Wednesday, March 09, 2011

ELF: Daniel's View

ELF: Daniel's View

First of all, I realize that there are implications for the way English is taught and spoken as the world approaches a larger number of learners of English than numbers of native speakers. While VOICE corpus data and "Lingua Franca Core"provide evidence for supporting a reorientation in terms of improving pronunciation and intelligibility in terms of national accents it would be hard to imagine a similar process taking place in or among other leading world languages such as Mandarin or Spanish. Chinese native speakers might consider it a national affront to alter word spellings or pronunciations for non-native learners and might perhaps take a perspective that learners should acquire the language as its native speakers do. Also Spanish speakers might consider it a threat to cultural heritage to alter word pronunciations to suit learners for example.

It seems plain that most native English speakers take a much more "laissez faire"approach to the language than say the French do with their own.

In my Korean classrooms I come across a nation of English learners who claim to have mostly studied reading, writing and grammar over more than ten years prior to arriving in my speaking class at university. But I often fail to see any evidence of such study. For whatever reason a test measuring society appears to permit frequent incorrect spellings, grammar rules and expressions into the mix. A Korean English teacher I knew frequently used to tell her disruptive students to, "Shut the mouse. (singular)" For example, Korean non-native teachers or those from other nations might find it necessary to limit teaching and learning to grammar, reading and writing out of lack of spoken fluency. I would dread the day when, "shut the mouse" became a lingua franca standard because of low levels of communicative fluency which appears a more reasonable goal than a lingua franca, isn't it?

In fact, I think business English is a good example and result of the incredible adaptability of ESL focus areas world wide in response to learners seeking the most effective or latest method of imparting acquisition. Ten or fifteen years ago BE might have been harder to spot and came about through reflexive research something English has benefited from immensely due to the incredible global focus. I would suspect Chinese and Spanish language learning techniques and methods have possibly failed to keep pace with that of English acquisition.

While I rarely if ever teach grammar, reading and writing focused lessons it is a result of perceived purpose here in Korea. These are topics that Koreans self-identify as already possessing some proficiency. However I often wonder how wonderful a pure grammar class might be such as Canadians endure in junior high school. There just appears few short cuts to good grammar drills especially in generating or reading written sentences. Few if any of my students could probably list even the parts of speech in assembled sentences let alone tense or voice or tonic, etc. How could they ever say they need less grammar when they are sliding about like Bambi on ice? Take a look at most instructions from products "Made in China."Could you say Chinese perhaps have the best chance at getting away with ELF rules considering they are the largest world group of English learners at the moment?

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