English is a common lingua franca today. Almost 80% of the total number of English speakers are non-natives. It is used and understood all over the world, on all continents. What is special about it and teaching it?
To start with, lingua franca is a language that people from different countries and native languages use to communicate all over the world. English as lingua franca (ELF) differs from the standard English. ELF supposes first and foremost international communication with people from different cultures, with different background and beliefs. Below you can see some typical sentences for ELF where the common rules that we usually teach can be different:
- Infinitives and Gerunds: I am looking forward to get your reply.
- articles: He is doctor.
- third person ‘s’: John work at the office.
- word order in sentences: This scarf knitted my mom.
- auxiliaries in questions: He plays in a band?
- using word-building morpheme: This man is an electricist.
What are the problems with teaching English as lingua franca?
To decide whether your students need to study ELF or elements of ELF you need to conduct a needs analysis. You should get to know the student’s background, whether they plan to go to an English-speaking country or not, what kind of people they are going to communicate with. Then you need to do a ‘weak points’ test to find out which parts of lingua franca core the student needs to work on.
Teaching English as a lingua franca is not as easy as teaching strict grammar rules and vocabulary. It means teaching communication with people from different countries and understanding existing differences and accepting them. It means that we should extend our limits and forget that there is something “right” or something “wrong”.
Should we correct our students if they make a mistake, in case the main goal of learning ELF is to get their message across? That’s a good question and up-to-date it remains open. It depends on you as a teacher to correct or not to correct in case a student wants to learn the language as the main tool of communicating with people.
What can you include in your lessons to teach ELF and vary them?
- At speaking lessons, don’t pay too much attention to some mistakes in pronunciation or grammar like countable or uncountable nouns (‘informations’, ‘news’, ‘advices’, ‘staffs’). In return, think of whether the communication was successful, whether the interlocutors understood each other.
- Use various videos and audios. The first idea that comes to my mind to demonstrate different accents is TED talks. You may not only give your students the videos to listen to speakers from all over the world but also hold the whole lesson based on the video. If you don’t know how to do that, use the website with ready-made lesson plans.
- Watch vloggers from different countries on Youtube. The choice depends on the interests of students, but here are the samples that you can offer:
- SketchShe (Australia) is an entertaining channel with funny videos, parodies, etc.;
- Living Big In A Tiny House (New Zealand) a collection of videos by a man who creates good design for small houses;
- VanossGaming (Canada) is a video games commentator;
- Raghav Pande’s Xcell Fitness (India) is a sports trainer’s video blog, who became famous internationally with the help of his videos;
- Roxxsaurus (Poland) – a blog of a Polish girl living in the UK.
If you don’t have time or force to search for the bloggers, ask your students to do that (of course, in case they enjoy watching Youtube).
- Ask students (active Instagram or Facebook users) to subscribe to people from other countries that seem interesting to them. These could be actors, singers, painters, bloggers, politicians, etc. Once they do this and start reading their posts, they will discover that the language they learn is a bit different from the spoken one and will probably start asking you some questions:)
- Force them to start communicating! There are many websites created for international communication. If a student likes reading real funny stories, let them read and comment on Reddit. In case a student just needs a language partner, offer him iTalky. In case a student has a professional sphere of interest, he or she can join the discussion on a professional forum.
All in all, English has been defined as lingua franca these days. Our role as teachers is to lead our students to the discovery of limitless resources to get to know it.
What about you? Do you teach ELF? What resources do you use?