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Unit 1 Defining English This unit introduces the idea of alternative monolithic and ‘plurilithic’ conceptions of English. We discuss the status of ‘Standard English’, and you are invited to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using it as the only target for learning/teaching. We then move on to consider what exactly is meant by the ‘rules’ of English. The unit ends with a description of what we call the ‘four dimensions of monolithism’. You are encouraged to notice relevant features in four ‘data prompts’, give your immediate reactions, and then reflect on the implications for you and your teaching context.
Unit 2 Using English In this unit we look at how English is actually used in its diverse contexts, starting out with its most frequent current use, as a lingua franca between non-native speakers. We discuss variety within and between native speakers of English and introduce Braj Kachru’s model of World Englishes, inviting you to reflect on the idea of who ‘owns’ English. The unit continues with a discussion of scenarios in which English is used a lingua franca, and issues of how English users from different contexts of learning and use understand each other, including the involvement of the other languages they know.
Unit 3 Learning English We start the unit by thinking about the traditional ‘language as subject’ perspective on classroom-based learning and contrast this with evidence about the ways in which learners actually construct their own ‘object language’, in their individual brains/minds, through usage. We spend considerable time on how children acquire their first language, because we believe that many of the same cognitive processes underpin second language acquisition (SLA). We revisit the concept of ‘rules’ from this cognitive perspective, as well as traditional SLA concepts like interlanguage and fossilisation, suggesting that they reflect a deficit perspective in which learning is governed by external models and targets rather than the needs of diverse local learning contexts.
Unit 4 Teaching English This unit invites you to focus on the teaching and testing implications of the plurilithic view of English presented in earlier units. We aim to challenge, to sensitise, to raise awareness and to provoke discussion, rather than to tell you what the implications for teaching and testing are in your classroom!
Unit 5 Changing English In Unit 5, we make some practical suggestions about how the ideas presented in the course might be shared with your learners and teaching colleagues, and with policy-makers and the general public. We acknowledge the challenge of changing other people’s ideas about English, but stress the importance of attempting to do so!