Strand Activities

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Strand 1

Activity 1.1: Exploring historical and socio-political aspects of English in additional contexts

After reading about the historical facts of the spread of English around the world and their interpretations by scholars in Strand 1, you may be curious about the historical development of English in specific regions of interest for you. We encourage you to establish a timeline for the historical development of English language in your own research, teaching, or learning contexts. Two historical timelines providing an overview of the introduction and development of English in the contexts of Taiwan (Chen 2006, 2010) and Spain (Enever 2007; Madrid 2001; Oukhiar 2010) are provided as examples on this website.

Questions to think over:

  • When was English language introduced to your country? How? By whom? In what domains?
  • Do you observe any status shifts of English language in relation to other foreign and local languages? How about changes in terms of the functions or domains for which it is used?
  • Can you identify what may have been the motivations or interests behind the introduction, status shifts, and/or current uses of English in the given context?

As you probably noticed when looking at Taiwan’s timeline, a proposal to make English a ‘semi-official’ language in the country was made by the political party in government in 2002, although the proposal was put on hold at the parliament due to unfeasibility concerns. Similar proposals for making English an official second language have been made in Japan and Korea (p. 9):

  • What may be motivating these contexts to consider this change in their ‘status relationship’ with English? (e.g. to politically abrogate the current official language and culture; to facilitate the smooth communication between local people and international business partners, to create an English-friendly environment for international people).
  • What would the implications be if English becomes a co-official, semi-official, or quasi-official language in these contexts? (e.g. benefits, risks, transformative effects)
  • Would you support such a proposal for these countries? And if the idea of making a ‘foreign’ language official was considered by your own context? Why/why not?
“The semi-authoritative narrative built up through the progressive rhetoric using the key terms ‘globalisation’ and its associational clusters can be taken to be a rhetorical ploy to undermine the status of Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua) as the only official language of Taiwan. The attempt to make English the second official language of Taiwan is interpreted as a strategy to abrogate the privileged centrality of Mandarin Chinese in the current Taiwanese society and its cultural linkage to China, and thus its political implication on national identity, after the unsuccessful appropriation of Hoklo as the language for culturally significant discourse when the China-originated party KMT (Kuomingtang, the Nationalist Party) was replaced by the Democratic Progressive Party led by President Chen in 2000.” (Yeh 2008: 196)

Activity 1.2: Deconstructing language choice and the spread of English, African perspectives

In Strand 1 you also became familiarised with the spread of English in the African continent. Rubagumya (2004) explores in detail the relationship between ‘choice’ and the spread of English in Africa and Tanzania in particular. According to him, “[s]everal scholars argue that … individuals and communities choose to acquire a new language because it is in their interest to do so” (ibid.: 133, our italics). Rubagumya then distances himself from this position, and problematises the idea of ‘spread by choice’ of those acquiring English as follows:

  1. "European languages were imposed on Africa during the colonial period. African people as communities did not choose to learn those languages […]
  2. Individual Africans do not necessarily choose to learn these languages. Since the language of instruction in almost all African countries is the language of the former colonial power, going to school does not leave any choice to individual students as to which language they would like to use. […]
  3. Individuals that do not go to school, and therefore do not learn European languages, do not choose not to go to school. They do not have access to schooling […]” (ibid.: 134, italics in original)

Rubagumya concludes that “saying that English came to Africa by choice – whether of communities or individuals, is to distort history” (ibid.: 134). Yet, later on the author concedes that “[i]t might be the case that this imposed language was seen as beneficial and therefore people continued to use it for the purposes for which it was not originally intended” (ibid.: 134).

  • Do you think that the continuation of using English in postcolonial times can be considered a ‘choice’ rather than imposition, albeit one made by African elites?
  • Do you think non-elite families and children have any degree of ‘choice’ in the take up or avoidance of using/learning English in British postcolonial contexts in Africa?
  • Can you identify potential constraints to ‘choosing’ to learn/use English by the majority of people in the above cited context? Are the effects of the language choices available likely to influence the decisions we may be able to make? If so, how?
  • Rubagumya (2004: 134) indicates, “one might, of course, say cynically that those who don't want to learn European languages should not go to school”. Do you agree that ‘not going to school’ as a form of resistance to an imposed language choice is the only option for students in the mentioned context? If your answer is no, in what ways would it be possible for students/teachers to resist?
  • According to Ferguson (2012: 478) “[m]ost choices, down to the most banal, are constrained but can still contain those elements of deliberation and selection that are criterial for agency”. What do you think?
  • In your experience, could you ‘choose’ to learn English? Is it likely for learners in your context to be able to ‘choose’ the language they want to learn nowadays? Why/why not?


  • Chen, S. C. (2006) ‘Simultaneous promotion of indigenisation and internationalisation: New language-in-education policy in Taiwan’, Language and Education: An International Journal 20/4: 322–337.
  • Chen, S. C. (2010) ‘Multilingualism in Taiwan’, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 205: 79–104.
  • Enever, J. (2007) ‘Yet another early-start languages policy in Europe: Poland this time!’, Current Issues in Language Planning 8/2: 208–221.
  • Ferguson, G. (2012) ‘English in language policy and management’, in Spolsky, B. (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 475–498.
  • Madrid, D. (2001) ‘Problemática de la enseñanza de las lenguas extrajeras en España’, in Gómez-Caminero, R. (ed.) La enseñanza de lenguas en el nuevo milenio,Granada: Grupo Editorial Universitario: pp. 11–46.
  • Oukhiar, F. (2010) ‘The impact of international cooperation on educational policy: the case of Spain’, European Journal of Language Policy 2/1: 41–56.
  • Rubagumya, C.M. (2004) ‘English in Africa and the emergence of Afro-Saxons: globalization or marginalization?’, in Baynham, M., Deignan, A., and White, G. (eds) Applied Linguistics at the Interface: Selected Papers from the Annual Meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics, London: Equinox.
  • Yeh, T.D. (2008) ‘A window to globalization? A cluster analysis of the debate on making English the second official language of Taiwan’, Taiwan Journal of East Asia Studies 5(1): 175–198.

Strand 2

Activity 2.1: Rethinking language models and labels

In Strand 2 you had the opportunity of observing how the most influential representations of English, its spread, and its use have been changing over time; how certain models have been criticised, altered, or succeeded by newly developed ones. Studies on the international spread of English have encouraged a great deal of rethinking of the constructs and terms we use to conceptualise language(s). In the following quote Pennycook elaborates on the necessity for scholars to constantly reconsider our approaches to language:

“As we analyse and promote critical/transgressive approaches to applied linguistics, we must always be wary lest the very terms and concepts we use are at the same time doing damage to the communities we are working with.” (Pennycook 2007: 39)

  • According to your experience, do you find people often label instances of English language use as belonging to a specific variety or (speech/imagined) community?
  • In English class, have you ever been asked (or, if you are a teacher, have you asked students) to use or avoid a specific word or linguistic expression on the grounds that it corresponds with/deviates from a pre-determined variety or ‘kind’ of English use (i.e. ENL, ESL, EFL)?

Dewey calls into question “the most widely used and accepted terms of demarcation of English used in the global ELT enterprise” (Dewey 2012: 130), and suggests that “many of the terms of reference currently in favour are heavily laden with traditional intellectual assumptions about language that do not adequately reflect current realities regarding the global sociolinguistics of English” (ibid).

  • Returning to your classroom experience, how far do you agree with Dewey’s suggestion? To what extent do you think that these labelling practices may lead to the inclusion/exclusion of specific ways of using English? Are these labels still necessary for the language classroom? Why/why not?
  • Do you think it is appropriate to categorise English in accordance with terms suggested in the field such as ESL, ENL, EFL, or Inner, Outer and Expanding Circles?

“there is a major confusion between language, polity and place in the minds of linguists and laypeople alike, not helped by the fact that English and other languages use names for nationalities (or dominant ethnicities) as names for the major languages associated with them. […] The practice of using English to express the concept of a single system of linguistic norms is often carried over, at least implicitly, to the plural form Englishes, which when taken to mean the collection of Inner Circle and indigenized Outer Circle varieties, falls into the monolithic trap. So-called pluricentric approaches to English and other majority languages (Clyne 1991), welcome as they are, still suggest countable, monolithic centres (cf. Pennycook 2009: 200–1). For this reason, I welcome—and appropriate—Pennycook’s (2007) coinage plurilithic here.” (Hall 2012: 3–4)

  • What do you think about Hall’s position on operating with a pluricentric approach and monolithic varieties of English?
  • Do you agree in that Pennycook’s plurilithic approach is more appropriate? If your answer is no, can you imagine other conceptual alternatives? You may wish to consult what the following scholars have said about the topic: Bruthiaux (2003), Park and Wee (2009), and Pennycook (2003).

Let’s look at a more concrete example. Nickels (2005) explores the sociolinguistic profile of English in Puerto Rico. Although the author attempts to undertake the analysis from a Kachruvian perspective, her findings seem to challenge the suitability of the very own model and categories employed to frame the analysis, and concludes that:

“Puerto Rico appears to be ‘between’ circles, as far as the forms and functions of English are concerned. […] Also, in terms of the ESL/EFL status, McArthur (1998: 53) places Puerto Rico under the heading of ESL countries based on the official status of English. Thus, there seems to be conflicting estimations about English in Puerto Rico.” (Nickels 2005: 234)

  • Are you aware of any region or context of use in which the sociolinguistic realities of English do not neatly match current influential categories (e.g. varieties/circles)? If yes, how can you explain or deal with English in such contexts?

Activity 2.2: Re-evaluating pedagogical suggestions

Section C2 of Strand 2 reviews different aspects of English language education to address the pedagogical concerns in terms of teaching theory as well as practice. Section C6 of Strand 6 provides some examples of pedagogical solutions proposed by different scholars. This activity draws on Wen’s pedagogical suggestion to teach EIL in Chinese context as a starting point for teachers to explore the linkage of classroom practice to ELF-relevant communication. In her proposal of the model seen in C6 (p. 157), Wen makes the following recommendations:

“[T]o communicate effectively in the context of EIL, as an L2 user she/he should be able to understand and use the core system as well as the nativised features needed for transmitting her/his own culture, while at the same time comprehending the nativised features used by other non-native speakers. To summarise, the object of teaching includes the native variety forming a common core and the nativised features forming the periphery of EIL.” (Wen 2012: 88)

  • Can you identify any theoretical or ideological orientations underpinning Wen’s choice of what is called ‘core’ or ‘peripheral’ features of English?
  • If Wen’s proposal is being put into practice, how could her proposed ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ distinction influence teachers’ interpretation of English and its use for intercultural communication? How would it further students’ understanding of English language and its use through classroom practice?

In terms of linguistic input, Wen (2012: 373–374) indicates that:

“Native varieties, which shows variability in the use of English resources as does ELF, are provided to the students from the very beginning onwards and can enhance mutual intelligibility among interlocutors in the international setting. Non-native varieties are offered to the students from the intermediate stage onwards for the receptive purpose only […] Localised features can be taught from the low proficiency level but this needs to be planned cautiously.”

  • What do you think about Wen’s recommendation of introducing native varieties to enhance international intelligibility? In your experience, do you agree with the introduction of native and non-native varieties in accordance with students’ proficiency levels?
  • If you find Wen’s proposal useful, how does this it benefit students in your context? If you do not, how would you modify it and why?
  • In their appraisal for ELT practice, Cogo and Dewey (2012: 183) indicate “that language pedagogy needs to go beyond focusing so predominantly on the reproduction of encoded language forms”. Do you think that Wen’s proposal meets this goal? Why/why not?


  • Bruthiaux, P. (2003) ‘Squaring the circles: issues in modeling English worldwide’, International Journal of Applied Linguistics 13: 159–178.
  • Cogo, A. and Dewey, M. (2012) Analysing English as a Lingua Franca. A Corpus-driven Investigation, London: Continuum.
  • Dewey, M. (2012) ‘Beyond labels and categories in English Language Teaching: critical reflections on popular conceptualizations’, in Leung, C. and B. Street (eds) English a Changing Medium for Education, Bristol: Multilingual Matters, pp. 129–149.
  • Hall, C.J. (2012) ‘Cognitive contributions to plurilithic views of English and other languages’, Applied Linguistics: 1–22.
  • Nickels, E. (2005) ‘English in Puerto Rico‘, World Englishes 24/2: 227–237.
  • Park, J.S. and Wee, L. (2009) ‘The three circles redux: a market–theoretic perspective on World Englishes’, Applied Linguistics 30/3: 389–406.
  • Pennycook A. (2003) ‘Global Englishes, Rip Slyme and performativity’, Journal of Sociolinguistics 7(4): 513–533.
  • Pennycook, A. (2007) Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows, Abingdon & New York: Routledge.
  • Wen, Q. (2012) ‘English as a lingua franca: a pedagogical perspective’, Journal of English as a Lingua Franca 1/2: 371–378.

Strand 3

Activity 3.1. Revising language standards

In Strand 3 you explored the notion of standard English and its societal effects in and across Anglophone contexts. In his article, ‘How to stop worrying and write proper’ (Guardian Newspaper, g2. 1 October 2013: 6–8), David Marsh not only talks about grammar rules we can forget about (as seen in D3, p. 205), he also lists five rules that he believes people should worry about. These are: 

  • the use of ‘whom’ as the objective form of ‘who’;

    “The use of whom – the objective form of who – is dying out, especially in speech. It sounds affected and stiff … To avoid this, mentally replace who or whom with the third person pronoun: if you get a subject – he, she, it or they – then who is correct; for an object – him, her or them – whom is right.”

  • the ‘correct’ use of relative pronouns in defining/non-defining relative clauses;

    “The traditional definition is that that defines and which informs (gives extra information), as in: ‘This is the house that Jack built; but this house, which John built, is falling down.’”

  • the distinction between ‘compare to’ and ‘compare with’;

    “Compare to means liken to; compare with means make a comparison. So I might compare Lionel Messi with Diego Maradona to assess their relative merits, then conclude that Messi can be compared to Maradona – he is a similarly great player.”

  • subject-verb agreement in respect of collective noun (singular verb for a noun that is a singular unit, plural verb for a noun that refers to a collection of individuals);

    “Collective nouns can be singular or plural. Treat as singular when the noun is a single unit, but plural when it is more a collection of individuals, for example: ‘The family can trace its history back to the middle ages; the family were sitting down, scratching their heads.’ Once you've decided whether the noun is singular or plural, make sure the verb agrees, or people will conclude you is sloppy.”

  • and the distinction between the verbs ‘lay’ and ‘lie’.

    “Confusion between the verbs lay and lie arises because the present tense of the former is the past tense of the latter. The easy way not to mix them up is to remember that lay is a transitive verb (it takes an object); lie is intransitive. If you lay a table or an egg, or you lay something down, the past tense is laid. If you lie down, the past tense is lay.”

Do you agree with Marsh in all/some cases? Why, or why not?

  • How did teachers of English deal with these or similar cases in your English learning context?
  • As a student of English, how did you perceive these linguistic forms? As a user of English, do you avoid their use? Why/why not? In what situations?
  • If you were (or are) an English teacher, how would you deal with them in the classroom? Would you ‘correct’ your students if they produced any of the above?

A response to Marsh appeared on the Guardian Newspaper letters page a few days later, in which the writer, Tristán White, an external examiner for the University of London, says:

“I am appalled that your Guardian style guide author David Marsh advocates dispensing with elements of grammar that have been sacrosanct among the educated classes for centuries.”

  • What is your reaction to this reply?
  • What does the use of the word ‘sacrosant’ suggest here? How do you feel about linking standard language and religious discourses?

Activity 3.2.

In the following video you will find the famous British personality Stephen Fry talking about language in the Anglophone world and people’s engagement with it in terms of standards, clarity and correctness. Watch it attentively and think about the questions below:


Reflection questions

  • What kind of language ideology/ies is Fry criticising in the video? What is your position in relation to his views? Do you (dis)agree with all/some of his ideas?
  • Do you know of any other way to look at language and its use which contradicts Fry’s perception?
  • As a language user, would you like to take a different approach to language and language use? Why and how?
  • Fry criticises self-appointed language guardians that write about language in newspapers for example, can you think of any function that similar articles may be performing in your own context?
  • To what extent do you agree that people tend to take a ‘pedantic’ approach to look at standards and language use? How about folk people and linguists in your context? How do the two groups perceive languages, including their mother tongue(s)? Does their perception of language vary between mother tongue(s) and foreign/additional languages?
  • Fry also comments on the need for ‘dressing up your language’ occasionally (e.g. for job interviews). Do you agree with him? Why or why not? In your experience, to what extent can/shall we ‘dress up’? In what communicative contexts? What may be the effects for those who do or do not ‘dress up’ their language according to established conventions? How about the opposite, can/shall we ‘dress down’ our language? If so, when and for what purpose(s)?
  • Although Fry advocates for a new approach, he admits to fighting what he calls his own ‘pedantic’ tendencies. Can you identify specific kinds of English use that cause you to evaluate them as ‘incorrect’ or ‘ugly’ for instance? Which and why? Have you ever found yourself fighting negative evaluations of new/different ways of using English or do you value them as a useful means to maintain the notion of ‘standard English’?
  • Reflecting back on your own language practices, do you always assign the same evaluation to a specific language use? Or do your evaluations vary depending on the context, interlocutors, topic, etc.? If so, can you explain what may make that language use appropriate in some contexts and inappropriate in others?
  • How has your language learning and using experience influenced/shaped the way you approach language, standards, and notions of correctness?
  • What kind of implications does Fry’s approach have for language teaching?

Commentator 1: If language is like what Stephen said, why should we learn?

Commentator 2: Language is like a double-edged sword. In terms of ELT, (more preciously, on general ESL courses) over-emphasising on whether grammar, spelling, part of speech or conversion (N.>V.), it decreases the pleasure whereas increase the anxiety of language learning. Also, the evolution of language is dynamic and trendy. For instance, in Lady GaGa’s lyrics – “stop telephoning me!” Also, sentence like ‘if he was playing, we could win the match’. Such usage will never be accepted on written English, not to mention the academic use (because it looks ugly). Therefore, the notion (authenticity of English) literally needs to be adapted, but it's still a long way to go. Literacy matters but somehow increases anxiety and interference which reduces willingness and motivation of learning.

Commentator 3: I have acquired the languages I speak, whether first or second language. I am not trying to start a discussion on the whole ‘acquired vs. learned’ debate. Instead, what I mean is that the exposure I have received of language has caused me to use language in a certain way. The more exposure I have received, the more likely I am to speak and write in a certain way. We can carry this on to accent as well. So if we are going to blame anyone on the wrong usage, especially L1 usage then can I not blame those that have surrounded me? What if I grow up in a poor neighbourhood where the dialect and particular variety of English is not the standard? I will be ridiculed for that and my thoughts and ideas no matter how brilliant will be ignored due to my misuse of the word ‘however’? Now, I am not trying to say that writing or spoken language should be riddled with errors. What I am saying is that if you know one's intended meaning when they use a ‘which’ when they should have used a ‘that’ does it really make a difference? If you cannot understand what the person means then that is where the breakdown in communication happens. I could keep going … Fry mentions several things I could discuss but this is what I would like to start with. J

Strand 4

Activity 4.1: Problematising descriptions of English in Singapore

In addition to using national labels to describe English as a series of ‘varieties’, linguists have also pointed out the existence or emergence of ‘sub-varieties’ within a particular region or among a specific social group. Singlish, which you learned about in C4, is a case in point in that it has been defined by some as a sub-variety of Standard Singapore English (SSE). However, there is no consensus between scholars on whether these are two varieties or a case of switching between two styles. Another similar example is Estuary English (EE) in the UK, which has been described as ‘a new accent variety’. Read the following quotes and reflect on two contrasting positions.

“Estuary English (EE), a new accent variety I first described in 1984 is neither a Cockney nor RP, but in the middle between these two … experts on British English agree that it is currently the strongest influence on the standard spoken form and that it could replace RP as the most influential accent in the British Isles.” (Rosewarne 1996: 15)

“Maidment considers that Rosewarne’s description of EE suffers from naivety because it fails to take account of the sociolinguistic facts of intraspeaker variation. In other words, ‘a speaker of a given accent has within his or her competence a range of styles from informal to formal’ and will adjust their accents according to contextual factors.” (Maidment 1994, cited in Jenkins 2009: 131)


  • How would you position yourself in this debate? Do you think that Maidment’s proposal on ‘EE’ being only a matter of style may also apply to the case of ‘Singlish’? Or would you agree with those that label young Singaporean’s English use as a new (sub-)variety?
  • Why do you think it is young people who are currently the main users of these controversial ‘sub-varieties’? Do you anticipate that these linguistic uses will spread to other age groups over time?
  • Scholars no longer seem to be making strong claims on EE potentially becoming the new ‘standard’, why do you think this may be?
  • Do people describe your English use according to social aspects such as your nationality, your age, your profession, etc.? If yes, how do you feel about that? Are you aware of the intraspeaker variation mentioned by Maidment in your own English use?

Activity 4.2: Dealing with controversial language use via policy intervention

C4 also introduced you to the movement of Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) and the government’s efforts to promote a policy against the use of ‘Singlish’.

  • Is there a kind of English perceived and promoted as the best, the most accurate or the standard English in your country? What are the impacts of such linguistic preference or ideologies on language education?
  • Are you aware of any other context in which any similar language policy or plan is taking place to eliminate certain English linguistic features? What is its rationale? How will this policy influence people’s perception of their own English and language use for intercultural communication?
  •  How do the people in this context (bottom-up) react to the policy attempt of elimination? Do they agree or disagree and how?

In C4 (p. 144), Rubdy and Deterding believe that Singapore government may well be successful in eliminating ‘Singlish’ through SGEM policy.

  • In your opinion, how likely is it to succeed in persuading speakers to stop using those features in that context? Why?

Look at the following quotes on the effects of language:

“It is often the case that even when policies are stated explicitly it still does not guarantee that language policy will in fact turn into practice and there are situations when the use of languages are in opposition to declared policies.” (Shohamy 2006: 51)

“[W]hen the top-down policies begin to close ideological spaces, implementational spaces carved out from bottom-up cab wedge open local ideological spaces.” (Hornberger and Johnson 2007: 512)

  •  Do you think that young Singapore people will be able to find any caveats to resist SGEM or to negotiate their ‘Singlish’ use for specific contexts/domains? Discuss this question in relation to other contexts if you were able to identify similar policies being implemented.


  • Hornberger, N.H. and Johnson, D.C. (2007) ‘Slicing the onion ethnographically: layers and spaces in multilingual language education policy and practice’, TESOL Quarterly 41/3: 509–532.
  • Jenkins, J. (2009) World Englishes. A Resource Book for Students (2nd edn), London: Routledge.
  • Rosewarne, D. (1996) ‘Changes in English pronunciation and some implications for teachers and non-native learners’, Speak Out!, newsletter of the IATEFL Pronunciation Special Interest Group, no. 18: 15–21.
  • Shohamy, E. (2003) ‘Implications of language education policies for language study and universities’, The Modern Language Journal 87/2: 278–286.

Strand 5

Activity 5.1 From MLE to other languages

C5 introduces the emergence of MLE (Multilingual London English, also Jafaican or London Jamaican). In the video available in the link below McGavin and Hotson document how accents for British as well as foreign English speakers are mixed in the UK, in particular in London. This video indicates that Jafaican is a contextual language use influenced by different cultural communities, regional perspectives, and demographic visions. Watch it from the beginning to minute 3:04 to expand your understanding of how MLE is developed and complete this activity.

The clip reports that British people own ambivalent attitudes towards the ‘new invention’ of using English in the UK. For instance, the interviewer himself describes the generational change as “almost alarming”, whereas the accent expert sees it as “exciting”.

  • Do you align with any of these positions on Jafaican and why?
  • Have you ever encountered this position or discourse in the evaluation of different linguistic features when produced by ‘non-native’ speakers of English? Does your position change depending on the characteristics of the speakers that produce them? Does your position vary depending on other factors? Which are they? Would you take other position to evaluate similar kinds of change in other language(s)?

According to the interviewer in this video, ‘languages and accents are invented’ through practice, it seems that some people notice linguistic variation of English among different age groups and regions while others do not. For example, the mother and the son appear to notice the linguistic variation between their generations when the interviewer asks them to repeat the same sentence.

  • Are you aware of any similar linguistic invention by people in your (or any other additional) context?
  • How is it being shaped? What/who is it influenced by?
  • What do you think are the purposes behind such practices?
  • To what extent is/was this linguistic variation perceived as deficiency/difference or inferior/superior language use?

In the first activity in C5 (p. 149), you were asked to analyse the reasons that motivate young Londoners to draw from features of Jamaican creole and from Cockney at the same time. Blommaert and Varis (2011) elaborate on superdiversity, a concept that can be appropriate to describe MLE, in relation to notions of authenticity and identity. Read the following quote (and the entire article if you can access it) and think about the suitability of their theorisations to explain MLE practices:
“It is at this point and by means of such particular arrangement that one can, for instance, distinguish discourses of identity-as-heritage as discourses in which the particular configuration of features reflect and emanates images of unbroken, trans-generational transmission of ‘traditions’, of timeless essentials, of reproduction of that which is already there. Discourses of identity-as-creation would, contrarily, be organised around configuration that enables an imagery of innovation, discontinuity and deviation.” (Blommaert and Varis 2011: 4)

  • Do you find Blommaert and Varis’ concepts of identity-as-heritage and identity-as-creation useful to explain the MLE practices? Why/why not?
  • Jafaican also reflects other additional multicultural influences, how can we account for those?

In the last activity on p. 149, you started reflecting on the existence of Jamaican creole “beyond the confines of its original ethnic roots”. Now we encourage you to consider in more depth the forms in which MLE may take in the future. Current research suggests that it is spreading to users of different ethnicities and that it is also being reproduced by speakers from other inner city areas.

  • What do you think is the future of MLE?
  •  Will it continue spreading? If so, in what ways? (e.g. regions, urban/rural contexts, domains, characteristics of speakers, etc.)?
  • How likely is it to be maintained as the language of certain youths in the future? Do you think it will be replaced by a new way or style of speaking? Why/why not?
  • Do you think MLE is likely to move towards the ‘standard’ dominant language in the UK and therefore become decreolised? Why/why not?

Activity 5.2 Questioning de-powering or empowering effects of language

In Strand 5 you also learned about African-American Vernacular English (AAVE, also called Ebonics or Black English), an example of creole development in the US. Below you will find a link to the video ‘“Black English”: is it acceptable?’, a clip that presents how Democratic Strategists Brian Benjamin and Jehmu Green discuss the existence and acceptance of ‘Black English’. Their discussion about ‘Black English’ derives from the testimony of Miss Rachel Jeantel on the murder trial of George Zimmerman, in which Jeantel’s credibility has been questioned due to some aspects of her linguistic literacy, especially her way of speaking English, which is categorised as ‘Black English’. The video in the link provided demonstrates three commentators’ conceptualisations of and positions on Ebonics. Please watch the video and see if you can identify how the three different commentators invited to participate in the discussion understand ‘Black English’ and orient to it. Watch the video, read the summary of the video (if necessary), and respond to the questions below.


A summary of video: ‘“Black English” is it acceptable?’

  • ‘Black English’ is a language, just a different kind of language to communicate (Professor John Mcwhorter, Columbia University).
  • ‘Black English’ does not exist as a language, this ‘term’ or ‘label’ is ‘too general’. As long as an individual can ‘communicate appropriately’ s/he can do it in the way s/he feels most comfortable with, presumably including the so-called ‘Black English’ (Brian Benjamin, Democratic Strategist).
  • ‘Black English’ is a language, but the ‘wrong’ language, one that is unacceptable, something of the past, a source of inequality maintenance, even if admittedly ‘intelligible’ to white US population (Jehmu Green, Democratic Strategist).
  • How do you feel about these positions and conceptualisations of Ebonics? Do you agree with any? Why?
  • What do you think Brian Benjamin means when he criticises claims of ‘Black English’ existing as a language for being ‘too general’?
  • Who decides what counts as ‘appropriate’ in a professional situation for example? Does the general agreement on what is ‘appropriate’ or ‘acceptable’ language tend to remain the same or does it change overtime? What do you think drives the maintenance/change?
  • The guests appear to suggest that credibility concerns have been raised over Jeantel’s testimony because of the way she speaks English. Where do you think such concerns originate from and why? To what extent do you think it is valid and fair to draw conclusions on individuals’ social and intellectual qualities/personality/physical features from their language use?
  • Jehmu Green advises the public to stop relating this specific language use with ‘race’, while making connections with ‘slavery’ herself. Why do you think Green compares the current English language use by black people with slavery? What outcome or effect is she seeking through this strategy?
  • Are you aware of any other meanings associated to ‘Black English’ that have not been mentioned in the video? If you identified similar generational changes in other labelled languages, what kind of associations or connotations tend to be attached to them by the public? How are those associations being constructed/maintained/resisted?

Jehmu Green also brings up important social constrains. As Park and Wee (2011: 366) suggest, language does not occur in a ‘sociopolitical vacuum’. We experience social pressures due to general perceptions in job interviews for example. Thus, Green suggests that ‘Black English’ is a language that will not provide access to better opportunities for those using it, and concludes that the only way for them to succeed in life is to abandon this way of speaking.

  • Do you agree with her? To what extent to do we need to account for social pressures in our language research/teaching endeavours?
  • What kind of assumptions may be leading Green to conclude that ‘Black English’ is not the best way to move people in disadvantaged positions forwards?
  • Do you think that the abandonment of this way of speaking will lead US English speakers to empowerment? Why/why not?
  • Can you envisage any other alternatives for people who speak that way to gain access or overcome social inequality? If so, which are they? How likely are they to be successful?


  • Blommaert, J. and Varis, P. (2011) ‘Enough is enough: the heuristics of authenticity in superdiversity’, Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies, Tilburg University 2: 1–13.
  • Park J. and Wee, L. (2011) ‘A practice-based critique of English as a Lingua Franca’, World Englishes 30/3: 360–374.

Strand 6

Activity 6.1: English as a Lingua Franca and the world of academic publications

In Strand 6, you were introduced to the use of English as an international lingua franca in a wide range of domains. An important area surrounded by controversy in relation to English, and the classification of its users, is that of international publications. Flowerdew (2008) outlines the nature of the aforementioned controversy as follows:

“Given that the majority of the world’s scholars do not possess English as their first language, it is not surprising that for many of them their written English does not correspond closely to what might be produced by a native-speaker (henceforth L1 writer) and in many cases they experience great problems in producing manuscripts which are acceptable to international journal editors and reviews … While it is difficult to find concrete evidence that writers who use English as an additional language (henceforth EAL writers) are discriminated against in academic publishing, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that they may be.” (Flowerdew 2008: 77–78)

In his Times Higher Education article ‘From where I sit – trips and falls of the tongue’ (21 October 2010: 19), the journalist and lecturer of Management and Economics, Brian Bloch, makes the following evaluations of ‘non-native speakers’ use of English for academic purposes. Read the article extract and think about the questions below:

“Germans, and indeed other non-native speakers, desperately need and want to publish in English. The result is that many foreign scholars write papers in English, and with mixed linguistic results.

Having edited dozens of articles written by Germans over the past few years, I have become aware of the negative aspects of writing and publishing in a foreign language with which one is familiar but is a long way from mastering. […]

This obviously leads to grammatical mistakes, but also to a lack of linguistic and academic precision and clarity. […]

Here are other examples of common mistakes:

  • Wrong word: referring to ‘research efforts’ may not be really incorrect, but the author meant ‘research procedures’. Similarly, one sometimes reads this sort of thing: ‘our model is more reasonable than the others’, when the writer meant ‘more efficient’.
  • Wrong tense: ‘Such behaviour is having a serious effect on stability.’ The author meant always, and not only right now, and thus it should read ‘has a serious effect’.
  • Overly literal translation: ‘A crucial role in this context plays the characteristics of pricing policy decisions.’
  • Horrendous lack of commas: ‘Additionally by making problems transparent planning helps to achieve consensus and reduce conflicts.’
  • False friends: ‘This is an adequate methodology,’ where ‘appropriate’ was meant. The German word adäquat is as false a linguistic friend as one can get.”

Examine each of the examples Block introduces as ‘common mistakes’ made in written English by ‘non-native speakers’, and think about the following questions.

  • Do you think the examples hinder the transmission of academic knowledge? If yes, in what ways and to what extent?
  • Are these kind of ‘problems’ exclusive to non-native speakers of a language? Have you ever experienced problems with transmitting a specific meaning (to a diverse readership) in English? And in your own ‘mother tongue’ (if different to English)? If so, what were the issues you experienced?

Informant 1 reports on his experience with editors and reviewers:

There is one journal regardless of submission sends a letter asking my manuscripts to be read. They said it has many ungrammatical and syntactically confusing sentences. Something like that. This comes from the editor of the publisher. Not a content editor. It's just a standard thing for that journal. So I always reply and say that it's been reviewed by a native speaker. Of course that's me. Another recent submission, the editor told me my writing was too simplistic. I don't know what that means. He asked me to revise for a scholarly journal. Haha.

Informant 2 provides random quotes from reviewers and occasionally accompanies these with his own commentary:

This is an uncut comment from a third reviewer (with his typo) “Please have a native speaker of English review your paper to help you with some edits. Of special concern are the cprrect use of commas”. I had it reviewed by a native speaker. Those who live in glass houses …

Before this was accepted, one reviewer had this to say “This is the least of the three points I want to raise in my feedback on your paper, but there is some awkward language in your paper that will need to be dealt with before publication can proceed”.

After waiting months and sent a gentle reminder, the editor responded with “We are sorry to inform you that the External Review Panel did not feel that your article, xxx fits the needs of upcoming editions of the xxx Journal.

“Unfortunately, both reviewers have recommended an overall rewriting of the manuscript. Due to limited space in the journal and a high number of quality manuscripts competing for that space, I'm afraid I cannot take this manuscript any further.”

One editor felt “the study is not sufficiently theoretically framed. Another is that the description and discussion of and rationale for the methods of data collection are not adequate”.

This one condemns studies emanating from the doom and gloom lo-tech regions “Unfortunately, ours is not the most appropriate journal for your paper. We have a broad international readership that expects state-of-the-art studies”.

One editor rejected my article “on the basis of serious methodological flaws” but commended that “literature review is up to date and comprehensive”.

In response to Flowerdew’s article, Casanave (2008: 264) suggests that:

“using Goffman’s concept of stigma to discuss possible discrimination against EAL [English as an Additional Language] writers serves only to oversimplify complex issues and to obscure the great diversity within groups that get lumped under the labels EAL scholarly writers (the ‘stigmatised’) and L1 writers, journal editors, and reviewers (the ‘normals’). The reality of scholarly publishing for all writers need to be addressed in less dichotomising ways.”

Flowerdew (2001: 128) had also pointed out the potential dangers of dichotomisations in this issue a few years earlier. Drawing from one of his editor participants’ interviews on the concept of the non-native speaker, he indicates that:

“while accepting that the NS/NNS dichotomy was sometimes a useful one, [the editor] felt that it was a gross simplification and would prefer to refer to ‘language expertise’.”

  • In your view, to what extent does the perceived ‘nativeness’ or ‘non-nativeness’ of the author affect the rejection or acceptance of papers for publication in English? How should scholars investigating this domain deal with the dichotomy?

In the same article Bloch adds:

“Not only is written English a problem. Academics presenting at conferences often make ghastly pronunciation errors, and sometimes repeat the same mistakes right through the talk. […] At a conference opening in Berlin, the organiser greeted his colleagues from all over the world with ‘Hello everybUddy!’ (when Germans speak English, the ‘o’ often sounds like a ‘u’). He then boasted about saving on interpreter costs and proceeded to comment on the prevailing economic situation: ‘zis crisis make really sense’.”

  • How do you evaluate the linguistic event Bloch describes above? What effect(s) could his English use have had on the audience?

In an opinion letter published in THE as a response to this article, Morán Panero (Letters, Times Higher Education, 18 November 2010: 33) suggests that “[a] German conference organiser who opens an event by saying ‘Hello everybUddy’ (as described by Bloch) is going to be understood by his international audience; his usage will not (or should not) bring his academic research into disrepute”.

  • Do you agree? Have you ever found yourself making inferences on the quality of the work of another scholar/speaker from the way s/he uses English? Was your evaluation only related to ‘native-like’ production or were there other factors involved?
  • Have you ever felt that your professionalism has been questioned for the former reason? If so, how did you feel about it?

Activity 6.2: A path to transformation?

Bloch proposes the following as the only viable solution to his problematisation of ‘non-native’ speakers’ English use:

“[…] Non-native speakers are generally unable to write an acceptable level of English for academic purposes, even if they live in anglophone countries for several years. Their work needs to be edited by fellow academics with skills in the right areas, a fine command of English and sufficient motivation to make the necessary corrections. This generally entails changes in almost every sentence, and often bilateral communication with the authors.”

  • Do you agree with the suggestion that these uses of English should be revised and substituted according to ‘native-speaker standards’ in publications?
  • If you have the opportunity to work with ‘non-native’ English students at your school/university, would you recommend (or have you recommended) that their work is checked to make it more ‘native-like’? Why? Why not?

Several English-medium journals and book volumes are taking a different approach than the one suggested by Bloch. Read about it and the reasons that drive them to implement it, and think about the following aspects below:

Example 1

“Some of the papers in this book have been written by native speakers of English, others not, but all have been written by expert users of English. No policy of having the L2 authors’ texts checked by native speakers for linguistic correctness has been applied, because this was regarded as an irrelevant practice in a book presenting international English scholarship. Whether English has been the first or an additional language to the writers, they have been addressing an international audience, not primarily ENL communities. Their contributions thus reflect the kind of language use they discuss: effective English as an international lingua franca.” (Mauranen 2009: 6)

Example 2

“Finally, since this is a book about ELF, a field that investigates and celebrates the use of English for communication in a global context, it would be hypocritical of us to insist that contributors adhere to a narrow local version of English. The scope of this study is global and the contributions are from scholars around the world. We, in line with editors of similar collections (e.g. Carli & Ammon 2007, Mauranen & Ranta 2009, Murata & Jenkins 2009), have therefore edited the contributions on the basis of their international communicative effectiveness and not according to their adherence to native English grammatical norms.” (Cogo et al. 2011: 5)

  • What do you think about these approaches? Can you identify advantages and/or disadvantages as a reader?
  • And as a writer, would you welcome the initiative of these authors or would you prefer that your work was checked for ‘native-like’ accuracy? Would you like your work to be proof-read by colleagues whose first language is not necessarily English? Why/why not?


  • Casanave, C.P. (2008) ‘The stigmatizing effect of Goffman’s stigma label: a response to John Flowerdew’, Journal of English for Academic Purpose 7: 264–267.
  • Cogo, A. Archibald, A., and Jenkins, J. (2011) ‘Introductio’, in Archibald, A., Cogo, A., and Jenkins, J. (eds), Latest Trends in ELF Research, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, pp. 1–7.
  • Flowerdew, J. (2001) ‘Attitudes of journal editors to nonnative speaker contributions’, TESOL Quarterly 35/1: 121–150.
  • Flowerdew, J. (2008) ‘Scholarly writers who use English as an Additional Language: what can Goffman’s “Stigma” tell us?’ Journal of English for Academic Purpose, 7: 77–86.
  • Mauranen, A. (2009) ‘Introduction’, in Mauranen A. and Ranta, E. (eds) English as a Lingua Franca: Studies and Findings, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 1–7.

Strand 7

Activity 7.1 Approaching descriptions of English

Strand 7 introduces how different approaches or perspectives are taken to account for English and its linguistic forms in particular and how people learn, teach, and use English according to categorisations made. Traditionally, English has often been labelled in connection with speakers’ geographical, linguistic, and/or cultural backgrounds, and in terms of the functions it performs in delimited regions. C7 provides one example of how English by Chinese people is often depicted as ‘China English’ and ‘Chinese English’ with negative, stigmatised connotations. In an attempt to move beyond geographic scope, Mauranen (2012) uses the concept of ‘similects’ to describe English with non-English L1 influence, and Wang (2013) adopts ‘Chinese ELF user’ to coin English speakers in China.

  • What approach(es) (if any) do people from your contexts take to describe English by speakers from the same and different backgrounds? Is there a tendency to orient to one specific approach?
  • Is a region-based approach the dominant categorisation in your context? Do you agree with this preference? If you don’t, can you justify why? Can you think of any specific alternative that is more appropriate? Which and how would it be more useful?
  •  To what extent do you think that a region-/nation-based approach to English is useful for learners to understand how users from various linguacultural backgrounds speak English?
  • He and Li (2009: 71) indicate that ‘China English’, ‘Chinglish’ and even ‘Chinese English’ are being seen as ‘loaded with social stigma’, implying ‘bad’ English. How do you describe English by people who are not from your context? Do you think people ‘stigmatise’ your English if they perceive your English based on your nationality/region of origin? How much does the stigmatisation or acceptance depend on the territory in question? Can you identify any additional factors that may be influential in such evaluative processes?

In the extract below, Hino (2012) analyses and evaluates the sociolinguistic situation of English in Japan, and makes a series of claims in relation to the notion of ‘Japanese English':

“The need for original models of English for expressing the speakers’ own cultural values is no less strong for the Expanding Circle than for the Outer Circle, irrespective of the lack of intra-national use of English in the former … The author [Hino himself] has been attempting to incorporate the concept of ‘Japanese English’ to his EFL/EIL classes at the university level in Japan, prompted by the belief that it would be a disservice to our students if we keep giving the native speaker model as if it was the sole option.” (ibid.: 169)

“A model may function in an inductive manner, and may not need explicit description … Moreover, it does not matter if ‘Japanese English’ exists as a national variety. The model of Japanese English discussed here is a pedagogical target that the students may work toward as an alternative to the Anglo-American model.” (ibid.: 170)

  • To what extent do you think the identification of a ‘local original model’ or ‘variety’ is helpful to describe English used by people in Expanding circle contexts?
  • Why do you think scholars have abandoned the description of new ‘varieties’ of English in European Expanding Circle contexts while the identification of ‘varieties’ seems to remain a research goal in Asia as Hino exemplified?

Hino also discusses the publications of two scholars that, according to him, argue for a Japanese variety of English. After referring to the fact that they both became best sellers and popular among Japanese public, the author concludes that “the desire for and an interest in an original model of English is strong among Japanese learners of English, despite their Expanding Circle status” (Hino 2012: 167).

  • Do you think the general public in your context use the notion of ‘variety’ to refer to the English used by speakers from different Expanding Circle contexts (e.g. Italian English, Mexican English, Japanese English)? Are you aware of any Expanding Circle context in which learners display an interest in the development of an English variety and therefor a ‘local’ model in your context?
  • Having read about the controversies and tensions generated by the selection and promotion of ‘standard English’ in Anglophone contexts in Strand 3, what effects do you foresee could come from the development of ‘new standards’ in Outer and/or Expanding contexts? Any positive? Negative? Is it necessary to develop a new standard/variety in these regions? Why/why not? Are codification and standardisation the only options for the so-called ‘non-native’ or ‘second language’ speakers of English to gain confidence in/acceptance of their own use?
  • Do you think the use and identification of ‘similects’ is a better alternative to account for English used by speakers from Expanding Circle contexts? Why? Why not?

Activity 7.2. What do numbers tell us?

It is common to find statistic estimations on numbers of English speakers in scholarly publications of the field, as Strand 7 illustrates. These figures are often used in papers addressing the spread of English in different contexts, and the identification of different/emergent ‘Englishes’. Pennycook (2012), among others, turns a critical eye to this common practice of ‘counting’, and questions the extent to which statistics are relevant or contribute to the description of languages and speakers, and enhance our understanding of both. Read the comment below and think about the questions that follow.

“as Moore et al. (2010) observe the counting of languages and the counting of speakers of those languages is such a flawed enterprise that there is little to be learned from these figures, percentages and league tables. From this point of view, attempts to count languages or speakers of languages, to compare the number of people who speak English with the number who speak Chinese makes little sense.” (Pennycook 2012: 138)

  • Do any scholars draw from statistical projections of speakers to look at the development of English in your context? When were they calculated and where do these numbers derive from? How are they used in the studies and for what purpose?
  • What are the implications of the cited numbers for learners or (potential) users of English?
  • How helpful do you think these numbers are for scholars, learners, teachers, or users to understand and conceptualise current English use in global settings?
  •  How well do the provided numbers reflect the ways in which speakers perform English in a wide range of communicative contexts?
  • Why do you think Pennycook and Moore and colleagues suggest that the counting of speakers is ‘flawed’ and therefore uninformative? Do you agree with them? Or do you think that statics are necessary and/or illuminating? Justify your response.


  • He, D. and Li, D. (2009) ‘Language attitudes and linguistic features in the “China English” debate’, World Englishes 28/1: 70–89.
  • Hino, N. (2012) ‘Negotiating indigenous values with Anglo-American cultures in ELT in Japan: a case of EIL philosophy in the Expanding Circle’, in Kirkpatrick, A. and Sussex, R. (eds) English as an International Language in Asia: Implications for Language Education, London: Springer, pp. 157–173.
  • Mauranen, A. (2012) Exploring ELF: Academic English Shaped by Non-native Speakers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pennycook, A. (2012) ‘Lingua francas as language ideologies’, in Kirkpatrick, A. and Sussex, R. (eds) English as an International Language in Asia: Implications for Language Education, London: Springer, pp. 137–154.
  • Wang, Y. (2013) ‘Non-conformity to ENL norms: a perspective from Chinese English users’, Journal of English as a Lingua Franca 2/2: 255–282.

Strand 8

Activity 8.1: Examining current tensions in order to think ahead

Strand D8 reminds us of the increasing gains made by English in educational terrains, and how its presence in this domain, among other, put the language in a position that may be ‘hard to dislodge’ (p. 243) in the future. We also learned about the tensions created by such spread with local languages as it is relocalised in various forms across contexts, with some scholars accusing English of contributing to the ‘death’ or even ‘murder’ of smaller languages. In the next activity we present two cases in point, Malaysia and Spain, for you to analyse how the spread of English is perceived locally and how their citizens and policy-makers react to pressures from different interests, goals and/or perceived threats. The first context has historical links with colonialism whereas the second one does not.

8.2.1. English and Bahasa Malaysia

Gill (2012: 46) reports that, since the post-Independence from Britain, the Malaysian government has been facing a linguistic dilemma. The struggle revolves around the decision of whether to ‘disassociate from the English language’ as medium of instruction in Malaysian education contexts or not. As he points outs,

“[t]he main ethnic group needed to position themselves as the dominant ethnic community through assertion of identity. Their language was used as the tool to create a strong sense of national identity. Thus Bahasa Malaysia was legislated as the national language. To ensure that Bahasa Malaysia was given space to position itself as the main language of the country, English has to be relegated from the medium of instruction in the education system to become a second language—a language that was compulsory to take but not to pass.” (ibid)

  • Why do you think re-assigning the official status to Bahasa Malaysia was seen as an important step towards creating a national identity?
  • Why was English seen as an obstacle? Do you think it would have been possible to achieve the same or similar effect maintaining English as the national language (of education)?
  • In 2002 English became the medium of instruction again, only to announce in 2009 that a return to Bahasa Malaysia would take place in 2012. Do you think there is a way in which both policies may be combined or reconciled?

8.2.2. English, Spanish and minority languages in the Iberian Peninsula: a cause of concern?

In the Basque Country there have been tensions between Spanish and the minority language, Basque, for more than thirty years. Lasagabaster (2003a, 2003b, 2005): undertook a series of attitudinal studies towards Spanish and Basque, also considering attitudes towards English due to the paramount role that it has gradually gained in the educational curriculum within the region and across Spain. Lasagabaster (2001) administered a questionnaire to a group of university students whose L1s were Basque, or Spanish, or L1 both, and found out that L1 Basque students tended to show less favourable attitudes towards English than L1 Spanish students. The language attitudes of the L1 Basque participants are described as ‘bunker orientations’:

“that is, an excessive tendency of protection that can lead to a defensive attitude and objection to the majoritarian language or any other international language as is the case of English.” (Lasagabaster 2003a: 572 – personal translation)

While strict protective attitudes and measures may have been effective for the maintenance of Basque, the region is also confronted with concerns over perceived ‘low levels of English competence’ achieved by students. As a result the presence and status of English in schools has continued increasing, even becoming the medium of instruction in numerous institutions across the country. According to Lasagabaster and Sierra (2010: 367):

“the implementation of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) programmes is becoming commonplace, in the belief that this kind of approach is the best way to increase students’ foreign language proficiency without it taking up additional time in an already crammed curriculum.”

  • Are English and its worldwide dominant international role a potential threat for the functions already performed by Spanish and Basque in the Autonomy/Spain or were L1 Basque participants over-reacting?
  • Would the introduction of English as a third language of instruction be likely to aggravate tensions already experienced in education between Spanish and the minority language? Why/why not?
  • Do you consider English may be a ‘safe’ language in the equation due to its ‘foreign’ or ‘additional’ status?

A group of international linguists interested in European multilingual contexts carried out a series of linked attitudinal studies with teacher trainers (Lasagabaster and Huguet 2007). The regions of Catalonia, Galicia, Basque Autonomy, and Valencia, all of which are home to a minority language, were also investigated. Curiously, the L1 of the participants being Spanish, minority language or both only carried importance in the Basque Autonomy.

  • Why do you think participants from other regions with minority languages did not display less favourable attitudes towards the increasing presence of English in their educational systems?
  • Other than English language, can you identity the factors which may influence the expansion or decline of any local language and its use? Which and how?

Activity 8.2. Epistemological interpretations of the spread and futurology

In Strand 8 you were introduced to Widdowson’s conceptualisation of the spread of English with the purpose of reflecting on how various approaches to the language may stimulate different hypothesis for its future development. This activity aims to connect the more descriptive accounts of the spread of English from Strand 1 with your own critical analysis and interpretations of the situation of English in your context. It also encourages you to evaluate how the ‘spread/distribution’ dichotomy is dealt with in relation to practices you may be more familiarised with. Canagarajah’s latest proposal is provided below to help you to compare the usefulness of different paradigms under which you can reconsider the development and global status of English in your context.

Widdowson argues that “English as an international language is not distributed, as a set of established encoded forms, unchanged into different domains of use, but it is spread as a virtual language” (Widdowson 1997: 139–140).

He further emphasises that: “The distribution of the actual language implies adoption and conformity. The spread of the virtual language implies adaptation and nonconformity” (Widdowson 2003). Seidlhofer (2012: 67) elaborates on the distribution view, indicating that “the native speakers retain the language as their property and lease it out to other users who, not being owners, have no right to make any alterations to it”.

From a different perspective Canagarajah (2013: 8–9) proposes the translingual paradigm as a new approach to examine English, one which “does not disregard established norms and conventions as defined for certain contexts by dominant institutions and social groups. What is more important is that speakers and writers negotiate these norms in relation to their translingual repertories and practices”.

The questions arising from the mentioned views of/approach to English as an international language are:

  • Referring back to the timeline of the development of English in your context, can you identify how ‘distribution’ views are helpful in explaining the implementation of English language policy and education and how? Can you identify instances of ‘spread’ of English in your own (research) context?
  • Are the notions of ‘spread’ and ‘distribution’ mutually exclusive? Can they co-exist? Are you ware of any other influences that cannot be explained by either of these concepts?
  • Is there any specific aspect of English language policy and education that disregards the established linguistic, cultural norms of English in your context? How did this happen and why?
  • Referring to Canagaraja’s translingual views on language repertories and practice, do you find any translingual negotiation, as he describes, in English language education and policy in your context? To what extent do such negotiations lead to subtle variations of existing linguistic and/or cultural norms? How do spread and/or distribution of English interplay in such negotiations?
  • What would be the implications of taking the aforementioned views /approaches for the future of English language education in your context? Can you imagine any alternative approach or perspective to predict the development of English in your context in the future?


  • Canagarajah, S. (2013) Translingual Practice: Global Englishes and Cosmopolitan Relations, London: Routledge.
  • Gill, S.K. (2012) ‘The complexities of re-reversal of language-in-education policy in Malaysia’, in Kirckpatrick, A. and Sussex, R. (eds) English as an International Language in Asia: Implications for Language Education, New York: Springer, pp. 45–62.
  • Lasagabaster, D. (2001) ‘Bilingualism, immersion programmes and language learning in the Basque Country’, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 22/5: 401–425.
  • Lasagabaster, D. (2003a) Trilingüismo en la enseñanza: Actitudes hacia la lengua minoritaria, la mayoritaria y la extranjera, LLeida: Milenio.
  • Lasagabaster, D. (2003b) ‘Attitudes towards English in the Basque Autonomous Community’, World Englishes 22/4: 585–597.
  • Lasagabaster, D. (2005) ‘Bearing multilingual parameters in mind when designing a questionnaire on attitudes: how does this affect the results?’, International Journal of Multilingualism 2/1: 26–50.
  • Lasagabaster, D. and Huguet, A. (2007) Multilingualism in European Bilingual Contexts, Clevendon: Multilingual Matters.
  • Lasagabaster, D. and Sierra, J.M. (2010) ‘Immersion and CLIL in English: more differences than similarities’, ELT Journal 64/4: 367–375.
  • Seidlhofer, B. (2012) Understanding English as a Lingua Franca: a complete introduction to the theoretical nature and practical implications of English used as a lingua franca, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Widdowson, H. (1997) ‘EIL, ESL, EFL: global issues and local interests’, World Englishes 16/1: 135–146.
  • Widdowson, H. (2003) Defining Issues in English Language Teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.