Dont teach standard English to foreign language students, linguist urges

The guy below is off his head. He is right that English is used in many nations in a way that diverges from standard English but have you ever tried to understand (say) Indian English? It can get close to impossible. I have even seen signs up outside shops in Bombay saying Indian English only spoken here. The Indians themselves know the difficulties concerned. If the aim is to communicate with other English-speakers, standard English must be taught, despite small differences between British and American usage.


The very idea of there being a standard English will no doubt arouse great huffing and puffing from the guy below but if there is no such thing, how come these comments written in Australia will be completely understood in the USA, the UK, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand places literally worlds apart?

Update: I suppose that the linguist below MAY simply have been speaking about the accent that is taught, though it does not appear so. Accents CAN indeed be a problem. A Northern English person who visited a shop in the South and asked for booblegoom (where oo is pronounced as in look), could well be not understood at all even if all he wanted was bubble gum.


But in practice that problem rarely arises. Most English learners outside Britain itself learn a generic version of American English pronunciation

People learning the English language around the world should not adopt the Queens English, a linguist said today.

Dr Mario Saraceni, of the University of Portsmouth, called on native English speakers to give up their claim to be the guardians of the purest form of the language.

He argued that the ways it has been used and changed by millions of people around the world are equally valid.

Writing in the latest issue of the journal Changing English, he suggests the way English is taught to non-native speakers, but whose mother tongue is English, needs a dramatic change. He said: Its important the psychological umbilical cord linking English to its arbitrary centre in England is cut. The English are not the only legitimate owners of the language.

English is the most dominant language on the planet and though it is spoken widely in the western world, westerners are in the minority of English language speakers.

For many around the world, the ability to speak English has become as important as knowing how to use a computer. But the myth of the idealised native speaker needs to be abandoned. How it is spoken by others should not be seen as second best.

Dr Saraceni, of the School of Languages and Area Studies, said it was time English language teachers abroad took down posters of double-decker buses and Parliament Square from their classrooms and taught English in a purely local context.

He said: Critics might feel uncomfortable with what they see as a laissez-faire attitude but language use is not about getting closer to the home of English, and it is not about bowing deferentially and self-consciously to the so-called superiority of the inner circle of the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand.

According to Dr Saraceni, the widely-held view that English has spread around the world from its original birthplace in England can be challenged.

He said: The idea seems natural and unquestionable, but if you examine it closer it is patently untrue. It is impossible to identify any point in history or geography where the English language started one can talk only of phases of development.

The origins of English are not to be found in the idea of it spreading from the centre to the periphery, but in multiple, simultaneous origins. The concept of a single version of any language is always questionable.

Dr Saraceni said that English had been reincarnated throughout the world, including in Malaysia, India, China and Nigeria, and therefore England should not be seen as the linguistic garden of Eden where the language was pure and perfect.

The de-Anglicisation of English needs to take place primarily in classrooms and the whole mystique of the native speaker and mother tongue should be quietly dropped from the linguists set of myths about the language, he said.


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