You are on page 1of 10

Chatterjee 1

Abhinaba Chatterjee
M. Phil (DU)
English as a Lingua Franca and its Worldwide Implications
It should be acknowledged that the spread of English due to historical and
political reasons has given rise to its new diversifications and varieties that have
their nativized phonological and lexico-grammatical features. These diverse
features of Englishes might or might not share similarities with other Englishes in
Inner Circle, Outer Circle or Expanding Circle communities. At the same time
there is a growing recognition of English in various fields like commerce,
technology, media and education in various countries where English serves as a
global lingua franca. This international function of English has been more
influenced by its practical needs like business negotiation, international
communication and press publication. The fundamental question in English
teaching world in Outer and Expanding Circle communities is the question of what
language variety should be the target for teaching and learning purposes.
The increasing role and spread of English has been responded in different
ways in English teaching academia. Some scholars like Quirk (1990) consider
varieties that differ from American and British standards are not the innovations
but they are the deviations from the standard norms, and cannot be the legitimate
target for pedagogical purposes (also cited in Jenkins, 2003). They regard Outer
Circle and Expanding Circle Englishes as forms of fossilized interlanguage and
pose serious threats to Inner Circle norms if they become the valid targets in
language teaching. Quirk’s claim cannot be valid due to various reasons. Firstly,
there exists no uniformity in what we have conceived as a standard American or
British language, and speakers display diversification in terms of accent, structure
and word choice in different socio-political contexts within the Inner Circle
countries. Secondly, new English varieties that have emerged in Outer Circle
Chatterjee 2

communities, and are emerging in Expanding Circle countries display distinctive

linguistic characteristics in terms of phonological and lexicogrammatical features
that are different from the Inner Circle varieties (B. Kachru, 1982; 1992). And
thirdly, speakers in the Outer Circle and Expanding Circle communities learn
English not necessarily for communicating with native speakers of that language,
but they use English also for intra-societal functions within the Outer Circle
countries and for international communication in Expanding Circle countries
(Jenkins, 2003). Brutt-Griffler (2002) based on Crystal (1997) notes that 80% of
the approximately one-and-a-half of two billion English users in the world today
belong to that category that use English for international communication purpose.
The global spread of English has been acknowledged and responded on
different grounds for language teaching and learning purposes. The traditional
classification of the role of English in language teaching and learning makes a
distinction between English as a native language (ENL), English as a second
language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL) (Kirkpatrick, 2007).
English functions as a native language in countries where the language is used by a
large population of people for primary daily functions, and is acquired mostly as
the first language by children. The countries where English is used as native
language are North America, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand
and South Africa. In the ESL context, English is used for a range of functions
within the country and is usually one of the official languages. The examples of
these countries include former colonies of Britain or North America like India,
Nigeria, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The countries in the third group are those
where English does not occupy an important role for intra-country function, and
the examples are Japan, China, Korea, Nepal, etc. In these countries, English is
usually the major foreign language and is taught and learnt in schools. But this
distinction has been criticized because English is functioning as a native language
Chatterjee 3

in some countries like India and Singapore where a significant number of children
acquire it as their first language (B. Kachru, 1992). In addition, the ESL/EFL
dichotomy automatically excludes the speakers of these countries from the English
speech community (Y. Kachru, & Nelson, 2006) and a strict distinction confuses
social and educational issues (Phillipson, 1992).
There is, however, “a growing unease” (Dewey 2009: 61) with the claim that
ELF is a variety in its own right. The use of English in the expanding circle is
extraordinarily heterogeneous. “Diversity is inherent in ELF,” as Prodromou
(2008: 246) points out. James (2005: 140) describes different “ELFs” as temporary
and potentially variable phenomena. They show “great heterogeneity in local
function and form”.
Another term, or in fact, a pair of terms has been increasingly used recently
in discussions on the position of English in our globalizing world: That is the
dichotomy ‘language of communication’ and ‘language of identification’. The
terms were coined by the German applied linguist Werner Hüllen in his 1992
article Languages of identification and languages of communication. On problems
of multilingualism. Hüllen (1992: 314) points out here that English in its role as an
international language is used as a language of communication and not as a
language of identification. He argues that
The spread of a single language of communication does not need to affect
the existence of languages of identification (…) The former (= languages of
communication – S.F.) (…) only require highly unstable, floating speech
communities that develop among the autochthonous communities and to
which the English term of intersociety (analogous to interlanguage) could be
applied (...) A national-language speech society and an intersociety of
speakers of English as a foreign language of communication therefore do not
have the relationship of minorities and majority as regards one another.
Chatterjee 4

Knapp (2008: 133) describes Hüllen’s dichotomy as follows:

A “language of communication” is used for practical communicative
purposes, and due to its primary functional nature, correctness or particular
stylistic and cultural features associated with the speech community from
which this language originates are less important. On the other hand,
“language of identification” means a language which is learnt in order to be
integrated into and identify with the respective speech community.
Hüllen’s terms have recently been popularised in the context of English as a lingua
franca communication (e.g. Erling 2005b; Klimpfinger 2009: 352; House 2005).
Pölzl (2003: 5) proposes that English is used as a ‘native -culture-free code’ in
lingua franca contact situations. Referring to Hüllen’s terms she argues:
Such a categorisation is based upon the two-fold function of linguistic signs,
namely the referential function and the expressive one. Consequently a
language selected for communication only expresses a communicative and
primarily referential function, i.e. the culture associated with this natural
language is not activated by its users.
Therefore, it is no wonder that critical literature (e. g. Kachru 1983;
Pandharipande, 1987; Phillipson, 1992; Crystal, 1997; Pennycook, 1997;
Annamalai, 2004; Phan Le Ha, 2005) is replete with a whole bunch of expressions
to describe the diffusion and nativization of English: pluralization, diversification,
globalization, internationalization, universalization; hybridization, localization,
indigenization; decolonization, dehegemonization, liberation of the English
language, and so on. In this regard, it is worth considering the questions Horibe
(2000) and McArthur (2004) respectively raise: “Is English Cinderella, a
kidnapped or adopted child, or Godzilla?” and “Is it world English or international
English or global English, and does it matter?” Obviously, none of the labels listed
above is wholly satisfactory and neutral. Each nomenclature has its limitations and
Chatterjee 5

its specific value, and serves a chosen purpose. Different scholars select different
designations to support the perspective they adopt. Each label promotes its own
construct, clusters of presuppositions, concepts and approaches that often
determine the direction and type of exploration and conclusion. These
nomenclatures mould our perceptions and generate world-views and images. Some
of these labels connote a patronizing attitude and suggest a mono-centric approach,
whereas others imply liberation from bondage and indicate a pluralistic approach.
Strong compulsions have motivated scholars to rename the language. Two such
compulsions are a need to respond to the postcolonial ambiguity about the
globalization of English and a desire to shape a new pedagogical ideology (see
Erling 2005).
In addition to the above terms, people describe the multiple new varieties of
English as manifestations of a transplanted, indigenized, reincarnated language. In
the present paper I call them “twice born varieties”, because the language was
transported from its native soil (the U.K.), transplanted into an alien soil (India, for
example), and indigenized to perform culture-specific functions. Thus, English is a
twice born language in the socio-cultural contexts that fall outside the inner circle.
Such a language is reborn in the sense that it takes on new forms and functions to
carry the weight of new cultural experiences. These so-called non-native varieties
of English are characterized with socio-linguistic and pragmatic transfer. That is to
say, the so-called non-native speakers and writers transfer to English the rules of
use and usage from their own speech communities. Scholars (e.g., Pandharipande
1987, p.155) have classified such transfers into two categories: unintentional and
intentional. Thus, on the one hand, we have ESL/EFL learners who unconsciously
transfer the rules and norms of use from their mother tongue and apply them to the
other tongue. On the other hand, creative writers like India’s Mulk Raj Anand,
Raja Rao, and Khushwant Singh, and Nigeria’s Achebe and Ojaide consciously
Chatterjee 6

deviate from the norms of the so-called native varieties of English. Thus, the
adoption of English for literary writing is another instance of nativization, which
extends the process to expressive domains (Annamalai, 2004). The new users of
English exploit the protein potential of English to satisfy their communicative
needs. The creative users of English possess it, make it their own, bend it to their
will, and assert themselves through it rather than submit to the dictates of its
norms. They borrow it, and recreate, stretch, extend, contort, and indigenize it
(D’Souza, 2001, p.150).
The notion that few center countries own English as their sole property has
been questioned due to its expanding role worldwide. Due to its global spread and
emergence of new varieties when it has come in contact with other languages and
cultures, no one nation or group of nations can claim the sole ownership
(Widdowson, 1994). The obvious claim is that the people who employ English for
communication must have a sense of ownership and agency over it (Luk & Lin,
2007). Therefore, the pedagogical policies and practices must inform the learners
that they are learning English that belongs to them (Widdowson, 1994; Higgins,
2003) and that they can find their identity with it (Norton, 1997). So English is no
more ‘foreign’ or ‘alien’ to the learners. Closely connected to the question of
ownership is the traditional dichotomy between native and nonnative speakers. The
native speaker construct on genetic or ethnic ground is unjustifiable (Higgins,
2003), and to assume that there are idealized native speakers of English is a myth
(Davies, 2003). Native speakerness is not a fixed identity but is socially and
culturally constructed identity (Luk & Lin, 2007). Other more neutral terms related
to affiliation or proficiency like more/less proficient (Davies, 2003), expert/novice
user might replace the NS/NNS dichotomy (Ramptom, 1990). Cook (1999) prefers
to use the term ‘successful second language learner’ for the more proficient user of
language. This discussion and debate questions the fundamental goal of traditional
Chatterjee 7

English language teaching: To make the learners able to communicate with the
native speakers of English which is unattainable or irrelevant target. Since there
exist no idealized native speakers or since everybody can be a native speaker of
English if s/he has mastery over it, then there is a need to redefine the goal of
language teaching. The new ideas emerging in WEs have coupled with the notion
of what constitutes of standard English in sociolinguistics. Traditionally, Received
Pronunciation (RP) of British English or General American English (GAE) were
considered to be the standard varieties of English and are still the targets for
students in most outer and Expanding Circle countries (McArthur, 1999). The
standard language ideology was “drawn primarily from the spoken language of the
upper middle class” (Lippi- Green, 1997). Since “standardization exists more as an
idealization than as a detailed description” (Davies, 2003: 136), it is illegitimate to
teach nonexisting standard variety of English. The central focus in language
teaching should be based on the philosophy that respects all varieties of English,
sets learning goals that are achievable by the students and avoids linguistic
discrimination (Tollefson, 2002). One of the pragmatic ways to bring this into
practice is to acknowledge bidialectlism and allow code switching (Canagarajah,
1999). There is a growing concern that the notion of standard and non-standard
English be replaced with more neutral alternatives like ‘mainstream’ English and
‘nonmainstream’ English (Lippi-Green, 1997).
New varieties of English have questioned the long established notion of
intelligibility within the same language. Intelligibility is often conceived as the
degree to which one is understandable to others. The spread of English worldwide
has given rise to Englishes that might not easily intelligible to each other. And if
the nativized varieties of English are the legitimate targets of teaching and
learning, then the possibility of mutual intelligibility among various English
language groups will result further complication. Researchers like B. Kachru
Chatterjee 8

(1982; 1992), Y. Kachru & Nelson (2006), and Smith (1992) do not see the danger
of unintelligibility because “it is a natural phenomenon when any language
becomes so widespread” (Smith, 1992: 75). They opine that national or local
intelligibility should be the target; global intelligibility is needed for international
communication, but not for intranational communication. Y. Kachru and Nelson
(2006) based on Smith (1992) argue that potential unintelligibility among English
speakers should not be a problem because for the last two centuries there have
been English-speaking people in some parts of the world who are not intelligible to
each other, and least intelligible speakers are the native English speakers. Y.
Kachru’s and Nelson’s (2006) focus is that the indigenous English varieties should
be legitimized and they should be the target for teaching and learning. But what is
important is that the learners should be aware of the existence of various types of
Englishes in diverse contexts and they must know what is and is not acceptable or
The constructive debate in sociolinguistics and language teaching
scholarship is yielding fruitful results for English pedagogy, questioning the
orthodoxy of standard English variety, dominance of native speakerness and
conceptualization of second language acquisition/learning from a monolingual
perspective. I see the perspectives put forward by WEs and ELF scholarships
complementing to each other and making a one whole, rather than being mutually
exclusive. The paper argued that Quirk’s (1990) view so see new sociolinguistic
features of different varieties of English as deviations from the standard norm is his
inability to acknowledge and respect the sociolinguistic reality; and the paper also
showed a disagreement with Phillipson’s (1992; 2008) argument to stop the spread
of English because I think that depriving our kids of the English language is to
prevent them from the endless gatekeeping opportunities in the future. I found the
Kachruvian approach to legitimize nativized varieties of English more focused to
Chatterjee 9

Outer Circle contexts and it does not primarily address the pedagogical issues of
the Expanding Circle countries (though he claims it does) where the numbers of
English learners (and prospective users) is the largest. But I agree that local
varieties of Englishes in both Outer and Expanding Circle countries must be
acknowledged and given space in curricula and classroom teaching (B. Kachru,
2005; Y. Kachru, 2006; Y. Kachru & Nelson, 2006), and language teachers and
learners must be aware of and familiar with as many English varieties as possible
(Matsuda, 2002; 2003). I agree with Canagarajah’s (1999; 2006b) view to
appropriate pedagogy as required by the local contexts. But we must be careful and
aware of how we can appropriate, why we are appropriating and to what extent we
can go. Now we are in need of “a comprehensive theory of teaching and learning
English as an international language” (McKay, 2002: 225) that ensures
intelligibility rather than correctness and gives space for the local culture
(Seidlhofer, 2004). We are now in the initial phase of ELF description and we need
more corpus and reliable data to validate its stronger claims and detailed
implications in English language teaching. But certainly we can shift our focus of
teaching English from an attempt to approximating target speaker norm to
communication and accommodation strategies that ensure more intelligibility and
efficient communication. Such strategies include: “drawing on extralinguistic cues,
identifying and building on shared knowledge, gauging and adjusting interlocutor’s
linguistic repertoire, supportive listening, signaling noncomprehension in a
facesaving way, asking for repetition, paraphrasing and the like” (Seidlhofer, 2004:
227). Learning of English can be for communication or identification or both
(Canagarajah, 2006b; Kirkpatrick, 2007) and teaching of EFL ensures this.
Teaching ELF is pluricentric in approach and gives space for both the international
lingua franca (ELF) and local variations (Jenkins, 2006). Teaching ELF guarantees
the claim over its ownership because it belongs to nobody or, the other way round,
Chatterjee 10

it belongs to everybody. I want to conclude this paper with Canajarajah’s (2006b)

statement— teaching of ELF allows for “heterogeneous global English speech
community with heterogeneous English, and different modes of competence (p.