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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Session 4, 28 Oct 2010: The Questionable Core, Skin & Cog of the Lingua Franca Core

Jennifer Jenkins has done a great deal to advance research in English as a 'lingua franca'. She has been prolific and writes with a zeal and fervour - rare qualities in academic writing. But this should in no way prevent us from engaging critically with her work, and the more I look in detail at Jenkins' 2002 article on the 'Lingua Franca Core', the more I scratch my head over the fact that the research was published in a journal as esteemed as 'Applied Linguistics'.


While I agree with much of what she writes in the first few pages of her article - on what we might call 'Native-Speakercentrism' in applied linguistics and ELT - and while I would applaud many of Jenkins' goals - to challenge the ELT status quo, to promote an open and 'liberated' ELT, and to devise a programme of teaching based on empirical research - I nonetheless find her 2002 'Applied Linguistics' paper quite profoundly flawed - especially the empirical sections of the paper, which is critically important, because it purports to be a paper fundamentally based on empirical findings.

Her method of analysis is unclear and unexplicated (it's not Conversation Analysis, it's not Discourse Analysis, it's not Interactional Sociolinguistics), her presentation of data lacks detail and is superficial, thus preventing us (as readers/analysts) from engaging in re-analysis of the data; her data analyses are (to me, at least) unconvincing; her extrapolations on the data analyses are unjustified and seem to be over-reaching; her understanding of the notion of 'context' is really quite poor - as is her grasp of the complex processes of spoken interaction (as these have been described in a large body of Conversation-Analytic research).

As such, the theoretical and not least the empirical underpinnings of the 'LF Core' are, in my view, highly questionable.

I hope the reasons for all the above were made clear in class today.

Hence the following image ...

Or am I being too harsh? Was the red card too hasty?

What are your views?

This is an excellent topic upon which you could base your assignment: Can you challenge, develop, test, confirm, support, reject, or revise Jenkins' LF Core, based on analyses of your own empirical data extracts?

Friday, 22 October 2010

Session 3, 21 Oct 2010: Ownership & imperialism

Both notions examined in class are ripe for your own detailed discussions and explorations. The claim that some form of ownership can be manifest in various ways, as can orientations to other people's orientations - not least in micro-terms, i.e. in social interaction - need to be examined carefully. How, for example, is 'ownership', in its various guises, displayed in spoken interaction, when people talk to each other, in various social settings? How is 'ownership' manifest in the L2 classroom, or in ELF encounters outside the classroom? Does setting make a difference? How? Why? Such questions would form the basis of a very nice research project.

Linguistic imperialism is a warning to all who feel ELF/EFL/ESL triumphalism coming on. Phillipson is right to warn of the 'darker side' of the spread of English. But is he going too far the other way, one wonders? Does he not have perhaps a too-jaundiced view of the global spread of English? This too is a rich area to explore and certainly worth considering as an assignment topic - perhaps combining it with the question of how might 'linguistic imperialism' manifest itself at the level of social interaction?

Please ensure you are well prepared for next week's class - we'll be looking closely as jenkins' 'ELF Core' idea.

Enjoy the fleshly-made salad: (look carefully)

Thanks to Richard Gunion for the photo!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Session 2, 14 Oct 2010

So did Kachru catch you? The 'Concentric Circles' model and the thinking it contains was a significant step forward when it was published in the mid 1980s, marking a shift of emphasis from native English speakers to the possibility of a variety of possible 'models', which in turn is based on a critical deconstruction of some of the most powerful, almost (to some) axiomatic notions in Applied Linguistics: that native speakers of a language 'own' that language, determine its correctness and its normativity, and form the model upon which FL/SL teaching should be based. So credit where credit's due. Kachru moved the field forward in a profoundly important way.

As did Smith, Greenbaum and Quirk in their thinking on 'International English' - just not quite as profoundly as Kachru.

But the empirical time bomb ticked away, because very little work had been done on how 'International English' was actually used by actual people in concrete settings, while Kachru's model was still predicated on retaining the sanctity of the native speaker in his/her 'Inner Circle'. This 'inner circle' metaphor is rather (unwittingly) ironic, given Kachru's larger aims of deconstructing native speaker hegemony.

There are other problems with 'International English' and Kachru's model, which you can (and should) research and read about.

Our discussions covered a good deal of central issues in the area termed 'Language Planning': especially concerning state-based promotion and organisation of language teaching, language standards and language use - although the connections between actual use and macro-based planning decisions are not well formulated even today. Micro and macro are often strangely disconnected in much research and thinking in the language sciences - Applied Linguistics included.

Anyway I hope you enjoyed the session and found it thought-provoking and informative. As long as we are critical towards ideas and 'information', we are making progress. Thanks for your engagement, I am having a great time learning from you!

By the way, I like this language blog from 'The Economist'. Not a direct connection to this module but I like it all the same.

And a Gary Larson cartoon never goes amiss, does it?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Session 1, 7 Oct 2010

A new year begins with a new group of students - I really enjoyed meeting you all today! And so begins our orbit around the issues surrounding the current and future status of English as a 'World' or 'international' language or, indeed, as a 'lingua franca'. I hope you enjoyed the session today - I certainly did.

Particularly interesting to discuss with you the elevated status of 'the native speaker' (an example from a ELT job ad I saw today: Lots more thinking to do on that matter!

Great that so many nationalities are represented in class too - let's all try to make the best of the diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds represented in the class. I encourage you to read the assigned texts and to reflect on your own experiences and perhaps previously unexamined assumptions regarding language standards, correctness, thoughts on the status of native speaker in ELT and Applied Linguistics, etc. Thanks for your engagement and enthusiasm - bring those with you next week! Your comments on today's session are most welcome - however brief or extensive.

English is a world language, for better or worse ...