Teaching English as an International Language (TEIL): an outline



In today's multipolar world international English plays an important role and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Hence a paradigm shift from Anglo-Saxon centred ELT towards TEIL (teaching English as an international language) would be urgently needed - both in general and in the Austrian education system in particular. Unfortunately, though, international English is currently rather disregarded, both in ELT at school and, perhaps even more disturbing, at TESL/TESOL programmes (Varus 1991 qtd. in Brown 1995: 238,239) as well as in teacher education. As my own small contribution to remedy this sad situation I would like to suggest a possible outline for a course on international English. However, I am aware that it will in some cases not be possible to cover all of the suggested fields in detail. This course fits into the framework of critical pedagogy as outlined in Pennycook (1994: 295-327) and Kramsch (1993: 244-247). Furthermore, it is also appropriate pedagogy (see ch.1.12) as it is part of the polymodel approach which I recommended as being most suitable for ELT in Europe (see ch. 2.6.).

A course in English as an international language would have to deal with the following issues:

The colonial period. It is important to realise that the spread of English did not happen naturally. Rather, it was a result of the expansion of the British Empire. Consequently, a course in international English would have to deal with colonial education policy as far as it concerns ELT [see print version]. It might also be interesting to explore connections between English as an instrument of rule in the colonies and the way standard English (and particularly an "acceptable" pronunciation) were vital for social advancement in Great Britain itself. Suggested readings on this topic are Pennycook (1998) and for the debate about standard English the articles in Bex and Watts (1999) as well as Honey (1997) who offers a somewhat dissenting voice. A critical reading of Shaw's Pygmalion may also be valuable.

Features of non-native varieties of ELT: "the Empire talks back". Because of the limited amount of space available I have not dealt with this issue in my essay. Nevertheless, this is a highly interesting field, particularly if audio material is available which enables teacher and students to compare and contrast features of varieties from many different locations. Students might also be interested in learning lexical items form non-native varieties. Ideally this exploration should make students aware that non-native varieties are an expression of the creativity and richness of the English language and its users. For a description of various native and non-native varieties consult Trudgill and Hannah (1994 [1982]) which includes a very useful cassette. For more detailed information about a specific non-native variety see the references given in the extended bibliography.

Literatures in English: "the Empire writes back". Another way of illustrating how English has been appropriated to express local identities is by reading and discussing literary works by non-native authors. Care should be given to represent a variety of different cultures. The works of Rushdi, Rao and Achebe may be a good place to start. Also of interest may be Narayan's "The English Teacher" (1980 [1945]). for an overview of postcolonial literaturre see Ashcroft et. al (1989).

English as a world language: danger or opportunity? This topic entails a critical discussion of the two main ideological positions regarding the spread of English, namely one the one hand Phillipson's (1992) assertion that the spread of English is nothing less than linguistic imperialism and on the other hand Crystal's (1997) view that English is a neutral tool for international communication [for an extensive discussion of this topic consult the print version]. From the wealth of literature available I would (besides the two works mentioned above) recommend Kachru (1986) for a critical but less ideologically biased view. Valuable insights into the linguistic imperialism debate can also be obtained from Bisong (1995 [1994]), Conrad (1996) and Davies (1996).

The appropriation of English and ELT. To begin with, a critical look should be taken at the ELT industry which churns out "international" textbooks designed for anglocentric examinations (TOEFL, Cambridge) and perpetrating a Western view of life [see print version]. Secondly, non-native ELT material should also be analysed critically. Such an analysis reveals how indigenous ELT material has been appropriated to convey non-western values (for instance, Islamic ones) or even propaganda (see part 1). A non-native speaker from a developing country could be invited to talk about the functions of English in his/her country. Thirdly, it would be appropriate to introduce a historical perspective because a historical analysis of the spread of English in a particular region (for instance the German speaking area) not only reveals the different ways in which English was taught but also (and perhaps more importantly) shows the underlying ideological purposes to which English and ELT were put. Rather than suggesting any particular secondary material, a critical re-reading of popular textbooks is essential for this topic. As an example of a historical perspective see my analysis of the spread and appropriation of English in German speaking areas above.

International Englishes. While the issues discussed above deal with local, intranational forms of English (and their appropriation) the second form of international English, namely the use of English in certain international domains (law, medicine...) also merits considerable attention. This topic comprises the analysis of the English spoken at international meetings (one accessible instance of such gatherings are the NATO press-conferences during the Kosovo war). Of course, the course would profit by someone who has participated in such international meetings him or herself. Within this topic the dominant role of English in some scientific areas could also be discussed. For the argument in favour of " international English as ESP" see Widdowson (1997, 1998a, 1998c) [and the print version]; regarding the status of English (and German) as a scientific language Skudlik (1990) and Ammon (1998) should be consulted.

English in Europe. One could start on this topic by taking a look at the use of and the attitudes towards English in the institutions of the European Union. This would also entail a discussion of the Union's so-called "language problem". After that, the role of English in different European countries could be discussed. For this purpose it would be advantageous if exchange students were among those attending the course. They could give a useful account of English in their home countries. One lesson of an analysis of such different "European Englishes" is that a national accent is not necessarily bad, as long as it remains intelligible. This would then lead to a discussion of the "European-ness" of English, that is such a thing as "European English" exists at all and if yes in which domains it is used and if it could turn into an appropriate way of expressing one's European identity (see part2.). Finally, one would have to deal with the question how such a European English could be taught at school (see part2.). The essays in Coulmas (1991) offer interesting perspectives on the EU's language policy. For an outline of English as a European language see Berns (1995a, 1995b). The only extensive collection of papers about the status of English in various European countries is Viereck and Bald (1986).

English in Austria. This part of the course would have to deal with the socio-economic and socio-political aspects of English and ELT in Austria. This could be achieved by analysing the various sections of newspapers (see below) and by looking at advertisements, commercials, posters and various TV programmes. Finally, the course could be transplanted from the ivory tower to the streets by asking "common Austrians" about their opinion. The results could then be scientifically analysed and processed to enlarge the currently rather small research on English in Austria. "English is Austria" has been the topic of Malzacher's thesis (1996); also of interest is Pazelt (1994).


[Note: The references in this section are scattered in the bibliographies to all three parts]



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