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AS A GLOBAL LANGUAGE:A SOCIOLINGUISTIC

ENGLTSH VIEW ON ITS IMPLICATIONS


AND CONSEQUENCES IN TEFL
Germdn Canale, Dpto. Psico-y Sociolingilistica
FHUCE, Universidad de la RePublica
The
"globalization"has become part of our lives. Althoughthe i.e.
Throughthe past decadesthe word
incl
term was at first used to refer to economicmatters,it is now being used to make referenceto the
pop
internationalstatus of some languages.But what do specialistsmean when they argue, for
"globallanguage"?We couldanswerthis questionby sayingit means req
instance,that Englishis a
that Englishis spreadingworldwideand thereforebeing used everywhere,but that would be just
Sof
scratchingon the surface.
it ta
disc
The aim of this presentationis to outline some of the most relevant characteristicsof the
boo
globalizationof the Englishlanguageso as to becomeaware of the real meaningunderlyingsuch
"globalization",
we will
a 1exibleterm. Once we have shed light on the meaningof the concept
Rou
probfematize it by analyzingdifferentviewpointson the advantagesand disadvantagesof such
mus
process.
lang
-roughly Kan
We will considerthese issues from a sociolinguisticperspective,which presupposes
imp
speaking-that the link betweenlanguageand societyis unbreakable.This leads to an important
unc
methodologicalconsideration,as a social view on any linguisticmatter will not only study
poin
linguisticphenomenaper se, but also in relationto theirsocialbackground.
tech
"global language" inte
On the term
"globallanguage"and the
The fist thing that must be done to fulfillour purposeis to definethe term betu
to examine the two main socio-linguistic consequencesof the particularcase of English:a
changein speakers'attitudes towardthe globalstatusof English,and secondlya changein EFL Eco
methodology. refle
But
We will take as our pointof departureDavidCrystal'sdefinition.In his famousbook Englishas a spe€
GlobalLanguage(1997)he claimsthat for a languageto acquirea globalstatus,it needsto be
recognizedin every country.This impliesthat there certain roles that a languagemust play in Tec
order to becomeglobal.On this occasion,we will have a look at some of those roles and then lead
see how they applyto the EnglishLanguage. use
Mau
Accordingto Crystal,the first requirementof a global languageis that it must be used as mother
tongue: this means that the languagein questionmust be the L1 in several countries,The Cultr
Englishlanguageis the mothertonguenot only in the U.S.,the U.K,Australiaand New Zealand, mus
but also in many Asian and African countries,so English undoubtedlymeets this first lang
requirement.
Ail tt
The secondrequirement of a globallanguageis that it must be the officiallanguage.For Crystal undc
-as for many other linguists-"official"means that the languageis used either in governmental
affec
affairs or in the media or promoted by the educationalsystem. In this sense, English is Sper
36
{S unquestionably the officiallanguageof many countries.In addition,it is importantto note that in
most of the countriesin which Englishis not mothertongue,it is used in governmentalaffairsas
t'ca Englishhas more prestigethan the regionaltongue.
)t :a
The last requirementfor a languageto be consideredglobal is to be used as foreign language,
i.e. that this languagewill be taught in schools.This is the case in over a hundredcountries,
:-. including Uruguay. Moreover, according to recent statistics,about a quarter of the world's
a ^ - populationis already competentin English,so obviouslyEnglishalso meets this third and last
ETS
requirement.
just
of a globallanguage,but we still have to analyzewhat
So far we have outlinedthe characteristics
it takes for a languageto become global. There are two terms we must bear in mind in this
the discussion:linguisticimperialismand languagedominance,both terms used in a paradigmatic
;uch bookcalledLinguisticslmperialism(Phillipson1992).
will
iuch Roughlyspeaking,both terms make referenceto the fact that for a languageto becomeglobal it
must take over another language'sfunctions (political,economic,and educational).A global
"invades"another language's"territory".Linguistssuch as Phillipson,
languagesymbolically
ghly Kangas, Pennycook and Crystal, among others, have thoroughly studied the
tant imperialisVinternational aspect of English, and all of them seem to -consciously or
fudy unconsciously-postulate a direct relation between imperialismand globalization.As Crystal
points out: "There is the closest of links between language dominance and economic,
"A language has traditionallybecome
technologicaland cultural power" (1997 7) and later
"the power of its people"
internationalfor one chief reason:the power of its people"(ibid 9). By
the author is clearly stating that the link is not between the number of native speakers,but
and
betweenthe powerof the nationand the language. Now,we will see what this powerconsistsof:
h:a
EFL
Economic power: lt is widely known that most transactionsare held in English,and this is
"businessEnglish"coursesand resources(Jenkins2000).
reflectedin the recentdevelopmentof
But perhaps more importantis the fact that, as Siguan (1996) says, The GNP of English
asa of the world'sGNP.
speakingcountriesrepresentsmore than 50o/o
)be
ryin Technologicalpower: with regardsto technologicaladvancements,despite China and Japan's
hen
leadershipin this field,thesecountriesnevertriedto imposetheirlanguage;on the contrary,they
use their target nations'language.Apart form this, it is interestingto mentionthat accordingto
I Maurais(2003),more than half of the Internetusersare nativespeakersof English.
lher
iTne
Culturalpower: The Englishlanguagehas also been promotedthroughthe media,the film and
F"
if-.:
music industry,etc. English is also the language most frequentlyused in websites and the
languageinto which most texts are translated(see Maurais2003 for furtherreference).

All these facts and informationare enoughto justifythe title of this presentation,since Englishis
undoubtedlya global language.Now we will see two areas of society that have been deeply
affectedby the globalizationof English:speakers'attitudes to the languageand EFL teaching.
Speakers'negativeattitudesto the globalstatusof English
37
"attitudesto language"refersto " (...) considerationsof superiorityor inferiority,beauty is kn
The term
(of la language)"(Milroy& Milroy1980 15).This meansthat lang
or ugliness,logicalityand illogicality
desig
speakersand even whole communitiesattach certain non-linguisticvalues to a language,and
to, th
that these valuesare sometimesreflectedin the speakers'discourse.An exampleis CharlesV's
"l when
famousquotation: speak Spanishto God, ltalianto women, Frenchto men and Germanto my
horse".
Sinc
"l of a nationalistvisionof language;in cons
By saying speak Spanishto God" there is a reinforcement
lingu
other words, the languageof one's nation is always the true language.In fact, all nationalist
"ltalianto langu
views of languagetend to idealizeone's languageto the detrimentof others.By saying
"sweet", rhythmic language.Then, maki
women", he means that ltalian is the languageof love, a
*Frenchto men" relatesto the famous conceptionof Frenchas beingthe languageof reason,of statu
"cold"language,a languageof strength, appe
real thinking,of logic.Finally,German is perceivedas a
brutalityand disciPline.
On th
The li
In this presentation,I will only refer to some negativeattitudesto Englishas a global language,
intera
accordingto some newspaperarticlesand forums,all dated 2006.
shou
to the globalizationgive the same reasonsfor start
Not all speakerswho hold negativeconsiderations
befon
doing so. On the contrary,it is essentialto study separatelywhat nativespeakersof Englishthink
form what foreignsPeakersthink.
Untilr
say, tl
As we all know, there exists an unbreakablelink between languageand identity(Pool 1979),
past (
which is likelyto become apparentwhen we study attitudestowards any language.In fact, this
from '
seems to be supportedin the fact that, accordingto the corpus,those nativespeakersof English
speak
who do not agree to the globalizationargue that their mothertongue is gettingdenativized.Most
New (
times, this denativizationof Englishis consideredto carry another importantconsequence:the
"The peoplewho will lose out if non-E
loss of the nationalcultureand values.As one U.K. citizenwrote:
languageare the English.Non-nativeEnglishspeakerscan requi
Englishbecomesthe international
featur
keep their own languageand culturesbut we will be forced to give ours up. English,as spoken
allowe
by English people, is a diverse and beautifullanguage".Needlessto say, there were other
was, by far, the fact tl
argumentsto complainabout the global statusof English,but the denativization "demc
mostfrequent.

Consi
In relationto non-nativespeakers,thosewho didn'tagree to the globalizationof English,referred
were the Er
to the fact that English is taking over other countries'social functions.These speakers "linguistic
as this,tl
somehow making referenceto the vitalityof regionalcountries,somethingknown
ecosystem".They arguedthat if Englishwere to becomea universallanguage,then their native
"lt's just not fair that English
languageswould be unfairlywiped out. One Welsh teenagerwrote:
is everywhereyou go and in everythingyou do. lt's our rightto speakthe languagewe want and I
want to speakmy language,not English".
What negativeattitudeshave led to in the methodological arena 3 See,fc
o This
As we have stated before,all speakershold negativeand positiveattitudestowardslanguages, a
cultural
but sometimeswhen what these attitudesimply is perceivedas a potentialrisk, languageusers do not.
"solvethe problem"by causinga changein the language.This
and languageplannersattemptto 5 For fu:

3B
is known in the linguisticfield as languageplanningand languagepolicies3.Roughlyspeaking,
language planning refers to the fact that institutions,organizationsand even individualscan
design any change in a language,if it is considerednecessary.Once there is a schemeto stick
to, the institutionsin charge have to make sure that languageusers supporttheir ideas. Here is
where they apply languagepoliciesto persuadelanguageusersaboutthe need for such change.

Since the seventies,there have been many attemptsto create a new phonologicalsystem in
consonancewith the global status of Englishand the global identitiesof its speakers.Applied
linguists such as Crystal, Graddol and Hockett, among others, have carried out different
languageplanningproposalsto simplify/ adapt / reduce the English phonologicalsystem,
making it easier and more appropriatefor non-nativelearners,as they consideredthe global
status of Englishmade it a non-democraticlanguage4.Some of these proposalsseemed very
appealingand logical,howevernone succeeded.

On this occasion,we will brieflyoutlinethe most recent proposal,that of Jenkins(2000),called


The lingua-francacore. Based on corpus researchand understandingthat most communicative
interactionsnowadaysinvolvenon-nativeratherthan native speakers,Jenkinsargues that EFL
should stop concentratingon the native speaker as the canon for desirablepronunciationand
start focusing on non-nativespeakers,whlch should become models in their own right. But
beforethis we will mentionsome interestingfacts.

Until very recently,students'interactionswere measuredagainstnative pronunciation; that is to


say, the more "native-like" the speaker,the bettermarkshe got. lf we take a look at, for instance,
past CPE handbook(CambridgeUniversity),we realizethis is true. There was a speakingscale
from 1 to 5 and those studentswho wantedto pass with 5 (gradeA) should be a "virtuallynative
speaker(...)with virtuallynativespeakeraccuracy".This seemsto have changedin termsof the
New CPE, as the same gradingscale writes: "Examinersput themselvesin the positionof the
non-EFl-specialists and assessthe overallimpactof the communicationand the degreeof effort
required to understandthe candidate (...) candidates'pronunciationmay be influencedby
features of their first language"S.Not everyone agrees that this new discoursereally makes
allowancesfor candidates'L1 interferences,however,it is linguisticallyrelevantto highlightthe
fact that there seems to be some kind of awareness of the need to make English more
"democratic"
for foreignspeakers.

Consideringthe currentsituationunfairfor non-nativespeakers,Jenkinsproposesa reductionin


the Englishphonologicalsystem,so as to make it more democratic.She believesthat by doing
this, the gap between native and non-nativespeakers'performanceswill be somehowbridged.

' See,for further reference,


Calvet (1997), one of the most paradigmaticworks in languageplanning.
o This
argumentis connectedto the three sourcesof power we have mentioned in rela-tionto English (technological,
cultural and economicpower), as both imply a power-relationbetweenthose who speakthe languageand thosewho
do not.
t For further reference,
seeCPE Handbook (University of Cambridge,Local ExaminationsSyndicate)
39
Here we will only presentthree of the featuresshe proposes,as we will keep our focus on the
methodological consequences,ratherthan the phonologicalsimplification
itselfG.

Among other things,she proposesthe use of rhotic-r in all contexts,arguingthat it is easierfor


"r"
studentsto learnthat wheneverthey see the grapheme they shouldpronouncelrl.ln this way,
she proposesnot to teach the typical RP pronunciationin which lrl is only pronouncedin word-
initialpositionand in the so-calledlinkingr phenomenon.She argues that this second option is
more complicatedfor foreignspeakers,as they need to be aware of these contextualrules,while
the use of rhotic-r does not implyany specialrule.

She also proposesto eradicatethe distinctivefeatures between some pairs of phonemes,for


instancethe voicelessinterdentalfricativel0l and its voicedcounterpart16l.Accordingto Jenkins'
research,the failureto effectivelypronouncethese sounds in their standardform does not carry
any miscommunicationproblem. Hence, she considers teachers do not need to teach the
differencebetween both phonemes,as any of them can occur in any context without causing
communicative problems.In this sense,she concludesthat studentsmay pronouncel0l,16l, or
somethingin between,dependingon theirnativetongue.

"r". Accordingto Jenkins it is


The last feature we will make referenceto is the use of flapped
"r", as it is easier for studentsto learn the relationbetween
advisablenot to teach this flapped
"r",
graphemes"t" and "d" and the sounds lU and /d/. She believesthat teachingthis flapped
which may occur in middle-wordposition,is not necessary,as they can always use the same
soundsfor all three contexts(initial,middleand final),which areldl and lU.
EvaluatingThe LinguaFrancaCore
Leavingaside dlfferentopinionsaboutthis proposal,what is sociolinguistically relevantis that this
matterdirectlyrelatesto linguisticidentitiesand to a sociolinguistic issue,that is to say whether
it's advisable to create a global identity of English and to promote non-native standard
pronunciation or if the Englishlanguagebelongsto its nativespeakersand then it shouldonly
changewithinthis community.The first positionpresupposesa(n) (re)affirmation of the linguistic
"non natives
rightsof non-nativespeakers(see Ammon 2000 and Rassool2000),that is to say
'democratic' for them", while the
speakers need to learn English,so let's make English more
second reinforcesthe nationalisticview of languageaccordingto which a languagemust be
protectedform externalinfluences.

Final remarks

As I said in the introductionto this presentation,I do not intendto find answersto this dilemma
here. In fact, it wouldn't be possible either, as Jenkins' proposaland the democratizationof
Englishare still two of the most heatedtopicsto be discussedin the AppliedLinguistics agenda.
Instead,I will posesome questionsthat one may ask oneselfwhen facinga languageplanningof
this type:

u It seemsfair to add that Jenkinsdoesnot proposethis Lingua FrancaCore as a definite systemfor Global English,
insteadshe mentionsthe need to contrasther own work with further research.
40
re o ls it worthchanging
thewaywe teachphonology
to students?

. DoesJenkins'proposalimplya DEMOCRATISATION of English,or is it simplyUNFAIR


)r as theirlanguage
for nativespeakers, willbe altered?
v
{
. What about speakers'LINGUISTICIDENTITIES?Are they in any way affected?What will
is be the languageattitudestowardsEnglish?
le
o ls the Lingua Franca Core more positivefor non-nativespeakersthan traditionalEFL
methodologies, as studentsare under no circumstancesexpectedto achievea nativelike
0r
pronunciation,or should we leave our studentsto set their own goals even if they won't
s reachthem?
ry
le
. To what extent is it logical I fair / viable to make such a change in a language
lg
phonologicalsystem?
or

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