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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Final session

The final session was really great, I thought - hope you all agree! Excellent to see your data and wonderful to see us connecting larger themes with micro-analytic detail. Lots of assignment possibilities emerged during the session. I hope you began to get a feel for how rich audio/video-data can be, in terms of theory.

I'm keen to hear your overall impressions of the module: what (if anything!) did you like about it? Did you learn from it? (what was it?) Did the module inspire you to undertake your own research in the area? Did it make you rethink some of your own ideas about English or English teaching?

In addition to any comments you might make here, PLEASE ALSO REMEMBER to complete the official module evaluation forms on Blackboard - it's really important we get your feedback.

Comments very welcome!

More soon!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Interacting with ELF interaction

Nice session yesterday, thanks for your engagement and enthusiasm! Special thanks also to Chris Jenks and Seong Jeon for their contributions. Chris' point was well made - about ELF interactions being characterised as largely collaborative in nature, and the need to extend the database, but  it's important to remind ourselves that this point has already been made in the literature (see my 2009 'Doing not being ..' paper, for example). But Chris is right that we need to study ELF in a wide range of settings.

I hope you're beginning to get a feel for the hows and whys of conducting empirical research on ELF interactions.

More from me very shortly, once I've had some breakfast.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Interacting with the ELF elves

And so we came to examine interaction in ELF - one of my chief research areas. To me, empirical (data-based) findings should both generate and help us refine our theories on ELF and, indeed, on language and communication.

A key point I was trying to introduce and develop in the 1996 J of Pragmatics article was the notion that ELF interactions can and should be subjected to *unprejudiced description* - in '96, few such descriptions of L2/ELF interactions could be found in the literature.

As I said in class, I strongly encourage you to seriously consider collecting your own data and basing your assignment on analysis of the data. Data will be naturally-occurring ELF talk, so it won't be scripted or rehearsed forms of interaction (e.g. those forms evident in tv shows such as 'Friends' and in movies). What we're talking about, then, is talk that would have occurred even if the researcher had not been interested, present, or involved. At least ideally. You're lucky the internet provides a wealth of possible sources - YouTube not least is a potential goldmine for data, but there are hundreds of radio stations online, too, broadcasting non-scripted interviews, discussion and/or debates - much of which can be extracted - by you - for research ends. Otherwise you should rely on your ingenuity, and the world around you, beyond the pull of good old YouTube. So friends talking - in halls of residence, in their (or your) rooms, on the phone, sitting around in cafes, etc, etc, are all potential data sources. All you need is a small audio-recording device, and these can be borrowed from ECLS (Chris Letts - google him at Newcastle University - runs the AV lab at ECLS and will freely and happily loan out recording devices you can use to grab data from the myriad sources available ... Email Chris at

Once you have some data, listen, listen again, and select 5 minutes to transcribe. Transcribe something and things that are interesting, or puzzling, or intriguing, or that simply catches your eye, or ear. This could form the basis of your data source. Don't use more than 5 minutes of the recordings. Two minutes might be enough. One minute might be fine. Five 15-second extracts could do the trick. It's the quality of your analysis that counts, not quantity.

My introduction to Conversation Analysis (CA) was brief, and I'm going to be relying on you to do your own background reading on CA - but at least there's a lot of decent stuff available online (I especially like Charles Antaki's webpages on CA - see also the 'ELF Resources' page on the module's website). You also might want to join the MARG data sessions here in ECLS, which meets - very informally - once a week to do data analysis. It's a great way to learn CA's methods.

Otherwise there are now a few book-length descriptions of CA's methods, not least Paul ten Have's excellent Doing Conversation Analysis. The journal Research on Language and Social Interaction (ROLSI) is probably the best source for examples of high-quality articles that deploy CA methods. See what you can find, and get reading!

Next week we're discussing in detail two of my articles, so do prepare!

Comments welcome!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Your presentations

Thanks for very thought-provoking and well-presented contributions today! I was pleased to see that your interests in ELF are wide-ranging - it's a broad research field, with all kinds of issues to consider, and your presentations reflected this - all very encouraging indeed, and we haven't even started looking in detail at ELF interactions yet!

I thought the format worked well, and we covered a good range of areas relevant to ELF (although I'd organise things a little differently next time and ensure more time was available for discussion and leg stretching!)

Comments welcome!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Encore of the LF Core - or Cor Blimey?!

Jenkins' 'ELF Core' has become very well known in the field of study, so it was important that we spent time looking in detail at her ideas. Mostly, I think there was agreement that although Jenkins does make some valid points about being aware of the negative impacts and effects of native speaker linguistic/pragmatic superiority, we also seemed to agree that perhaps Jenkins was taking matters too far the other way, and almost calling for closure on NS English(es).

Note especially how the ELF Core notion has attracted heavy criticism in the literature - not least in Rubdy and Saraceni's introduction to their book 'English in the World'. See also Luke Prodroumu's chapter in the same book, where he really takes Jenkins to task.

Only Kirkpatrick (same book) and Seidlhofer appear to be in support of Jenkins.

Seidlhofer is interesting too in that she is concerned with extending Jenkins' ideas to syntax and lexis.

These are absolutely prime topics for an assignment.

Yours comments are welcome!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Imperial ownership

This week's session was, I thought, really excellent, with very nice discussions covering linguistic imperialism and linguistic ownership. These are clearly prime topics for further discussion and reflection and would be excellent areas to address in an assignment. It seemed to me that we really did get a good feel for the differences in the 'linguistic imperialism' debate, and the recordings from House and Phillipson were valuable - I'm sure you'll agree. By all means relisten to these when you have the chance, and continue with your readings on and around these topics.

Please ensure you're planning your two-person presentation for Session 5. I'm very much looking forward to seeing your ideas being presented and discussed.

In brief (for Session 5):

a. Prepare a 12-minute presentation on a topic of your choice (on ELF or "World Englishes"). Please abide by the time restriction!
b. 2 students working together
c. One-page handout permissible and encouraged
d. Cover the topic in a way that will enable us to discuss the ideas. perhaps you can prompt discussion by including a few questions in your handout.

Comments welcome!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Zones and Corners

Yesterday's class was an interesting and (I'm happy to say!) lively mix of old, new and the yet-to-be. I was especially intrigued by the 'English Corner' and 'English Zones' concepts (and related ideas such as Language Cafes)  - these seem to be grassroots attempts to create a natural setting in which to use English, yet they are not problem-free, as we heard in class. Certainly these settings are potentially great sites for empirical research - we need to know what's going on, language-wise, within such settings: how talk is generated, how people organise their interactions in them, how people enter and leave them, and, of course, what the English looks like in such Corners/Zones. So if you have access to such settings, and are looking for an empirical project, this might be the setting for you to get working on!

We didn't get much of a chance to look at Kachru's '3 concentric circles' notion, which was a shame, because it's important in the development of International English/ELF scholarship. But there is a lot online for you to read - both in support of Kachru and against him - so do read up and around the topic, I'm sure it'll be very worthwhile and enlightening.

Our pidgin and creole discussions were good, and I was fascinated by the idea that English itself was, in some ways (though not in all!), a pidgin variety when it began to emerge in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D.

We circled around language planning - this is top-down management of language teaching, language policies, and so on. I think this 'top-down' dominated research field would benefit from being viewed from 'bottom-up' perspectives. Some questions worth considering would include the following:

-    How are language policies (regarding English) experienced by language users?
-    How are they responded and reacted to?
-    How and why do certain language policies work whilst others don't?
-    How do top-down language policy processes measure up to changing sociolinguistic realities?
-    How useful are language policies in empowering people and improving their lives?
-    How do language users' actions produce and reproduce, from the bottom up, larger sociolinguistic structures and patterns of multilingualism, both in time and in space?

Comments would be welcome, as always!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Enter the native speaker ...

Thanks to everyone for a great session today! It's wonderful that you are so engaged, willing and so very able to discuss ideas and points of view! It's also extremely valuable to have your experiences from so many different countries around the world.

Please continue to do the assigned reading in all future sessions - to ensure our discussions are informed by the research literature.

And so we broached the exulted, fabled native speaker in applied linguistics ...

The discussion was very interesting and lively. It left me pondering over the issues you raised - like what might happen in a few decades' time if English loses its 'essence' (the assumed centrality of native speaker English) as a result of the emergence of diverse Englishes.

Of course we mustn't forget that native speaker English varies greatly - consider 'RP' and Geordie variations, for example. L1 English, at least in the spoken form, is multivaried, and everyone consciously or subconsciously modifies and adapts their language according to the setting and interlocutor.

Some of you seem to want to see ELF as a variety or language in its own right. As I argue in my 'Lingua Franca Factor' paper, I am not at all convinced of this viewpoint and I think the evidence, currently, is against it. Perhaps ELF 'styles' emerge in certain settings where certain activities are being performed repeatedly (like buying goods or taking orders by telephone - and we need research on this), but this does not lead to the conclusion the ELF in general is a code of its own, with its own rules and norms.

I was also interested in the question of what would teachers of EFL/ESL teach in terms of language models, if one really is to fully embrace the fact that English is the world's lingua franca par excellence. Until now, the only model in town is the Native Speaker 'standard' variety of American or English English. But can this really, justifiably, continue? Syllabuses and teaching materials surely have to adapt and also reflect the 'lingua franca' character of English. This does not mean we drop the native speaker models though, just that we add models to the teaching syllabus. One question here is how do we adapt the teaching materials to reflect the global/LF status of English?

I'll ponder more on whether ELF has a 'heart' in the affective sense ... maybe it's all in the eye of the beholder? (To mess around with my metaphors ...)

Is anyone reading this blog? I'm keen to hear your reactions to the above, and/or hear your views on the class today - so by all means send a comment to the blog (write in the box below)!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

First impressions ... ...

Today was the intro to next week's first session proper, but we hit the ground running nevertheless, and I thought the comments and questions in class today were excellent and thought-provoking - so please keep that up in future classes!

By all means carry out your own investigations on what you raised. Here are some of the points that came up today:

Can a written form of ELF develop? Are there precedents for this? (e.g. dialects in written form? - which writers such as Dickens and D.H. Lawrence have constructed) What might a written ELF look like?

On this, see:

Canagarajah, A.S. 2006. “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization
Continued.” College Composition and Communication 57 (4): 586–619.

In this article, Canagarajah assumes that multilingualism is the norm in the world, but that writing
instruction has monolinguist assumptions. He proposes a pedagogy of “code-meshing”
where local varieties of English and Standard Written English merge. This article
challenges assumptions about “standard” and about “English.” In a workshop setting,
teachers can propose strategies for teaching language that emerge from Canagarajah’s

Language 'ownership' appears to be a critically important concept, but how and when and in which settings is linguistic 'ownership' demonstrated, upheld, debated or challenged?

Are students overly preoccupied with aiming for 'native speaker' targets, or are other (ELF?) models emerging or developing? Where is the evidence for such developments?

And should the dominance of 'native speaker' models and norms remain unchallenged or unquestioned, now that non-natives outnumber native speakers of English by around 3-to-1?

You're welcome to comment on my blog entries - I'd be interested to hear your views or opinions on what we do in class and on the website.

Intro to the intro ..

This blog will follow my thoughts, reflections and ruminations on my taught module 'English in the World'. I'm very keen to see how the module develops this semester and I'm excited about having the opportunity to work with you, in class, on ELF themes and issues. This is a new and dynamic research field, so I'm sure it will be a most interesting journey of discovery and exploration for all of us!

Comments welcome!