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English as a Global Language Education (EaGLE) Journal: Vol. 1 No.

1 (2015) 47-63
Foreign Language Center, National Cheng Kung University & Airiti Press Inc.

From Globalization to Glocalization:

Rethinking English Language Teaching in
Response to the ELF Phenomenon
Wenli Tsou1

This position paper proposes that the notion of glocalization can provide
valuable insights into English as a lingua franca (ELF) in the practice of English
language teaching worldwide. Glocalization shares some common grounds with
ELF, which is an emerging phenomenon in which localized expressions used by
non-native English users achieve a measure of legitimacy. This work will first
situate Taiwans English education in the context of globalization as an example,
before moving on to a discussion of the glocalization of the English language, and
the need for glocalizing education policies and practices. This paper concludes
by highlighting some of the implications which glocalization has for English
language teaching and teacher education in Taiwan.

Keywords: globalization; glocalization; English as a lingua franca (ELF);

English language teaching (ELT); teacher education

Professor, Department of Foreign Languages & Literature, National Cheng Kung University,
Corresponding author, E-mail:
48 EaGLE Journal 1(1), 2015

1. Introduction
Along with globalization, English has established itself as the worlds
common language for academic and business interaction, becoming
the international language of choice, or lingua franca (Bamgbose, 2001;
Graddol, 2006; Murata & Jenkins, 2009). Meanwhile, a recent phenomenon,
commonly known as English as a lingua franca (ELF), has ushered in
a paradigm shift in which the status of native-speaking English as the
Standard, or the perfect language model, has been rethought, thus leading
to the gradual acceptance, or legitimization, of localized varieties of English
(Murata & Jenkins, 2009). This new perspective is revolutionary in that
non-native speakers of English are becoming empowered: they are ELF
speakers not learners (Mauranen, 2007, p. 1). In other words, no longer
are localized uses of the English language viewed as errors or deficiencies;
rather, they are considered to be unique varieties with their own rights.
The growing phenomenon of ELF, without a doubt, has strong
implications for the users of English as a foreign or second language. For
instance, non-native speakers need not feel inferior when they cannot
produce native-like accents. They now have some flexibility to use English
in any way as long as the communicative objective is achieved. As a
result, when English is used as an international language, its usage is
being enriched by users all over the world, and the varieties of English are
expanding beyond the traditional British and American forms of English.
Despite the excitement created by this new phenomenon, consensus
on the optimal direction of this evolution in global English has yet to be
reached. A review of literature reveals several practical considerations. For
one, many teachers, learners, and users of English alike have expressed a
continuing need for a standard (Modiano, 2001; Trudgill & Hannah, 2002).
Without a common reference, such as the role that British and American
English have traditionally played, it is difficult for English teachers to know
what to teach or how to assess student performance. Another consideration
that renders the pedagogy of English teaching difficult is the question of
how English teachers should integrate local varieties of English into the
English learning curriculum.
From Globalization to Glocalization: Rethinking English Language Teaching in 49
Response to the ELF Phenomenon

The phenomenon of ELF shares some common grounds with the

notion of glocalization, a concept popularized by sociologist Roland
Robertson (1995), who refers to glocalization as the simultaneity
the co-presenceof both universalizing and particularizing tendencies
(Robertson, 1995, p. 25). The tension between globalization and localization
was also observed by Swales (2004), who defined the phenomenon of
glocalization as a bifurcation away from the historically powerful nation
state in two directions: one upward towards a world increasingly dominated
by multinational corporations and international and supranational entities
... and one downward (as it were) towards regional aspirations, niche
marketing, local involvements (p. 11). In short, both ELF and glocalization
are similar in their conception of the combination of global ideas with local
The phenomena of ELF and glocalization have several implications
for English language teaching in Taiwan. In order to understand how
glocalization has affected English language education on the island, this
article first examines how English education in Taiwan has responded to
globalization, before moving on to discuss the glocalization of the English
language, where the phenomenon is most visible, and then extending
the discussion of glocalization to its impact on education and pedagogy.
The examination of the glocalization process of English will yield a better
understanding of how English is used and adapted in all its cultural
contexts. Finally the impact of glocalization on English language teaching
and teacher education in Taiwan will be discussed. In response, this paper
proposes that recognizing the existence of glocalization may provide some
insights into the best ways to practice English teaching in an ELF context,
and help Taiwans English users find a legitimate role in which they can
contribute to the way English is taught and learned in Taiwan.

1.1 Globalization and English education in Taiwan:

A solid example
Globalization started in Taiwan as early as in the 17th century.
Since that time, Taiwan has been under the global influences of many
50 EaGLE Journal 1(1), 2015

colonizers including the Dutch and Spanish, the Chinese dynasties, Japan,
and then the Nationalist Party from China (Wang & Kuo, 2010). With
Taiwans exposure to multiple cultures and with its growing international
trade activities with many parts of the world, it has become increasingly
important that the Taiwanese people become capable of using English to
communicate internationally. Thus English instruction has become an
increasingly important subject in the countrys education curriculum.
Since the 1950s, English has been a mandatory subject for junior high
students and above (W.-F. Tsai, 2010). In 2002, compulsory instruction was
expanded to elementary school (Li, He, Tsou, Hong, Curdt-Christiansen,
& Huong, 2011). Since 2003, English proficiency has been included as a
graduation requirement for colleges and universities in Taiwan. Education
policy was established by Taiwans Ministry of Education (MOE), who
also established a list of recommended proficiency tests (Pan & Newfields,
2012). Because of the close economic ties between Taiwan and the United
States, American English has been the language model in education. As
a result, Taiwanese learners have strived to attain native-like American
English proficiency (Tsou & Chen, 2014).
In the Taiwanese education system a standard is important because
students English learning is mostly test-driven: students are regularly tested
for reading skills, vocabulary, and grammar. In a test-centric curriculum
students learn not for communication, but for knowing the correct answers,
which can only come from having a standard. The consequence of such a
system is that students value accuracy over fluency. They believe that a good
speaker of English is one who speaks like an American. To them, American
English enjoys a prestigious status unlike other English varieties (Tsou &
Chen, 2014).
The problem with the system is twofold. First, students who do well
in English tests may not be able to use the language for communication.
Due to the lack of opportunities for using English in daily lives, most
college graduates are unprepared for career opportunities in which English
is a necessity. Even students from prestigious Taiwanese universities may
find themselves deficient in communicating in English for professional
From Globalization to Glocalization: Rethinking English Language Teaching in 51
Response to the ELF Phenomenon

The other problem with the test-driven system in English learning is

that deviations from the standard are viewed as errors, and not as attempts
at compensation or negotiation. In a study which college students from a
leading Taiwanese university were asked to rate the properness of several
localized English expressions commonly spoken by Taiwanese speakers
of English, only one (long time no see) out of the twelve expressions are
considered acceptable by students (Tsou & Chen, 2014). Phrases such as
I think I cant and look up the dictionary, regarded by Bolton (2008)
as Chinese Pidgin English, are examples of expressions which Taiwanese
college students are reluctant to use.
Globalization has presented Taiwans education system with both an
opportunity and a threat. In a globalized world, English is no longer an
academic subject in which to excel, but a necessary tool for academia and
for non-academic workplaces. With the world becoming more connected
than ever, college students in Taiwan, regardless of their test performances,
must be able to use the language in real situations in order to excel in the
globalized workplace.

1.2 Glocalization of the English language

The notion of glocalization was f irst used to describe how
multinational product or service companies, with an aim to global
expansion, adapt to specific local cultural conditions (Robertson, 1995).
Famous examples of glocalization in the workplace are global food and
beverage companies that operate in many different parts of the world:
McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks, to name a few. These companies revised
their menus according to local tastes (e.g., McDonalds rice burgers and
KFCs Chinese style breakfast puff pastry). As international brands begin
operations in different markets, products and services are not the only areas
to be glocalized. Starbucks coffee shops offer localized merchandise, and
their bulletin boards display news of local events.
Although the glocalization of English has been identified in different
parts of the world, it is worth noting that not all localization is for
international communication only. Aboriginal Australia developed global
52 EaGLE Journal 1(1), 2015

and local norms, or English variations, for intercultural and intracultural

purposes (Sharifian, 2010). That is, the global norm is used when
communicating with people outside of the countries, while the local norm
is employed by people of different tribes within the countries.
In Singapore, where citizens have various first languages, glocalization
of English has been observed, despite the governments attempt to specify
the roles of its citizens mother tongues (the Asian languages) and English
as a global language (Alsagoff, 2010). The separation of these two types of
languages has proven impossible; in reality, cultural mixing and a two-way
flow of the languages have led to a global-local variational continuum of
English, in which speech displays degrees of variation, rather than either
the standard or non-standard end (Alsagoff, 2010).
Several localized varieties spoken by Chinese users of English have
also been observed. Shis (2013) study presents a continuum of glocalized
Englishes: from the lowest (in terms of acceptability) Chinese Pidgin
English, to Chinglish, Chinese English, and on to China English, the last
version being closest to Standard English (Shi, 2013). According to Shi
(2013), the least acceptable varieties, Chinese Pidgin English and Chinglish,
are considered bad English, and the somewhat acceptable variety, Chinese
English, is considered beginners English. These versions, containing
undesirable interference from Chinese, are commonly viewed as erroneous
and deficient.
Examples of Chinglish are strange expressions that do not comply with
Standard English norms. They are often misspellings or literal translations
of Chinese language. However, as Shi (2013) pointed out, some Chinglish
could also have evolved from advertisements with unconventional usage
which were created for a specific purpose such as to attract the attention of
English-speaking customers. Localized expressions in the Chinglish variety
may also include usage that reflects Chinese mindsets. The language may
sound unfamiliar to native speakers of English, but are familiar to Chinese
readers. For instance, a sign in the park may say, The little grass is sleeping.
Please dont disturb it, which shows how nature is anthropomorphized
in Chinese (Shi, 2013, p. 116). In English, it would have been Keep off
From Globalization to Glocalization: Rethinking English Language Teaching in 53
Response to the ELF Phenomenon

the Grass. Finally, the most accepted variety is China English, a kind of
hybrid which, proponents claim is the English used by the Chinese people
in China, being based on Standard English with Chinese components
including its lexicon, syntax and discourse (Li, 1993, as cited in Shi, 2013).
Despite the Chinese governments efforts, it looks like both Chinglish
and China English will strive and continue to penetrate the English
language. According to an article published in the China Daily in 2013,
The Oxford English Dictionary, widely acknowledged to be the most
authoritative and comprehensive record of the English language, has about
1,000 words of Chinese origin, one such example being taikonaut, a hybrid
of space in Chinese (taikon), and naut as in astronaut (Jin & Chen, 2013).
The same article also quoted the CEO of Global Language Monitor (2008),
a consultancy that specializes in global trends and their subsequent impact
on various aspects of culture, who predicted that the Chinese language will
continue to be a prime driver of the globalization of the English language
(Jin & Chen, 2013).
With internationalization of businesses becoming the norm,
glocalization of the English language is expected to affect not only
intercultural but intracultural communication. Following the expansion
of Western multinational corporations, many Chinese companies are
looking to expand internationally. These aspiring companies, most of which
are high-tech and were founded by professionals who have international
education and experience, and which aim to recruit international talent, are
likely to mandate English as an official corporate language. This means that
English will begin to play a role in intracultural communication in Chinese
economies. With time, localized varieties will be used and accepted.

1.3 Glocalization of education

While glocalization is most evident in international businesses, the
process of glocalization in academia is also taking place in response to
global forces. For example glocalization has appeared in academic dialogue
discussing how educational leaders could best respond to the phenomenon.
A study by Brooks and Normore (2010) revealed an interconnection
54 EaGLE Journal 1(1), 2015

between worldwide discourses and local educational practices and policies,

and showed how academic leaders are called to incorporate a glocal
perspective in educational policy making. As a result educators around
the world are beginning to recognize that globalization is influencing local
educational practices, and are preparing to address the consequence of
such an evolution. In their article, Brooks and Normore (2010) identify
nine specific domains in which the glocal perspective is most needed:
the political, economic, cultural, moral, pedagogical, information,
organizational, spiritual and religious, and temporal literacy domains.
Examples of glocalization in educational practices can be found in
several areas of academic research. In medical education in particular,
where medical knowledge has been both localized and universalized
due to globalization, Hodges, Maniate, Martimianakis, Alsuwaidan, and
Seqouin (2009) urged that medical schools must critically examine the
globalization of discourse in medical education and embrace differences
and discontinuities found in different countries. Weiss (2014) pointed
out that, while the establishment of standards is likely to contribute
toward universalizing tendencies, academic leaders must recognize that
professional knowledge and practices tend to cross borders in many
different ways and to develop new forms (p. 10).
Glocalization also has implications in the education, theory, and
practices of human resource (HR) management (Snider, 2013). In the
area of employer branding, the trend for multinational corporations is
to create a strong local employment brand, so that local employees can
relate themselves to, and be involved with, the larger company culture.
In their efforts to create a stimulating work environment, it is important
for corporations to build a locally relevant workplace so that employees
traditions and preferences are respected. Finally, in the area of talent
recruitment, each market should understand the needs of local talents so
that they can attract and retain young professionals. For Snider (2013),
glocalization in HR means that multinational companies need to reduce the
number of American executives assigned to branches; instead, resources
should be spent to recruit and develop local leaders.
From Globalization to Glocalization: Rethinking English Language Teaching in 55
Response to the ELF Phenomenon

Glocalization has also been observed in Taiwan art education. Related

educational policies have undergone glocalized changes and adaptation
in response to outside influences, and in the process, Taiwanese arts have
developed unique glocalized qualities (Wang & Kao, 2010). Since 1987,
when Taiwans martial law was lifted, students began to learn about local
histories, folk art traditions, and local dialects, as well as gaining exposure
to ideas developed internationally such as postmodernism, feminism and
post-colonialism (Wang & Kuo, 2010). As a result, the term glocalization is
representative of the art experience and practice in Taiwan. These are but
a few examples on how glocalization has impacted education in Taiwan.
These examples also serve as a reminder to both education leaders and
teachers that new policies and teaching practices must be developed to
address both global and local needs.

2. Responding to Glocalization
Extending the dialogue of glocalization from education in general
to English as a foreign language (EFL) pedagogy, we see that the notion
could help add insights into how English is taught in Taiwan. The following
discussion proposes several possible implications related to ELF teaching
and teacher education.

2.1 ELF teaching

In language teaching, glocalization means that both global and local
perspectives are considered in curriculum development. This paper suggests
that the notion of glocalization should be introduced in higher education
because this is the time when most students have acquired an adequate
understanding of the English language to begin using the language in their
English and subject classrooms. This is also when most college students in
Taiwan meet and interact with international students. Thus this is the prime
time for students to develop awareness of various variations of the English
language used by people from different parts of the world.
For a start, introducing glocalization may mean that the instruction of
56 EaGLE Journal 1(1), 2015

grammar includes comparisons of Mandarin Chinese and English. Whereas

primary and secondary school students memorize English vocabulary
and grammatical rules for examinations, once they are in college they are
expected to begin using English in their academic studies, and in their
interaction with international students. A cross-cultural understanding of
language helps students learn to negotiate the meaning of, and to effectively
use, the English language for communication.
When parallel corpuses in English and Chinese are compared, they
show that two common English grammatical structures are lacking in
Chinese: these include the less frequent use of the passive voice and the
non-existent use of the past perfect tense (Lu, Tsou, & Chen, 2014). Given
such usage differences, teachers may wish to highlight the occasions when
the passive voice is used. For instance, the passive voice is commonly
seen in the methodology section of journal paper writing when research
procedures are described. The passive voice is also used for rhetorical
purposes such as when the speaker wishes to focus on the event and not the
person who did the act. Glocalization may also mean that teachers could
consider deemphasizing the teaching of the past perfect form if students do
not need to use it for their studies or career.
Glocalization can also mean that conventions for academic writing
could be given allowance to accommodate local tendencies. One example
is that, for medical students in Taiwan, most of their medical records often
begin with the patients medical history (Lu et al., 2014). This tendency
in writing is different from the traditional case report format found in
international journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine
(NEJM). In comparison to the standard opening sentence in NEJMs case
presentations, which read an x-year-old patient was admitted/seen at
this hospital for (symptoms or illness), most medical notes written in
Taiwan began with the patients medical history (e.g., A 75 y/o female has
hypertension, CAD/1-V-D s/p PCI, and history of right corona radiata
infarction and gastric ulcer). Note that the NEJMs format implies that the
writer is taking the point of view of the physician and the hospital, whereas
the writing convention of Taiwanese doctors suggests a more patient-
From Globalization to Glocalization: Rethinking English Language Teaching in 57
Response to the ELF Phenomenon

centered approach (Lu et al., 2014). While journal paper submissions must
comply with certain guidelines, in this instance, glocalization means that
English and content teachers learn to be more open-minded about various
forms of expression.
In curriculum planning, local influences may be highlighted so that
students become aware of the way that languages influence each other.
Vocabulary teaching could include hybrid words to show how Chinese
and English have infiltrated each other. Examples of English words with
Chinese origins are typhoon, gung ho, and kowtow, while examples of
phrases include lose/save face, paper tiger, and barefoot doctor. A recent
addition to the English language from Taiwan has to do with its famous
export of bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea), now a drink popular in
many countries. While the hybrid vocabulary might not appear in college
English textbooks, these words can be taught in lessons that aim to help
students recognize how glocalization has shaped the English vocabulary,
and learn to appreciate the input of Chinese words in the English language.
As students develop an awareness of the mutual influence between
Chinese and English, they can gradually learn to accept Chinese-influenced
English expressions and begin to take pride in introducing their own
culture. A glocally revised curriculum should include tasks that teach
students how to introduce Taiwanese culture through English in the context
of tourism and the creative industries. For example, in classrooms students
could do research and presentations about the internationally renowned
Cloud Gate Dance Company, which has performed and won awards in
international arts festivals in New York, London, Moscow, Melbourne, and
other parts of the world.
In the area of teaching English for the workplace, it is even more
important to discuss glocalization of the English language in Taiwans
businesses. As mentioned in the previous section, English has gradually
become an intracultural communicative tool in Taiwans high-tech industry.
While spoken English is used by Taiwanese mostly for intercultural
communication, many high-tech companies in Taiwan have required that
(or at least, encouraged) all written communications (emails, power point
58 EaGLE Journal 1(1), 2015

slides, proposals, reports, etc.) be done in English. According to English

teachers who work with engineers from the high-tech industries, in many
contexts English has been appropriated to facilitate such intracultural
communication. One example of glocalized use is using the word co-work
as a verb for working with or cooperating with someone (e.g., I co-worked
with him on this project). Another example is the use of join (e.g., Would
you like to join the meeting/party?). The more commonly used expression
would be Would you like to come to the meeting/party?
In describing problems, it is also common for engineers in hi-
tech companies to overuse the verb suffer and the verbal phrase suffer
from frequently in their weekly reports (e.g., The machine suffered from
frequent breakdown). The glocalization of written English in Taiwan, for
intracultural communication, should be introduced in higher education
to prepare students for the workplace. Although the usage is not standard,
teachers of career English can help college graduates expect, and be more
prepared to deal with, various usages when they encounter them.
For curriculum revision, also important is intercultural skill training
so that Taiwanese users of English can acquire knowledge of other societies
and cultures, can develop positive attitudes toward non-standard varieties,
and can possess much needed sensitivity to cultural differences (Byram,
2000). Intercultural skill development means experiencing global exposure
to different English usages as well as learning to be open-minded so that we
do not inadvertently look down on expressions used by non-native speakers
of English that do not conform to Standard English norms. Also important
is learning interpretation skills in non-verbal communication in cross-
cultural interaction. This training can help learners avoid stereotyping
various kinds of users, while minimizing miscommunication among users.

2.2 ELF teacher education

In a similar manner, policies and practices in EFL teacher education
should reflect the notion and implications of glocalization so that English
teachers, especially those in higher education, are better prepared for the
trend. In addition to providing students with a knowledge of English,
From Globalization to Glocalization: Rethinking English Language Teaching in 59
Response to the ELF Phenomenon

intercultural skill training should be an important element of the teacher

training curriculum. When English teachers acquire a global perspective
and cross-cultural understanding, they can develop awareness and
intercultural competence as to how English is used as a lingua franca by
people from different parts of the world.
In view of how glocalization has reoriented HR management theories
and practices (discussed earlier), English teachers could benefit from a
reorientation of learning objectives: it is suggested that they be careful not
to place too much emphasis on correctness, usually based on American
English standards, but should teach their students to accept and appreciate
varieties of English (Y.-R. Tsai & Tsou, 2014). As the global workplace must
respond to glocalization, the language classroom should be redesigned to
become a place where students can gain exposure to multiple voices and
localized expressions of English (Crystal, 1997; Rogerson-Revell, 2007).
More importantly, English teachers in Taiwan should be encouraged to
participate in the glocalization process. Instead of resisting, teachers should
take ownership and pride in localized expressions. As local employees
assume leadership in multinational company branches, English teachers,
equipped with global mindsets, could be instrumental in integrating local
culture and preferences into English teaching, and thus help to formulate a
localized variety of English which in turn enriches the scope and content of
the international language of English. In actual classroom practice, English
teachers can try the following approaches: raising the awareness of English
varieties; integrating activities for cross-cultural communication; including
discussions about the globalization of English in class; introducing
discussions about international etiquette; discussing different aspects of
Taiwanese culture; and providing opportunities to make comparisons
between Taiwanese culture and foreign cultures.
Glocalization has impacted the English language in many ways,
and the implications of these changes must be noted by English teachers
through training. Although the present discussion focuses on EFL in higher
education, it is the belief of the researcher that English teachers from K-12
and higher education all need to understand how the English language has
60 EaGLE Journal 1(1), 2015

undergone changes in the past decade so they can in turn help students
adjust their mindsets and embrace the exciting changes which are taking
place in the English language.

3. Conclusion
Given the definition of glocalization as meaning the simultaneity
the co-presenceof both universalizing and particularizing tendencies
(Robertson, 1995, p. 25), the transformation of the English language in
different parts of the world is a representation of glocalization. In the
process, the global, universalizing, aspects of British and American English
are interwoven with the local particularizing aspects of localities. In the
process, accommodations are made according to cultural conventions, thus
transforming the English language from a global language into a glocal
As the glocalization of English has become an indisputable and
irreversible phenomenon, the process has affected how English as a
language is used by speakers of different cultures. As speakers of English
from different parts of the world use English for intercultural and, to a
lesser degree, intracultural communication, more localized expressions
are expected to be created, and gradually accepted. Referencing to local
accommodations made by multinational companies and international
academic communities, this paper calls for curriculum updates in language
teaching and teacher education so that English users in Taiwan can be
equipped with knowledge of societies and cultures, an open mindset to
accept other varieties of English, and language skills needed to facilitate
communication in the ever-changing global workplace.
Glocalization is a notion of crucial importance to all users of the
English language who wish to take advantage of educational opportunities
and social mobility in todays globalized world. Learning English should no
longer be seen solely as an academic pursuit, but rather as a vital skill. Its
aims should include the ability to understand and be understood, whether
the need is for basic vocabulary to give directions to a tourist or to acquire a
From Globalization to Glocalization: Rethinking English Language Teaching in 61
Response to the ELF Phenomenon

more professional vocabulary to be able to be a high-stakes negotiator. The

phenomenon of glocalization calls for a strategic renewal in our approach
to curriculum planning and teacher training so that these activities
include localized aspects of the English language as well as an increased
focus on cross-cultural understanding. When Taiwanese users language
capacity is effectively developed for this new global language context,
Taiwanese speakers of English will gain a competitive edge in realizing their
educational and career aspirations.

This work was supported by grants from the Ministry of Science and
Technology as well as National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. The
author would like to thank Prof. Kao Shin-Mei, Prof. Liu Gi-Zen and Prof.
Fay Chen for their incisive comments and insightful feedback on an earlier
version of the article.

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