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?

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