ELF 5 Part 7 – Mario Saraceni on The Future of ELF

I met the very friendly and eloquent Mario Saraceni at the conference and was keen to hear his point of view on the Future of ELF in this plenary-like early evening session of the day.

The Future of ELF: The Linguistic, Ideological and Pedagogical Relocation of English’.

Mario humbly introduced himself and joked that he had taken the title of the ‘Future of ELF’ symposium very literally.

Stating that ELF as a research area has moved from focus on language form towards language use and communities of practice, Mario starts by looking at early ELF research, and the shifts it has seen.

The form(s) of ELF

  • It was aimed at finding common features of ELF
  • Given the sheer size and complexity of ELF, such common features can be rathe elusive,
  • Risk of replicating the same ‘spot the difference’ approach adopted in some World Englishes research – ELF inevitably judged against NS models and so the common features end up being the common deviation from NS English.

Shifting Focus

The shift of focus towards the pragmatics of ELF and eventually towards the notion of communicative practice marks an importanat development in ELF research.

One fundamental implication is that ELF ceases to be a linguistic entity and the term acquires a more complex, subtle and itnersting meaning – it refers both to a research are (the new ELF journal is a concrete product of that), and to a particular orientation towards the study of English and ultimately of language in general.

Protracted anxieties

  • Some worries about the inherent ideological spread of ELF:
  • Lingua Franca or lingua frankensteinia?
  • National language policies : anxieties over the status of English
  • ELT ‘Anglo’ culture; NS vs NNS speakers – which model? What is the role of the NS?
  • Who ‘owns’ English?

Reconceptualising English

  • One fundamental contribution that ELF research has made is an invitation to understand the ‘thing’ English in different ways.
  • The move from EFL to ELF implies a move away from strict associations between language and nation-people-culture-territory
  • So English is no longer exclusively the language of the English and becomes deanglicized.

Mario shows some samples of Malaysian use of English on Facebook,

‘dialah di hat….siti 4ever…I really like this song… try 2 sing this song unfortunately sore x sampai… =,’ etc.

This is the norm in the age of Web 2.0 and not an exception.

Making the point that this linguistic matter does not necessarily need to be given a name, the mixing and evolution of language is a sociolinguistic reality and a way of communication.

Using more examples from the Bangkok post of the lexis ‘minor wife’ and ‘soi’ (meaning ‘street’) and ‘make merit’ (most teachers commented they would correct this ‘mistake’), Mario says we shouldn’t have to look at language in boxes.
The notion of ‘a language’ makes little sense in most traditional societies. And most people wouldn’t even consciously realize they are using ‘Language’.

Language are always mixed, hybrid, and drawing on multiple resources (Pennycook, 2010)

‘So long as people believe that their way of speaking constitutes a language in its own right, there is a real sense in which it is a real language.’ (Joseph, 2006)

 

The focus on the language user in ELF research is a useful direction in that a systematicitv investigation of the representations of English may help us establish whether observed language behaviour that we researchers see as deanglicization of English is such in people’s mindsets too.

In a short Q&A session after, Jennifer Jenkins asks him ‘Why not correct ‘make merit’ for if we expect international intelligibility from NSs, we should expect it of NNSs too.’ After all, we can’t negotiate meaning in a written text (remember that this was published in the Bangkok post).

Would you correct a student who writes ‘make merit’ in their essay?

ELF 5 Part 6 – Jagdish Kaur on Reconceptualising Competence

I came to this session partly because I had read papers by the speaker Jagdish Kaur for my dissertation and found them relevant and interesting, and was curious to see her in person, and to hear more.

What surprised me was the fact that she was the same person that was seated beside me during the opening plenary, and suddenly I felt rude for not having said hello.

Here is her very interesting and well-presented talk.

 Reconceptualising Competence – Lessons from English as a Lingua Franca

What is competence?

Taylor calls competence a controversial and confusing term (1988), Widdowson says it’s a fussy concept (1989).

Is it just knowledge (as in Chomsky)? Or is it about the ability to use knowledge?

Confusion arises when a term intended to refer to a state is now exnded to include a process, when a term intended to refer to something absolute now includes relative dimension (Taylor, 1988)

Chomsy’s Competence

  • Knowledge of language, a mental state, characterized in the form of rules of grammar (linguistic knowledge)
  • Concerned with idealization – ‘the ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogenous speech community, who knows its language perfectly’. Chomsky (1965)

Hymes’ Communicative Competence

  • Considers various aspects of language use which may be systematically accounted for by rules;
  • Includes the knowledge of how to use language appropriately;
  • Introduces a social element rather than a merely cognitive or individual one;
  • Does not merely expand the conception of competence but rather changes it as his notion of communicative competence conveys something quite different from what Chomsky intended.

Communicative Competence of the second language speaker

Researchers concerned with the competence of the L2 speaker have reconceptualised the idea further to suit the context.

Necessary given the  multilingual reality of the today’s world in which individuals are increasingly becoming ‘users of multiple linguistics resources and (as) members of multiples communities of practice (Pavlenko)

Cook talks about multiple competencies.

We can’t just talk about the knowledge of linguistic forms, but a

Kim (1991) introduces intercultural communicative competence = an additional level of metacompetence involving explicit awareness of differential usages and ability to adapt communicative strategies to a variety of cultural situations.

Researchers working with post-structuralist ideas and sociocultural perspectives in language learning and use view competences as resulting from actual use of the language, rather than the contrary. It is by doing through engagement with others that competence is co-created in interaction.

Competences as socially constructed and the L2 Speakers’ competence as active and dynamic rather than static.

Evidence From ELF

 

  • Empirical research into ELF points to a form of intercultural communication that is both effective and efficient.
  • Participants accommodate to the communicative behaviour of their interlocutors to increase the intelligibility of their communication and to signal cooperation and affiliation (Cogo, 2009)
  • Low incidence of misunderstanding observed in ELF spoken attributed to the widespread use of repetition, reformulation, comprehension checks, confirmation and clarification requests as well as explanation and clarifications (Mauranen, 2006; Watt, 2008, Pitzl 2005)
  • Use of explicitness strategies like self-rephrasing, topic negotiation and discourse reflexivity to enhance explicitness of expressions (Mauranen, 2007, 2010)
  • Use of self-repair practices that reduce ambiguity and vagueness and emphasize explicitness and clarity can result in utterances that are perhaps more intelligible which may in turn contribute to increased comprehensibility (Kaur, 2011)
  • Immediate or fairly immediate repetition of a segment in an ongoing turn seem to contribute towards increasing the clarity of expression and the effectiveness of communication (Kaur, forthcoming)

Thus, as a conclusion:

 

  • Repeating a repaired segment of talk addresses any impairment to the clarity of the utterance caused by the repair move itself.
  • Widdowson (1989) in his conception of ‘communicative competence’ talks of ‘adjustments’ and ‘adaptations’ made to suit the contextual demands of the communicative situation.
  • The extracts reflect the speaker’s awareness of the precarious nature of the communicative situation and the need for greater communicative clarity.
  • Speakers display a ‘lingua franca communicative competence – cognizance of the diversity inherent in the lingua franca situation and the accompanying skills to manage this diversity actively and efficiently.

ELF 5 Part 5 – Kurt Kohn on Pedagogy and SLA

I listened to Kurt Kohn on ‘A Pedagogic Space for ELF in the English Classroom’ this afternoon and was extremely inspired by his social constructivist stance on the issue of teachers’ attitudes and beliefs towards ELF.

Here is his talk.

EFL and ELF: Diverging perspectives

The orientation in EFL is towards standard NS English, Educational regulations for ELT institutions (in Europe) continue to be based on an exonormative SE role model.

Empirical evidence from ELF research shows that successful ELF communication despite deviations from standard, communication strategies are used for communicative success (accommodation, meaning negotiation, and ‘let it pass’), and deviant phrases and structures can be shown to emerge through endonormative processes of ELF development.

The ELF communication argument i.e. reference to the rich diversity of successful ELF communication seems to be the obvious line argumentation. But for many teachers, however, this argument doesn’t seem to work. There is low acceptance among teachers and teacher trainees, and there are frequent misunderstandings (‘Do you want me to teach incorrect English?’)

Kurt asks, Why do we have these misunderstandings?

Why is the ELF communication argument often only poorly accepted by teachers?

Convincing accounts of diversity, plurality and success of ELF communication.

But the perceived subtext by teachers is: Your SE orientation is not in sync with reality (=your SE orientation is bad!)

You end up in a deadlock: For teachers with an SE orientation, the SE part of the ELF communication argument sticks out and makes them reject the whole argument.

Teachers who better understand how languages are acquired (SLA) will better understand the implications of ELF. And teacher trainings does not cover SLA enough.

So, how do we acquire English?

  • I acquire English by developing/constructing/creating my own version of it my mind, my hear and my behaviour.
  • In communicative, social interaction with others.
  • Influenced by my target language model, my native language, my attitudes & motivation, my goals & requirements, my learning approach, the effort I invest and last but not least the people I talk to.
  • It is in this social constructivist sense that the English I develop is my own.
    And it is inevitably different from any target language model toward which it is oriented.
  • The ‘My English condition’ is not an option, but part of the human condition.

In a strong version of SE orientation (which is what is most often done in EFL classrooms), learners are required to comply with standard English (teaching) norms and the closer they get, the better. But this is a procedure only compatible with behaviourist copying process that still lurks in the background.

In a weak version of SE orientation, learners take standard English as a model for orientation and they create their own version of it.

It is thus important to understand language learning as a cognitive and emotional process.

Imagine that the Mid-Atlantic SE (MASE) is my learning target. What kind of MASE would that be?

Linguistic descriptions of MASE on the basis of solid empirical research.

My version of what MASE is may not be another’s.

The weak version of a SE orientation is fully compatible with an endonormative conceptualization of ELF development.
Challenges for ELF research and pedagogy:

Extension of the endonormative view to include a ‘weak’ SE orientation

A promising turn in ELF research: teaching ELF is about the process of developing the kind of English users/learners are able to make authentic for themselves – including SE

Challenges for ELT

Because of the strong exonormative version of a SE orientation, learners tend to stay alienated from their creativity, resulting in frustration, anxiety and even fear.

Urgent need for an endonormative conceptualization of language learning and teaching (MY English) and acceptance of constructivist ‘weak’ SE orientation.

ELF in the foreign language classroom

Focus on raising awareness for LF manifestation of English

– to increase tolerance for others and for oneself

Focus on developing ELF-specific comprehension skills

– to get accustomed to NNS accents and ‘messy’ performance.

Focus on developing ELF-specific production skills

– to improve pragmatic fluency and strategic skills for accommodation and collaborative negotiation of meaning in intercultural ELF situations

Focus on developing the learners’ sense of ownership (‘agency’)

– to ensure speaker satisfaction and self-confidence

Liberation through communicative participation

How can ‘liberating’ conditions be successfully implemented in the English classroom?

  • CLIL – Practice Enterprise – Creative Writing
  • ‘Pushed output processing’/ ‘languaging’ (Swain 2006) – with increased self-satisfaction as a target (instead of better compliance with an external norm)
  • Authentic and autonomous web-based communication and collaboration
  • All with the aim to explore and extend one’s own creativity ( Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development)

The overall principle is to acknowledge that NNS/learners of English are speakers of English and not merely people learning English.

All in all, this was a talk that was so inspiring that I thought it deserved a blogpost all on its own. Kurt Kohn not only spoke sense but also showed us in very practical ways how we can shift attitudes of ELF towards useful and empowering standpoints that can help both the teacher (NS and NNS) and learners to better understand the process of language acquisition and how to provide conditions for a more helpful mindset to developing language competence.

ELF 5 Part 4 – Plenary by Cem Alptekin

Cem Alptekin starts his talk  ‘A Usage-Based Approach to ELF identity’, showing two different pictures of elves, showing how even within elves, there are different types and varieties.

In an article published by Guardian by Julianne House, she describes ELF as ‘a stateless language that Europe must embrace, stating that ELF was Europe’s lingua franca’, not an imperialist tool, but a language that recognize the different nationality and different cultures, and allowing individuals to creating their own discourse norms with their own free will with a view to promoting international understanding.

If European Lingua Franca or Euro-English is indeed a variety, then it should be possibility to describe and codify it, and use it for instruction.

Reminding us that Jenkins called ELF is a context variety, ELF is legitimate English, like outer circle speakers, the criteria that applied to outer circle applies also to expanding circle speakers.

Early ELF studies were focused the linguistic features of ELF communication, e.g. Seidlhofer’s early article about lexico-grammatical features that might appear in ELF use, paving the way for the view that ELF is all about language code.

However, recent articles by Seidlhofer and other ELF proponents are more focused on the negotiation of meaning and accommodation among those in the speech community.

It is time to debunk this myth.

ELF is not a language variety.

 

We can relate it to a speech community or geographic region.

The construct of linguistic variety may change when speech community undergo changes.

This would lead to our reconceptualization of ELF that is  more usage- and context-based, one that may still show form and function patterns in its own right. Instead of a fixed structure that restricts and de-limit the forms and use, the code itself evolves, and repeated instances of language use brought about by different functional needs redefines the variety constantly.

Let’s not reduce ELF to a reductionist perspective.

Some mistaken beliefs:

  • Deficient form of English (non-monolithic/code-focused) – no linguistic variety is mono-lithic.  There is no ELF community in a conventional sense.
  • English that functions as a lingua franca (circular/function-focused) – There are millions of Elf users with different communities and using English for different purposes. But what is clear is that the form is not based on NS-norms. The emphasis is on function.
  • Contact (pidgin? Without a NS in sight?)
  • English that serves functions in the expanding circle (geographic and ethnic bounds)
  • Insufficient and illegitimate English (pedagogic validity?) – Even ELT teachers believe that ELF is form-reductionist. But no code can exist in a function-vacuum, and no function can exist in a form-vacuum.

Idioms create a sense as they are stored as a chunk in your long term memory.

ELF reflects more metaphoric use than idiomaticity.

Interactions between contextual demands of a globalized world and ELF users’ cognitive systems leads to new schematic and linguistic configurations.

As an example of how ELF can be misunderstood, Friedrich & Matsuda (2010) is discussed. They argue that ELF is an ‘umbrella term’ referring to a ‘function’ because as a code it is non-monolithic (back to basics!)

Functionalising English involves the successful use of communicative strategies across cultures (=strategic competence).

  • They misconstrue Seidlhofer’s position that ELF is a variety;
  • They misconstrue Jenkin’s position by comparing ENL, ESL and ELF when they are completely different constructs – ENL and ESl are acquisitional constructs, whereas ELF describes the form and function mappings used when people with different L1s come together.
  • Narrowing down ‘ESL’, they go against the tide in SLA, distinguishing acquisition and use, the L2 learner and L2 user.
  • Parochialising ‘language variety’ –  However, their calling ELF a variety is neither philosophically accurate nor useful. They subsequently define ELF as a function. There cannot be a function in language variety and no reason why ELF should be presented as such.
  • Ignoring cultural cognition.

An important talk that debunks some of the myths of what ELF is, and encourages us to see ELF as user-based, context-specific, and a fluid dynamism of functions mapped upon evolving forms.

ELF 5 Part 3 – Learners, Materials, Idiomaticity & Pronunciation

Claudia Borghetti spoke on ‘Language versus Intercultural Learning through ELF Interactions: Higher Education Students’ Perspectives’.

Emphasising that NS might not know how language works, let alone how to explain the rules to others, Claudia states that if one feels less judged by their use of English, it would affect their confidence and ability to use English positively. She then goes on to outline the use of Byron’s criteria of measuring intercultural competence in terms of attitude, knowledge, skills and awareness, showing that a successful intercultural speaker is one that is able to negotiate meaning, take an external perspective of oneself and adapt.

 

Reiko Takahashi was up next with her presentation ‘English as a Lingua Franca in a Japanese context: An analysis of ELF-Oriented Features in Teaching Materials and the Attitudes of Japanese Teachers and Learners of English to ELF-Oriented Materials’.

 

Using the following criteria, Takahashi measures how ELF-Oriented the materials used in Secondary and High School English education in Japan:

  1. Number of characters featured that are from outer circle and non-Japanese expanding circle countries;
  2. Number of words uttered by these characters;
  3. Use of either outer or expanding circle country other than Japan as location for dialogues;
  4. Type of communication existing between NNSs with no NSs.

 

It was found that some of the materials in Japanese coursebook indeed featured outer circle English usage, illustrating with an example that showed the use of Singlish, with a focus on how Singlish is more simplified than English, e.g. ‘Cheaper, can or not?’

 

Although NNS characters are found in Japanese coursebooks, no NNS varieties were found in the audio materials.
In a survey, most students wanted to have more of a variety of nationalities in their coursebooks (e.g. 1 NNS, 1NS and 1 Japanese in conversation).

 

However, Japanese teachers expressed fears about including ‘non-standard’ varieties as it might be dangerous, or not needed by high school students.

 

Purposes of using ELF-oriented materials or introducing ELF features should thus be clearly communicated, and students should know that they are not to be imitated but are there for the purpose of awareness raising and exposure.

 

Takahashi’s conclusion seemed to favour the use of NS-normative standards in the language used in coursebooks, while featuring a variety of characters from different countries.

 

After a break, Valeria Franceschi gave a talk on ‘Culturally-loaded language and ELF: Idiomaticity in Cross-cultural student interaction in university settings’.

 

In examining a sample of 130 tokens, of which 103 types of idiomatic language had been identified (phrasal verbs and routine formulae were excluded from her definition of ‘idioms’), she demonstrated the following by categorizing idioms into social functions, communicative strategies and managing content (not ELF-related):

  • Frequent use of pragmatic markers noticed (kind of, like, something, something like that), and often used as a distancing device;
  • Idiom use was related to re-phrasing in communicative strategies: Repetition and rephrasing was used to increase explicitness;
  • Idioms were used to reinforce concepts, for topic introduction (cataphora), for gettings attention, and for buying the speaker time to think;
  • Idioms were used to mitigate criticism and potential face threats, and controversial topics;
  • Idioms used to build solidarity and social cohesion, often through use of humour;
  • These findings coincide with the VOICE corpus findings that pragmatic markers tend to cluster around the use of idioms.

Franceschi also found that speakers often signaled comprehension by backchannelling, and backchannel items were frequent in the data;

In the Q&A to Franceschi’s session, Mauranen  commented that if we relax our criteria as to what we consider idioms, we would see creative language use everywhere.  Marie-Luise Pitzl then questions how we draw the line between what is idiomatic and what isn’t and suggests that this line on its own could be seen as NS-normative.

 

Valeria Franceschi on Idiomaticity

The day ended for me with Milan Stanojevic’s research findings in her talk ‘Profiles of Successful and Less Successful Learners of English Pronunciation in Croatian Primary Schools’.

 

She found that…

Best pronouncers (using the Lingua France Core as a basis for measurement) were:

  • Not always the most highly motivated;
  • Knows what L1 Englishes there are;
  • Are aware of Global English;
  • Have extensive exposure to external sources such as uses of Web 2.0 tools e.g. Facebook, where they can interact and produce English.

 

Meanwhile, the less successful pronouncers were:

  • Not particularly motivated;
  • Completely unaware of inner circle Englishes (They think that English = England and that’s it);
  • Unaware of Global English;
  • Have only passive exposure to English, e.g. through songs and film.

 

Milan Stanojevic on Pronunciation

Suggesting future research possibilities that look into the question of whether a successful learner = a successful speaker, Stanojevic then goes on to ponder a question from the audience as to whether students from her monolingual Croatian class would use different pronunciation features when talking to other people who do not have the same L1, leaving the audience to think about the accommodation skills of our students when put in an intercultural scenario.

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A full day of useful research findings and lots to think about…

But meanwhile, I must go worry about the findings of my own research that I will be presenting tomorrow morning…

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No one has cracked a joke or shared a personal anecdote in the presentations I have seen today…this is a far cry from the TEFL talks that I am used to…

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Do I tweak my presentation so that I do it straight-laced?

Or should I stay as the mad hyperactive Chia that the TEFL world is more used to seeing?

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Funny how I am often told that I am too academic in the TEFL world, and now I feel like I am not academic enough…

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Neither here nor there…

A familiar feelings of diaspora sets in…

Or is it just nerves?

ELF 5 Part 2 – Teacher Education

The gorgeous view from the conference centre at Bogaziçi University

The elective sessions  at ELF5 are grouped into blocks of 2/3 speakers, each with about 30 minutes to present their research.

For the first elective session of the day, I chose 3 sessions on Teacher Education and ELF.

First up was Marie-Luise Pitzl’s talk – Preparing teachers for an ELF future: What we CAN tell them. Having read quite a few articles by Marie-Luise Pitzl, I found myself quite star-struck to sitting in front of her.

Quoting Dewey (2007), Pitzl reminds us that we can no longer regard language norms as fixed, pre-determined, and tied to a particular geographical or cultural centre, and that teachers should adopt a different approach to ELT, reassessing the way we select materials, methods, and approaches to testing, and promoting a pluralistic approach to competence and a flexible view of language.

On one hand, you have a global phenomenon,

And on the other, local contexts and local conditions.

And it is thus important to raise awareness amongst teachers and teacher trainees of this sociolinguistic reality and its teaching implications.

Marie-Luise Pitzl

Here, Pitzl outlines the ELF component of here teacher training course.

Aims

  1. Familiarising sts with core concepts (ENL, ESL, EFL, World Englishes, ELF, lang variation, variety, speech community)
  2. Intro some descriptive ELF findings and linking them to ELF local contexts.
  3. Raising awareness of what an ELF perspective might mean for ELT – shifting perspectives
  4. Giving sts the opportunity to try out diff cooperative teaching methods.
  5. Triggering reflective processes (on predominant NS models, own experience, own ideals, goals and standards discrepancies, challenges)

Course schedule

  1. Into and organizational matters
  2. The roles of English today – past and present developments, models for international English
  3. World English : Basic notions
  4. The ownership of English : From ENL, ESL, EFL, to ELF
  5. ELF description 1: Phonological characteristics – Intelligibility, the Lingua Franca Core and suggestions for teaching
  6. ELF Description 2: Lexico-grammatical characteristics: Processes of language variation and change (Jigsaw method)
  7. Implications for the conceptualization of ELF – variety
  8. Implications for ELT – Teaching ELF?
  9. ELF Pragmatics and Basic notions
  10. ELF Pragmatics : Negotiation of meaning and strategies for achieving understanding
  11. ELF Pragmatics: Correctness, effectiveness and multilingual repertoires
  12. ELF Pragmatics: Idioms, metaphors and metaphorical awareness
  13. ELF, teacher identity and communities of practice.

Activities used include Jigsaw activity (lexicogrammar, Interviews (teacher identity), Roleplays, etc.

Next up was Lili Cavalheiro on Bringing New ELT Policies and ELF to Teaching Training Courses.

 

Lili Cavalheiro

Aims for teaching ELF

  • To challenge the appropriateness of the NS model
  • Reconsider the inner circle as no longer providing the only adequate cultural content and the need to include materials from one’s own source culture
  • Critically analyse the cultural content and reflect on one’s own culture in relation to that of others as a crucial exercise.

While emphasizing the NNS teachers’ advantage of sharing common cultures and common goals with their learners, Cavalheiro reiterates Tim McNamara’s point made at the opening plenary about the inappropriacy of CEF descriptors, giving the following example:

C2 – Appreciates fully the sociolinguistics and sociocultural implications of language used by NSs and can react accordingly.

She then goes on to remind us of Seidlhofer (2011) paper on CEF’s lack of differentiation between the study of modern languages and EFL and ELF.

Still referencing Seidlhofer (2011), Cavalheiro then suggests that on a macro-level, teacher training courses should not only look at the nature of language and communication through language awareness, but also through communication strategies, intercultural communication, and sociolinguistics.

On a micro-level, we should take our teacher trainees’ context into consideration and develop a curriculum that fits into a more general framework of communication.

Last but not least, we should help trainees develop critical thinking of materials, and help them with not just what materials are being used, but how they are used.

The third presenter was Lucilla Lopriore speaking about ELF and Early Language Learning: Multi-lingualism, Language Policies and teacher Education

Lucilla Lopriore

 

Early introduction of English to YLs mean plurilingualism. This means that classrooms will no longer be monolingual.

Parents want a NS teacher because they think it means their kids would pick up the ‘right’ pronunciation.

Multilingualism in Europe

The primary classroom population in Europe is mainly multilingual and multicultural.

The realities of early language learning implementation vary widely due to variety of factors:

  • National language policies
  • The assumption that earlier is better
  • Parental pressure
  • New media (access to foreign lang through the internet)
  • NNS teachers
  • Emerging new literacies

(Hoffman 2000, Edelenbos et al 2006 etc)

She appropriately draws the 3 sessions to a close with a quote from Henry Widdowson (2012):

The first step is to raise awareness of teachers that there is an alternative way of thinking about the subject they teach, based on an understanding of English as a lingua franca. We need to overhaul our descriptive systems and deconstruct our established concepts…and this involves quite a radical re-thinking about the relationship between what we know about the language and what we do with it…between the teaching and learning of the language as a subject.’

ELF 5 Part 1 – Opening Plenary by Tim McNamara

Opening the conference : Music as a Lingua Franca


The ELF conference starts today in Istanbul, Turkey, at the gorgeous Bogazici University.

After a smooth registration and a few welcoming opening speeches, Professor Tim McNamara delivers his opening plenary on Assessment and ELF.

Here is a summary.

Previously, much has been written about ELF and testing.

Jenkins (2006) challenged Cambridge in resisting implications of ELF.

Taylor (2006) wrote about the difficulties and challenges with applying ELF to testing.

Leung & Jenkins have recently stressed again the importance of recognizing ELF in language testing (in press).

Critique on how criteria of language testing has acted as a roadblock has also been articulated by Seidlhofer.

e.g.

Here are some surprising descriptions in the CEF descriptions

B2       Conversation – Can sustain relationship with NS without unintentionally amusing or irritating them or requiting them to behave other than they would with a NS.

B2       Informal Discussion with Friends – Can keep up with an animated discussion between NS.

Whole section on ‘Understanding conversation between NS’ in CEFR, with no description for those of A1 level (as if to say forget about it).

Assumptions are that

–       The interlocutors are assumed to be NS

–       The responsibility for successful communication is held to lie with the NNS

–       English treated only as a foreign language, like other foreign languages (Seidlhofer, 2011)

Instead

What would ELF test look like (Harding, 2011)

–       Ability to tolerate and comprehend diff varieties of English

–       Abiltiy ot negotiate meaning

–       Ability to use Phonological features crucial for intelligibility

–       Awareness of appropriate pragmatics

–       Ability to accommodate

These are reflected in ICAO language proficiency requirements

Because international aviation is an ELF setting,

And air traffic controller communication with pilot, either of whom may be NNS.

Simultaneous communication going on between single air traffic controller and several pilots.

Recognition of ELF character of communication : compulsory requirements

1. Standard radiotelephony phraseology: Standardized set of words and phrases for use in all routine communication (restricted language)

2. Plain language:

  • The spontaneous creative and non-coded use of a given natural language used only when standardized phraseology cannot serve an intended transmission.
  • User with high prof must accommodate their uses of English
  • Use of a lot of repetition verbatim e.g. readback and hearback

ICAO’s analysis of language as a factor in fatal avaiation accidents

–       incorrect use of standardized phraseology

–       lack of plain language prof

–       the use of more than one language in the same airspace
Thus ICAO prof test policy

Criteria : Pronunciation, structure, vocab, fluency, comprehension and interactions.

If NS, then immediately highest level and not need to test

Lack of faith in validity of tests and policy

Doing the ICAO tests in

Korea:

–       Test content in multiple versions published online

–       Repeated attempts allowed until version prepared for appeared

–       All personnel now compliant

Japan

–       Professionally made test for Level 4 rejected

–       80% of personnel would lose jobs

–       Easier test used

–       All personnel now complaint

Study into miscommunication (fatal!) in Korea

–       Miscommunication due to failure of NS to adhere to ICAO policies

–       Use of fixed phrases vs spontaneous speech

–       Accent, word choice, speed of NS pilots.

–       Preference of Korean pilots for communicating with  Japanese ATCs, *(because the Japanese adhere to ICAO convention with  meticulous precision) cf problems in US,  e.g.LAX

–       Miscommunication often due to NS waffling, or lack of professional competence (he didn’t know about the adjacent airways).

–       An experienced controller is able to know what is happening with just one word.

Tim McNamara on Professional Competence affecting Communicative Effectiveness

Lack of validity with ICAO prof tests (and designers are NSs)

Strong performance criteria

–       Judging performance against real-world criteria

–       Incorporating ability for use (Hymes 1972)

–       Testing all participants (NS and NNS)

Weak performance criteria:

–       Focus on lang prof alone, narrowly conceived

–       Judging against lang criteria only

–       e.g. using ELF stimulus material in listening

–       cf Korean pilots pre for new destinations by listening to Vietnamese voices.

Tests need to:

–       Define difficulty/ability measurement continuum

–       The more challenging the task that a person can manage, the higher their ability.

–       Ability and difficulty are measured on a single scale

–       Cf high jump – ability expressed in terms of the height of the bar.

Test takers need to :

–       Negotiate

–       Deal with variation

–       Accommodate

–       Repair

–       But traditional criteria still used

–       Issue of pairing –cf diving – build in ‘degree of difficulty’?

–       Issue of distinguishing contributions of individuals for score reporting purposes.

Assessing NS Perf

–       Research on NS performance on communicative tests (Most NS can’t get 9 on IELTS)

–       Problem of requiring NS to be tested

–       Problem of motivation – hospital example – assessment of moral qualities.

Conclusion:

Thinking about testing and ELF raises broader issue in language testing: performance tests.

Cost and complexity of performance tests have seen return of indirect measures. E.g. in Pearson Test of automated assessment of speech – NS norms central

There are constructive directions in language testing research which can inform ELF testing

But change won’t happen without a struggle – we may be in for a long wait

.

At the end of his talk, Ana Mauranen says the issue of testing NSs is a valid one, so as to ensure equal starting point.

Tim McNamara answers: NS have a strong political & social advantage so do not expect them to give it up without a fight.

Another audience member asks how he seems to be talking about specific purpose testing. But what about general English testing?

His answer: We can apply specific purpose context to general context. e.g. emphasis on communicative competence, ability to accommodate with our language use and accents, etc.

And with this opening plenary, ELF5 is now in full swing…