World Englishes Movement

Hyun-Ju Kim, Dankook University

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The phenomenon of World Englishes (WEs) has been and continues to be a considerable issue.  A lot of research over the past several decades has shown that English learners, teachers, and policy makers have begun to seriously consider the consequences of the spread of English worldwide and to argue that the pedagogical purposes of teaching English as an international language should be the key issue in language classrooms. Since the contexts of using English are changing, the purposes of learning English as well as teaching/learning methods of English have also changed. Based on Kachru’s (1992) theory, there are three varieties of English: an Inner Circle English spoken in ENL countries such as the UK and Canada; an Outer Circle English spoken in ESL countries such as India, Nigeria, and the Philippines; and an Expanding Circle English spoken in EFL countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. However, this model has been objected to by many other WEs researchers in that this geographic distinction of English users is not appropriate. For example, there are many English speakers who use English as a native language in ESL countries like India or Hong Kong. Moreover, it is very difficult to define the word, "native." Therefore, Graddol’s (2008) WEs model suggests in discussing varieties of English that there are three groups of English varieties in the world: Inner Circle English, high proficiency English, and low proficiency English. Many statistics (Columbia Encyclopedia, 1993; Encyclopedia Britannica, 2002; Ethnologue, 1992) also confirmed that many students study English not to interact with native speakers only, but rather to access information in English and to interact with other non-native speakers. From the previous research we can see the importance of changes in the status and use of English and need to reconsider the teaching methods of English as an international language in our context.
Mostly people understand what dialects are but may not know the term "World Englishes." Therefore, it is essential to first clarify the concepts of World Englishes. Dialects can be used by people in particular places and identified by different age, gender, and other sorts of groups (Kachru & Nelson, 2001). Therefore, it is correct to state that there are different dialects of English in the U.S. such as southern English or eastern English. However, it is incorrect to state that there are different dialects in the world such as American English, Hong Kong English, and Chinese English. It should rather be said that there are different varieties of Englishes in the world. In other words, the regional differences of a language are called dialects and the national differences of the English language are called Englishes (Brown, 2004, p. 318). According to Crystal (2003), approximately one-third of the world’s population uses English as an L1 or L2. Moreover, an enormous number of people, around one billion in the world, use English as a foreign or an international language as Crystal notes. Then it is natural to doubt that only standard English such as American English and British English should be taught and that only the standard model of language teaching should be used in an English language classroom.
As a further background to the study of teaching World Englishes, it is worth researching the definition of standard and non-standard English for language teaching. In order to understand the teaching methods of World Englishes, it is necessary to make clear what is standard and what is not standard English. According to the previous research, definitions of standard English can be summarized in the following ways:
  • Standard English is a particular dialect of English, being the only non-localized dialect, of global currency without significant variation, universally accepted as the appropriate educational target in teaching English and which may be spoken with an unrestricted choice of accent (Strevens, 1982).
  • Standard English is a set of grammatical and lexical forms which is typically used in speech and writing by educated native speakers (Trudgill, 1985).
  • Standard English is the variety of language which has the highest status in a community or nation and which is usually based on the speech and writing of educated speakers of the language (Richards et al., 1985).
  • The term standard English refers to grammar and vocabulary (dialect) but not to pronunciation (accent) (Trudgill & Hannah, 1994).
  • We may define the standard English of an English speaking country as a minority variety which carries the most prestige and is most widely understood (Crystal, 1995).
  • Standard English must be a composite of those attributes of the language which are shared by proficient speakers of the language….. standard English includes those features of English which are both used and easily recognized by the majority of people who speak the language (Modiano, 1999).
As you have seen above, the concept of "standard English" is not consistent in the literature. Crystal (2003) referred to "a variety of English" as a term including standard English, pidgin, and creole varieties of English. WEs is a broad concept, including standard English as one kind of WEs (Brown, 2004, p. 318). However, for the non-standard Englishes, even though they are considered "non-standard" by native speakers, they are undergoing standardization processes and have codified their own standards (Crystal, 2003), and thus, non-native speakers of non-standard Englishes may feel that they are using standard English. In other words, there is an attitudinal difference among people in different contexts toward a variety of Englishes. Therefore, the definition of standard English should be based on speech communities in international contexts. As Modiano (1999) argued, native speakers who speak with strong regional accents are not the speakers of standard English.
It is now necessary to develop a new teaching method with varieties of English used in various contexts. However, we cannot change everything at once. English educators should first be aware that the WEs perspectives should be incorporated into English language teaching and that teaching materials should be selected within the WEs perspectives. English language teaching should emphasize developing the ability to communicate effectively in English as it is used in its real contexts, not just in the artificial ENL context.
Brown, J. B. (2004). What do we mean by bias, Englishes, Englishes in testing, and English language proficiency? World Englishes, 23(2), 317-319.

Columbia Encyclopedia. (1993). New York: Columbia University Press.

Crystal, D. (1995). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2003). English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University press.
Encyclopedia Britannica. (1986). Publishing. Macropaedia, Vol. XXVI. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 457-492.

Ethnologue. (1992). Ethnologue: the languages of the world. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Graddol, D. (2008). English and globalization: Today and tomorrow. Plenary paper presented at 34th JALT International Conference, October 31-November 3, Tokyo.

Kachru, B. B. (1992).  The Other Tongue: English across Cultures. Second edition, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Kachru, B. B., & Nelson, C. L. (2001). World Englishes. In Burns, A. and Coffin, C. (Eds.), Analyzing English in a Global Context (pp. 9-25). New York: Routledge.

Modiano, M. (1999). Standard English(es) and educational practices for the world’s lingua franca, English Today, 15(4), 3-13.

Richards, J., Platt, J., & Weber, H. (1985). Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. London: Longman.

Strevens, P. (1982). World English and the World’s Englishes or Whose Language is it Anyway? Journal of the Royal Society of Arts 120, 418-431.

Trudgill, P. (1985). International English: A Guide to Varieties of Standard English. London: E. Arnold.

Trudgill, P., & Hannah, J. (1994). International English: A guide to varieties of English. London: E. Arnold.
Hyun-Ju Kim is an associate professor of English at Dankook University in Korea, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in TESL, language testing, and applied linguistics. She has recently accepted visiting scholarships at Indiana University in the US.

ITBE Link - Winter 2014 - Volume 41 Number 4

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