciation is usually a marked difference between English as a lingua franca and the native English language, it may not necessarily be used to completely refute the fact the non-native speakers can also use perfect English in a skilled way just like their native counterparts.

Similarities and differences

Can English lingua franca speakers be reliable in the use of English language for communication? Perhaps, this is part of the debate we should roll in even as we move towards investigating whether world Englishes can be taught in classrooms. Recent research on the use of English as lingua franca clearly demonstrates that the non-native speakers who are also regular users of English can indeed be skilful in the use of English language (Jenkins, n.d, pp.43-44).

They are equally developing their norms that do not seriously diverge from the norms in native English but seems to follow native formats with slight deviations. At this point, another difference emerge among the lingua franca speakers who may not be thoroughly proficient. For instance, it has been found out that the lingua franca English speakers are broad-based in their use of English language as a mode of communication.

Unlike in the application of purely British or American English, the lingua Franca is able to accommodate a wide array of various World Englishes without being too restrictive on only type (Deterding & Kirkpatrick, 2006, p.397). It is against this backdrop that the non-native speakers who have acquired the requisite skills and knowledge in English as lingua franca have a higher probability of interacting with a bigger linguistic society compared to the native speakers who are strict on a single traditional norm value in original English.

Definitely, supporting argument that can be put forward is the fact that like any other language across the world, English has undergone significant structural transformations over the centuries. The integration of world Englishes in the daily use across various locations on the globe is indeed a consequence of the changing nature of what used to be known as Standard English (Jenkins, n.d, p. 44).

The number of non- speakers is currently far much beyond that of the native speakers with the growth being experienced especially in the Diaspora. Another interesting revelation, which is also a marked difference between the standard English and that of lingua franca is that unlike in native English, users in different locations are switching to other forms of English (which is of course not standard) that they can not only use easily, but also interpret and understand in a less complicated way.

It is definite then that the standard British English has for a long time posed myriad of difficulties in usage owing to complicated structure. As a result, various English lingua franca speakers have opted for easer formats that they can quickly assimilate while at the same time communicate successfully with other parties.

However, inasmuch as changes in the standard native English may be inevitable, there is still the need of keeping some standards to rules governing sentence structure, pronunciation, orthography, lexis as well as grammar since the language may not be prescribed in any format if it is to quench the linguistic thirst of interacting with the world at large (Smit, 2010, p.43).

The native English has quite a number of differences that emerge on the surface usage as compared to the English as a multiple of world languages. Better still; the concept of Standard English may be quite a challenge to fully define as a separate entity to English as a lingua franca. One of the presumably marked differences is that Standard English strictly adheres to the conventional rules of grammar and vocabulary.

Beyond this characteristic of Standard English is a mere debate on the so-called superiority of the language especially in regard to how it is held in high esteem in the Cradle land. But even so, it is still worth to mention that regions that have using world Englishes, of course with the exception of a few, still adhere to the basic an sometimes advanced rules on the style, pronunciation and grammar use.

Countries within the Outer Expanding Circle bracket still face the unending challenge of which English model they can use in classroom teaching to deliver content. Mostly likely, the debate on the language suitability for classroom renditions has persisted for long due to more focus being shifted more towards ideological and political grounds rather than on matters related to education.

Precisely, ideological interests have taken centre stage with some theorists arguing that the seemingly coercive use of Standard English is a plot by the Anglo-Americans to advance their political and social interests across the world as a means of seeking for supremacy through proxy linguistic control and imperialism.

On the other hand, there are those who hold a different opinion in the sense that it is upon the consumers of English to choose the model of English they prefer most as a medium of communication. Hence, the exonormative speaker model is considered to be a striking the balance at this point.

This aforementioned model can be readily influenced in situations where international publishers find it profitable or a lucrative commercial venture to publish books and other learning materials that using an English model that is highly favoured in the given region (Deterding & Kirkpatrick, 2006, p.394). In most cases, the native model is preferred by most publishers since such materials can easily secure international markets. However, this does not imply that publishers’ preference dictates the English model that can be introduced and taught in classrooms.

Advantages and disadvantages

To begin with, native English tends to maintain the most up-to-date English structure, both spoken and written. Hence, native English provided a robust framework and foundation especially for beginners in the learning of English language.

Such a strong language platform is indeed advantageous in the sense that it offers the learner an early opportunity to experience the real patterns, tone and structure of the language, a foundation that cannot be easily weakened at any point of the learning process. Additionally, it is also a merit for learners who have an intent desire to go deeper in terms of interacting with native speakers and understand their in-depth linguistic culture.

Although there is nothing strange with this English learning model, it should be note that such learning needs only caters for a small fraction of English speakers especially in the Outer and Expanding Circle regions (Jenkins, 2002, p.89). Countries found in this category mainly comprise of English learners who are largely interested with gaining basic language skills and competences so that they can be able to exchange communication with their acquaintances.

A codified native speaker standard is also presumed to be advantageous in the sense that it ascertains comprehensibility at the international level. To some, various mutually unintelligible languages will be developed when nativized variety is embraced. Hence, it is not possible for different dialects of English to be developed with this case in point, and therefore it is more linguistically profitable to adopt it in classroom deliveries.

For the codified speaker standard of English, the likely beneficiaries are those who already speak the native speaker variety. Moreover, the English community in the Outer and Expanding Circle countries will reap more advantages with use of this form of English, although it is not totally obvious or definite whether such an outcome is possible in all scenarios.

Teaching world Englishes and English as a lingua franca

There is less international intelligibility in the nativized variety of English compared to native speaker varieties. Thus, any English classroom should not target performance based on native or Standard English standards since embracing such a case will be a false premise (Guido, 2008, p.37). It is also likely that the native British English is stress-timed and may discourage learners from gaining the full advantage of English as a language irrespective of the model used.

For the native speaker norms, it has been found that the local teachers of English find it difficult to cope with the extremely high demands and expectations of the native speaking norms and as a result, they are disregarded. The subsequent reaction is a teacher of English language who is not respected as well as lacks self confidence.

Native students, too, find it difficult to cope with the accent of the teacher and sometimes fail to attain the learning objectives set out in the syllabus (Deterding & Kirkpatrick, 2006, p.396). While the historical authority is provided for by the native speaker model of English, it is integral to note that standards, codification and power are all linked to this advantage.

The fact that the native speaker varieties of English have a history and that they can be codified does not imply their utmost suitability for all groups of English learners. It is vital to note that there is a wider regional diversity of language use and speech in Old mother countries than the colonial giants that saw their birth.

Although history and variety are inseparable and indeed important when creating one another, it should be noted that codification is not a necessity in variety or language. This can also be emphasised by the very changing nature of any language in which English is not an exception. It is also against this backdrop that classroom teaching should not merely rely on native speaker model but also embrace the various parts of the world Englishes as a way of exhibiting growth and variety (Kirkpatrick, n.d, p.79).

Moreover, the changing nature of English language itself without the interference of the English learning and speaking societies, has injected new ideas on how the language can be made better as a tool of communication not just locally but also across national boundaries. In simple terms, although use of English as a lingua presents much challenge especially among the native speakers, it is onerous to point out that classroom teaching will equally benefit from a medium of communication that is liked and enjoyed by both pupils an teachers.

Besides, it will provide a habitable ground for growth of English as a lingua franca since teachers (who are not native speakers but teaching in native speaking countries) will no longer lose their morale as a result of being looked down upon by native speakers(Mair, 2003, p.71). To date, there is a vivid gap that exists between English speakers who belong in the Outer and Inner Circles.

The problem is that the non-native speakers have been identified as relatively lax in identifying with the inner circle group. Worse still, they are unable (those in the Outer Circles) to pursue the exonormative variety norms, an experience common in the Inner Circle. If such a theory on the difference between world Englishes and Standard English is anything to go, then it is high time the language policy was revised to cater for the growing language gap and preferences between the natives and non-natives (Kirkpatrick, 2010, pp.30-31).

By fact, the most ready and perhaps vital way to achieve this undertaking is by fully embracing the teaching of English language in whatever form that do not significantly deviates from the conventional English. It is also profound to note that the sociolinguistic reality of the world Englishes itself does not in any way, identify with the norms of native English speaking.

What is of great importance even as we propose the teaching of lingua franca English in classrooms is that the latter assists not just in the growth of this renown world language, it also puts in place a platform through interested learners can be equipped with the necessary tools to be able to communicate as well as interact with the world with much ease. To say the least, one of the most outstanding quality in any language is the ability to understand and appreciate the disseminated speech, whether written or verbal.

If world Englishes are able to accomplish this broad mission, then it is of no use to restrict the delivery of classroom content using English prefabricated in the Diaspora. Another holistic experience that can be gained from Englishes of the world is the bilingual platform advantage. The main weakness, so to speak, of nativity in English language is the open-end bias (Mair, 2003, p.88).

This has been demonstrated on the phrase that is becoming common, the linguistic imperialism. As an umbrella label, the term World Englishes has been used to describe the various approaches used to analysis the different forms of English language that have been adopted in different parts of the world. There are quite a number of interpretations that can be given to this term, this being just one of them.

However, the emerging forms of English in regions such as the Caribbean, Asia and Africa have also been put under the umbrella of World Englishes. Although this is being considered as a narrow scope of describing the terminology, the latest application of the term has largely inclined towards this definition.

Unfortunately, the second definition has been used in a derogatory manner by the English language imperialists, a phenomenon that has impeded classroom teaching using World Englishes (Bhatt, n.d, p.35). Emphatically, it is paramount to reiterate that the main reason why learners will go through the process of equipping themselves with skills and competences of the English language is to be able to exchange communication with other non-native speakers.

After revisiting each of the available models that have been hitherto put forward, it is definite that the lingua franca model clearly stands out as the most applicable English language framework that can be used to enlighten learners who desire o learn the language basics. One outstanding advantage of using the lingua franca model is that it does not lie within any of the extremes namely a unilateral and autocratic model or the rigid ‘correct’ norms as outlined in the Standard native English.

Nonetheless, teachers and learners may still be compelled to rely on either nativized of native speaker models if they are not fully provided with sufficient discussion of lingua franca model. At this point, we are not attempting to refute the fact that the other two models are null and void as far as the advancement of English language is concerned. The major disadvantage of the two models is that they only appeal to a smaller group of learners, which imply that the large group do not benefit at the expense of a few.

Should this be the case especially in a classroom set up where the majority of learners are non-native speakers, then it goes without saying that adopting English as a holistic medium of communication in its lingua franca format is the way to go if all and sundry are to benefit. Finally, cultural inappropriacy is also a common shortfall especially with the nativized model of learning English.


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Deterding, D & Kirkpatrick, A. 2006. Emerging south-east Asian Englishes and intelligibility, Word Englishes, 25(3/4): 391- 406.

Guido, M.G. 2008. English as a lingua franca in cross-cultural immigration domains, Postfach: international academic publishers.

Jenkins, J. A. 2002. Socio-linguistically Based, En1pirically Researched Pronunciation Syllabus for English as an International Language. Applied Linguistics, 23(1): 83 103.

Jenkins, J. 2006. Current Perspectives on Teaching World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca, TESOL Quarterly, 40(1)157-181.

Jenkins, J. n.d. Exploring Attitudes towards English as a Lingua Franca in the East Asian Context. Global Englishes in Asian Contexts: Current and Future Debates, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kirkpatrick. A. 2010. English as a Lingua Franca in ASEAN: A Multilingual Model, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Kirkpatrick, A. n.d. Which model of English: Native speaker, Nativzed or lingua Franca? Perth: Curtin University of Technology Press.

Mair, C. 2003.The politics of English as a world language, New York: Rodopi B.V.

Smit, U. 2010. English as a Lingua Franca in Higher Education: A Longitudinal Study of classroom discourse, New York: Walter De Gruyter.

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