Unit 4: Teaching English

4.0 Introduction

In this unit we now invite you to focus fully on the teaching and testing implications of the plurilithic view of English we have been presenting. We help you do this through a series of activities, in which teachers’ voices are heard.

We will not be suggesting many practical solutions for teachers and testers here. Recall that the purpose of this course is to challenge, to sensitise, to raise awareness, to provoke reflection and discussion.

Although we do make one or two suggestions, we believe that effective professional responses to the plurilithic challenge of English must be the product of prolonged reflection and trial and error, by teachers—from within classrooms, staff rooms, conferences and workshops, teacher development courses, and policy forums. The final unit of the course, Changing English, encourages you to reflect on how you might participate in this effort.

As you work through this unit, we ask you to bear in mind the difference between English as ‘object language’ and ‘language subject’ (Widdowson, 2000), because ultimately the goal of teachers is to help learners become efficient and effective users of English in the contexts in which they will need it. In Unit 3, we presented a view of the language according to which it is defined by its global users and uses, as a plurilithic entity:

    ● There are as many Englishes as there are users of English.
    ● Most global users of English use it as a Lingua Franca in multilingual contexts where translanguaging practices are a common feature.
    ● English is not just ‘owned’ by its native speakers.
    ● Most native speakers are not (uniquely) users of ‘Standard English’.
    ● Using English requires skills in accommodation and negotiation of meaning more than strict conformity to ‘Standard English’ norms.

Viewed in this way, English presents teachers with challenges and opportunities that are very different from those presented by other subjects.