Andy Kirkpatrick on ‘ELF in Asia – Roles and Implications’
Historically, Malay was a lingua franca, and Bahasa Indonesia and Putonghua (Chinese) were lingua francas in quite different ways. Only 2% spoke Bahasa Indonesia although it was adopted as first language in Indonesia in the 1940s. Today, more than 70% would say they speak Bahasa Indonesia. But this means that other Indonesian languages and cultures are under threat as a result.
Putonghua is completely different
China is multi-ethnic and multilingual.
54 official national minority groups speaking many more than 54 languages.
7 major Chinese languages (with many sub dialects etc)
The language of the powerful has been adopted as the lingua franca.
ASEAN represent political, cultural and historical diversity.
Local Asian students are only learning their language + English, and not learning regional languages.
The ASEAN Charter states that they aim to promote diversity but then states they want unity…which is often obtained at the expense of diversity.
Andy Kirkpatrick stresses that although English being used as a lingua franca in Asian is almost a truism, we must be careful of subtractive multi-lingualism.
David Graddol follows on from Kirkpatrick on ‘How Economic Change can shape the future of ELF’ by talking about the economic expansion in Asia, using the Pearl River Delta economy.
- It is regarded as the factory of the world where a high proportion of the world’s electronic goods, garments, shoes, toys etc are made.
- Foxconn, who assemble computers and phones (eg iPhone) employs 450,000 in Shenzhen
- This economy is premised on the availability of huge numbers of cheap workers.
- There is a close relationship between the SARS (HongKong, Macau) and the mainland border areas (especially SEX’s) such as Shenzhen.
CEFR Global Scale
Although we’ve been cruxifying CEF this conference, Graddol says it is revolutionary on its own because it focuses on ‘can-do’ statements and language skills.
- Is the CEFR anglo-centric? Does it embody ideas about language learning which are rooted in the EFL experience? (50th anniversary of Haycraft’s Teacher Training course at IH London)
- Is the CEFR too euro-centric? It is based on European contexts of language learning.
- Is the CEFR based on the NS norms?
- The history of the CEFR explains some of the current biases in the CEFR but more can be renegotiated than may be assured.
David Graddol then looks at how CEF is being renegotiated.
- CEFR is intended to be an instrument which is defined locally for specific purposes
- The CEFR levels are instantiated by particular course and exams.
- The functional level descriptors are in principle (but not in practice) ELF-neutral
- The ELF community could attempt new descriptors which embody ELF notions.
- There is already currently a huge research project underway.
A1 Can understand and use basic phrases related to familiar topics if the other person talks slowly and helps.
A2 Can understand sentences and common expressinos can communicate in simple and direct exchange of information related to routine and familiar situations.
Both these A level descriptors suggest ELF phenomena, but note that bot A1 and A2 levels have been primarily thought of as learner levels, as opposed to L2 user levels.
Level B is defines as the ‘independent user’ i.e. the first level at which users can successfully negotiate meaning without relying on an interlocutor of higher proficiency for support.
C1 has emerged as the key threshold for professional communication. C1 users are able to manage meanings with precision, not always in interactive contexts, At present, NS norms appear strongly in descriptors at this level.
CEFR started with the B1 level and C level descriptors are only now being fully elaborated. Is there a role for ELF?
Many call-centre workers are recruited at B1, trained along the way to B2, and eventually with experience and time, get to C1. When we get choices on the phone e.g. ‘If you need xyz, Press 1. If you want to leave us, Press 2, etc’, we are then put through to different call centre workers with differing levels of English dependent on how difficult the negotiation is likely to be. This is due to the fact that managers need to consider how much they can pay their workers and may not afford higher level English speakers.
We are seeing a number of different economic trends, many of them demanding a high level of English.
The global economic is hastening the shift away from manufacturing towards services.
Primary sector jobs are dropping but this is the sector that doesn’t need ELF.
The Secondary sector grew but is now declining.
What is growing is the Quartenary sector, and here, high levels of English competence is needed.
Interestingly, people who have A and C levels of the CEFR is increasing in demand, and it is the ones with the B levels which are less needed.
Does this mean that mid-intermediate students suffering from ‘mid-int-nigtis’ need to buck up and get to C1?