Unit 1: Defining English
This unit introduces the idea of alternative monolithic and plurilithic conceptions of English.
- 1.0 Introduction
- 1.1 Monolithic vs Plurilithic Concepts
- 1.1.1 Monolithic Concepts of Language
- 1.1.2 Plurilithic Concepts of Language
- 1.2 ‘Standard English’
- 1.2.1 ‘Standard English’: History
- 1.2.2 ‘Standard English’: Beliefs
- 1.2.3 Advantages and Disadvantages of ‘Standard English’ for ELT
- 1.3 Rules of English
- 1.3.1 The ambiguity of the word rule
- 1.3.2 Rules of English: The Monolithic View
- 1.3.3 Rules of English: The Plurilithic View
- 1.4 Four Dimensions of Monolithism
- 1.5 Check Your Understanding
- 1.6 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 2: Using English
This unit explores the plurilithic usage of English in diverse global settings.
- Unit 2: Using English
- 2.1 Introducing Lingua Franca Usage
- 2.2.1 Native speaker Variation
- 2.2.2 Native speakers: Accommodation
- 2.3 Englishes in the British Isles
- 2.4 World Englishes
- 2.4.1 Englishes in Your Part of The World
- 2.4.2 Owning a language (Part 1)
- 2.5 ELF
- 2.5.1 Intelligibility
- 2.5.2 ELF in Your Part of The World
- 2.6 Translanguaging with English
- 2.7 Check Your Understanding
- 2.8 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 3: Learning English
This unit discusses how English is learned as a first or additional language.
- Unit 3: Learning English
- 3.1 First Language Acquisition
- 3.2 Back to Rules
- 3.2.1 Rules as Patterns in the Mind (Part 1)
- 3.2.2 Rules as Social Markers
- 3.2.3 Rules as Mental Representations
- 3.2.4 Rules in Schools
- 3.2.5 Rules as Patterns in the Mind (2)
- 3.3 Models and Targets
- 3.4 Learning Contexts
- 3.5 Owning a Language (Part 2)
- 3.6 Learners and Users
- 3.7 Check Your Understanding
- 3.8 Reflect and Discuss
Unit 4: Teaching English
This unit examines the teaching implications of plurilithic conceptions of English.
Unit 5: Changing English
This unit suggests ways to share your learning on the course with others.
- Unit 5: Changing English
- 5.1 The Challenge
- 5.2 Changing Learners’ Beliefs About English
- 5.3 Changing Teaching Colleagues’ Beliefs About English
- 5.4 Changing Policy-Makers’ Beliefs About English
- 5.5 Changing the Public’s Beliefs About English
- 5.6 Check Your Understanding
- 5.7 Reflect and Discuss
- Course Finish
2.4.2 Owning a language (Part 1)
People believe that native speakers own their language
A monolithic belief in English as ‘the’ ‘National Language’ of Inner Circle countries has as an automatic corollary in the belief that English is a foreign language everywhere else. Inner Circle ownership of English is assumed even if the language has a long history and ‘official status’ in many Outer Circle countries and may be used by many people on a daily basis in Expanding Circle countries.
Watch the video of Gordon Brown (the UK’s prime minister between 2007 and 2010) in Fig. 2.7. In it he is announcing a series of British Council initiatives to help people learn English around the globe.
(You can find a transcript of the speech at the end of this interesting French response.)
How do you react to the way that Brown announces these initiatives? What does the announcement reveal about official views of Britain’s past and present relationship with English and ELT?
A plurilithic perspective suggests that English as a whole cannot be ‘owned’ by any one country or group of countries (such as those in the ‘Inner Circle’). Henry Widdowson (2003, p. 42) quotes the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe:
- I feel that the English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experience … But it will have to be a new English, still in communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit its new African surroundings (Achebe 1975, p. 62)
Widdowson comments (p. 62):
- The new English which Achebe refers to is locally developed, and although it must necessarily be related, and so in a sense in communion with, its ancestral origins in the past, it owes no allegiance to any descendants of this ancestry in the present. […]
Of native speakers he writes (p. 62):
- [English] is only international to the extent that it is not their language. It is not a property for them to lease out to others while retaining the freehold. Other people actually own it.
Reflect here on the extent to which other languages you know or know about are ‘international’ in this sense. Do you know or know about languages which are understood to be limited to ‘intra-national’ or ‘regional’ status? In your opinion, is it possible for these languages to be owned by others in the same way that Widdowson argues for English?
Belief in the foreign ‘leased’ status of English beyond the Inner Circle (a social phenomenon) aligns with a belief in the external nature of English as the monolithic native-speaker model or target for second language acquisition (a cognitive phenomenon). We will take this up in the next unit, Learning English. In the meantime, we end this unit on Using English with a closer look at what our fictional satellite revealed: the fact that most spoken interactions in English probably now occur between non-native speakers in lingua franca scenarios.