English as an International Language

| | Comments (4)

English as an International Language (EIL) is being debated quite a lot at the moment. The idea sounds fine to me in many ways- most interactions in English nowadays are between non-native speakers, so we should focus on international communication rather than solely attempting to teach learners to strive towards native speaker competence. The idea of familiarising students with the Englishes used by people from other nations and cultures makes sense as that is what most will have to do when they use their English in their lives.

A shift towards successful communication rather than concentrating on native speaker accuracy has a lot to recommend it, and on our forum, I rarely correct things if I understand them, unless the poster asks for corrections. I see a lot of natural communication there, where people manage to get their message across and where that is seen as the primary goal, though many want to be accurate too, which is similar to *Dr Jennifer Jenkins' idea that we should focus 'far more on intercultural communication and far less on what NSs do.'

However, the intractable conservatism of textbook publishers and examination boards is likely to ensure that the idea withers on the vine. By their very nature, most international forms of English differ from the accepted native speaker norms, dominated by British and American English, and these are what are taught and tested.

Like so many ideas, EIL will probably resurface in a unit of a coursebook, as a way of paying lip service to the idea, but is unlikely to become a major part of textbooks. Publishers want international books that cover the world, not things that deal with local issues and are geared for the international contact people from a specific region have. We'll see more units featuring the occasional native speaker and some token descriptions of features found in certain countries, like Japan or China, but I don't expect much more. Examinations are likely to do less- exams test Standard English, primarily grammar in one form or another in many cases, and these are the sticking point- people need exams to get into education or to get jobs, so the industry has to help students achieve these goals. Some of the ideas will filter through, but I don't expect major changes in the ESL world.

*Jenkins, J. (2004). 'ELF at the gate: the position of English as a Lingua Franca'. IATEFL Conference Report, Plenary 2004, Liverpool: IATEFL: 33-42.

Categories: General


Your blog has a great deal of commonsense. Language is movement; socio-cultural mores move along with it, or is it the other way round? The movement seems faster than a Japanese train. I like your relaxed open recognition of communication in the Englishes not necessarily being glued to an almost false stilted "purism." It's a reflection of what's happening and not a reflecion of sloppiness.

I don't think the dichotomy between conservatism/examinitis and natural evolution is so strong, but who am I to know? I just don't think it will always inevitably strangle or confuse us, because language tends to represent, reflect and evolve honestly. It's its own determinor.

I like this use full layout
profoundly for me which my enslish is under process.

Language is a key element in development of countries. If there is common language in the world than countries can communicate eaisily with each other and that's why the globalization of english language playing a major role.

In US for instance nobody cares about your accent. As soon as you deliver the message you meant to deliver you are totally OK. The trick is when trying to mimic native speakers you are less likely to deliver.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.