Local Mind, Global Practice: ELT in |
the Context of Globalization
Le Van Canh, M.A.
Because English is the lingua franca of our digital age, English
language teaching must change and adapt to the new realities.
The world in which we live is becoming increasingly knowledge is the crux of tomorrow’s worldwide strug-
Ever-evolving technological advancements gle for power in every human institution. He who con-
have increased the speed and efficiency of interna- trols access to knowledge has power” (p. 20). From this
tional communication, bringing together diverse com- perspective, education and access to information is
munities and cultures as never before. In a world in now as important to us as access to land and capital was
which distance no longer prevents instantaneous com- for earlier generations. The advancement of information
munication between nations, the ability to negotiate and communication technology, known as the
other cultural traditions, value systems, and lan- “Information Revolution” or the “Third Wave,” has
guages has become a vital component of education.
opened the door to the possibilities of a knowledge-
– Rachel Burke based economy in which information and knowledge
replace capital and energy as the primary wealth-creat-
ing assets, just as the latter two replaced land and labor
200 years ago. This revolution, however, accelerates the
Globalization is a reality that for better or worse has process of globalization and widens the gap in the
become a catchphrase. It touches our lives in ways most development of human resources as well as the ability
of us never stop to think about. The term was first heard to access knowledge and technology, creating the so-
in the 1980s, implying a phenomenon in which capital- called “digital divide.” This term was first coined in 1995
ized systems have encompassed entire nations and by Lloyd Morrisett, the former President of the Markle
regions. Although globalization is not confined to eco- Foundation, to refer to the gap between those who con-
nomics and the marketplace, it is generalized as a trol technological and media resources and those who
process that facilitates interaction among countries do not have access to technological know-how (Carnoy,
through the transnational flow of goods and services, Castells, Cohen, and Cardoso).
capital, and technology. The rise of the Internet and
As South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has stated
recent advances in telecommunications have boosted (p. 11):
this already surging train loaded with both hopes and In the age of knowledge-based economies, the gap
fears. Supporters are hopeful of increased global flows in information capabilities among nations created
of capital and investment, as well as increased informa- a rapidly widening gulf between the rich and
tion exchange leading to a greater understanding of the poor. If we ignore this phenomenon, the gap
other cultures, while critics are fearful of increased between the advanced and developing nations will be
exclusion, economic inequalities, educational dispari- widened further.
ties, knowledge gaps, environmental deterioration, and
threats to national cultures and identities.
Similarly, the British Prime Minister,Tony Blair, wrote in
We are undergoing the most significant change ever a foreword to a White Paper on International
experienced in human history. We have moved from the Development (p. 6):
“agricultural age” through the “industrial age” and into Globalization creates unprecedented new opportuni-
the “information age,”in which those who have access to ties and risks. If the poorest countries can be drawn
information and the ability to process it are likely to be into the global economy and get increasing access to
the most successful. Toffler states that knowledge is the modern technology, it could lead to a rapid reduction
key to power in today’s society:
“The control of
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in global poverty—as well as bringing new trade and
There is no doubt that technological capacity—the
investment opportunities for all. But if this is not
ability to assess, select, adapt, use, and develop new tech-
done, the poorest countries will become more margin-
nologies—is becoming a critical determinant in a coun-
alised, and suffering and division will grow.
try’s prospects for economic competitivenesss.
Individuals from rich and poor countries alike have to be
equipped with relevant knowledge, skills, and tools for
acquiring, transferring, adapting, and disseminating
Language, described in economic terms, is an essen-
knowledge generated elsewhere.
tial input to the output of communication, which may
unlimited use of information. Since English is the primary
be a final product for its own sake or an input to other
language of cyberspace, to be unable to communicate in
economic activities. Communication is a critical input
English either verbally or on the Internet is to be denied
to all coordinating activities in the economy. As a lingua
the tools required to lift oneself up, and to miss the
franca of the past century and the new millennium,
opportunity to participate in the discourses which lead
English is one of the most important means for acquir-
oneself forward (Honey). In our digital and networked
ing access to the world’s intellectual and technical
society, a command of English must be considered part of
resources. Though Shaw recognizes it as a legacy of
“digital literacy” or “network literacy” that every member
British colonialism, and Phillipson calls the teaching of
of society needs to have to get on in the world.
English a form of linguistic imperialism, English has
The status of English as a global language highlights
become a viable candidate for the world’s most impor-
the need for a new approach to English language teach-
tant international language (Kachru). In many parts of
ing. Underlying this approach is the assumption that we
the world,“it is a local product, taught in ways that suit
are teaching English as a means of global communica-
those cultures” (Harmer).
tion to enable people to communicate better in the
At this point in history, English is the preeminent
global village. The fact that a majority of people use
language of world communication. It is used as a library
English as a lingua franca in order to communicate with
language; as the medium of science, technology and
other people who also speak English as a foreign lan-
international trade; and as a contact language between
guage makes it necessary to reconceptualize English lan-
nations and parts of nations. We have all heard the
guage teaching in light of discussions of English in its
amazing facts about how widely English is used:
global context. This is necessary to overcome the taken-
Leading-edge technology has been largely English lan-
for-granted assumption that Hymes notes (pp. 4-5):
guage-based and English is the medium of communica-
[A]n “ethnolinguistic” unit, that is, the boundaries of a
tion with others in the cyberspace community
language, a culture, and a people were seen as identi-
(Graddol). Three-quarters of the world’s e-mail is in
cal. One spoke typically of one people, one culture, and
English and about 80% of the world’s electronically-
one language by one name: the Crow, the Crow cul-
stored information is also currently in English (Crystal).
ture, the Crow language.
English is the working language of the Asian trade group
ASEAN and the official language of the European Central
Teaching English for Global Communication
Given the role English plays as the de facto language
Recent decades have seen the spread of English
of choice for communication between the various peo-
worldwide as the lingua franca for economic and scien-
ples of the world, most learners want to learn English in
tific exchange. Scientists who want to interact within
order to have access to information and interaction with
the global village or have access to research findings
others. The ability to use English is an empowering tool
available on the Internet must have a good working
which increases access for professionals—especially
knowledge of the language (Modiano). This fact about
those working in developing countries—to technology,
English has fueled the teaching of English across the
information, and professional development. English
world. David Nunan asserts: “In fact, with the spread of
teaching is, therefore, the ultimate capacity-building tool
globalization and the rapid expansion of information
in the sense that it enables learners to access more
technologies has come an explosion in the demand for
advanced and up-to-date resources than they can in their
English worldwide”(p. 3). The worldwide growing inter-
est in English, as well as advancements in information
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and communication technologies, call for a paradigm
with native speakers. According to Kachru’s data, non-
shift in English language teaching toward learner-
native speakers outnumber native speakers by far, and it
tailored and differentiated methodologies. These will be
is reasonable to extrapolate from this that transactions
developed and inspired by the new medium and learn-
and interactions in English among non-native speakers
outnumber those involving native speakers (p. 20).
The traditional aim of teaching and learning English
Yoneoka asserts that in the twenty-first century, “it is
is expressed by Smith as follows (p. xi):
vital for English to be recognized and appreciated as a
‘salad bowl’ of varieties by native and non-native speak-
In EFL and ESL, English is regarded as the sole proper-
ers alike” (p. 3). The fact that so-called non-standard
ty of its native speakers and the focus is on interna-
English is being used more extensively in world business
tional communication between a native speaker and
and travel, as well as intercultural and interpersonal rela-
a non-native speaker. It is assumed that the non-
tions, calls for a shift of focus in pedagogy to respond to
native English speaker should work towards a native
the spread of English as an international language.
speaker’s communicative competence.
The teaching of English as a means of global com-
Sridhar takes a similar position. He states (p. 101):
munication complicates the issues of cultural norms and
grammatical standards. English is learned by people of
It was just assumed that English is learned to interact
different linguistic, professional, and cultural back-
with native speakers of the language, and to imbibe
grounds under different circumstances and for different
Anglo-American culture. So the native standards were
purposes. Smith defines an international language as
the norm, the native customs and concerns provided
“one which is used by people of different nations to
the content of teaching materials.
communicate with one another” (p. 38). He maintains
This assumption once dominated the choice of
that since the ownership of an international language is
teaching materials, teaching methodologies, and assess-
“de-nationalized” and the goal of learning it is to enable
ment methods, but it is no longer valid in the context of
learners to communicate their ideas and culture to oth-
globalization. The ways in which people interact and
ers, therefore learners do not need to learn the cultural
access and exchange information have changed. New
norms of native speakers.
genres and environments create new environments for
Linguist Braj Kachru has represented the spread of
communication: server mailing lists, newsgroups, chat
English around the world by three concentric circles:
channels, videoconferencing, and so on. As electronic
The inner circle refers to countries where English is the
communication becomes more convenient and popular,
primary language, the middle circle to countries which
literacy is increasingly found in these new media rather
have adopted English as their second language, and the
than in paper media. Warschauer points out that new lit-
outermost circle to nations which use English as an
eracy skills required by the information age include
international language. This model implies that native
online writing; critical, active, and interpretive reading
speakers and native-speaking countries determine how
(including reading of hypertexts); and the ability to
English is used, and so it no longer reflects the realities
argue persuasively. All of these have significant implica-
of the global use of English. Since new regional varieties
tions for the teaching of English.
of English—such as European English,Asian English, and
In the contemporary world, there are many
African English—have evolved, the center of gravity is
“Englishes” which acknowledge values and differences
moving away from native speakers to non-native speak-
in phonology, lexis, syntax, and pragmatics. If English is
ers (Graddol). The advantages of native speakers—who
to be learned by the entire world, non-native contexts
are traditionally believed to be the “custodians and
must be considered to be more important. This is
arbiters not only of proper English but of proper peda-
because non-native speakers do not interact primarily
gogy as well” (Widdowson, p. 387)—are eliminated
The teaching of English as a means of global communication
complicates the issues of cultural norms and grammatical standards.
— 38 —
when English teaching focuses on international con-
taught is correct in order to make themselves under-
texts. Users of English no longer look to Britain or the
stood to interlocutors from around the world. In such
United States for norms of correctness and appropriate-
circumstances, narrow emphases on the observance of
ness, and the definition of standard English is according-
decontextualized rules will serve learners poorly.
ly challenged. Warschauer eloquently says that “it would
This fact calls for the adoption of a more functional or
be rather odd to insist that all learners adapt to a British
use-based approach to language teaching, one which
or North American model when L2 speakers increasing-
views language as a means of social interaction and
ly use English to speak to other L2 speakers rather than
emphasizes the role of social structure in determining
to native speakers of the language” (p. 513).
language form and function. One functional approach
The growing role of different varieties of English has
worth considering is that of M.A. K. Halliday, whose view
two important implications for the teaching of English
of the language system is firmly situated within the
as an international language for global communication.
entire social system or cultural context. Halliday empha-
First, the decision on what variety of English is to be
sizes that every text created by a language user involves
taught and how it is to be taught must be made with ref-
three functions: interpersonal, ideational, and textual.
erence to learners’ needs and contexts. Second, the abil-
While the interpersonal function is related to social rela-
ity to understand native speakers does not guarantee
tionships and individual identity, the ideational function
success in communicating with non-native speakers.
has to do with meaning potential or what the speaker
For this reason, learners need to be exposed to different
wishes to say. The textual function refers to a language
varieties of English used by non-native speakers. This
user’s ability to construct recognizable and situational
position is supported by Smith and Bisazza, who con-
clude their study (p. 269):
The pragmatic use of a language changes with time
It seems clear from this study that one’s English is
and place. In other words, language usage is formed
more comprehensible to those people who have had
over time by its very use. Local hybrids of English used
active exposure to it. In today’s world with English
in local contexts will foster linguistic diversity, while the
being used frequently by non-native speakers to com-
perceived need for mutual intelligibility among users of
municate with other non-native speakers, this study
English will foster standardization. By “standardization,”
gives evidence of a need for learners of English to have
I do not mean the following of British English or
greater exposure to non-native varieties of English.
American English standards, but international standards
The assumption that non-native learners of English
or standard Englishes that are or will be commonly
will be able to comprehend fluent non-native speakers
accepted in the global village. This kind of standardiza-
if they understand native speakers is clearly not cor-
tion will be achieved if non-native learners and non-
rect. They need exposure to both native and non-
native teachers have adequate exposure to world
native varieties in order to improve understanding
Englishes. Kramsch argues that native speakers do not
speak an idealized, standardized version of their own
language, and she questions why learners of a foreign
With regard to the diversity of English as a global
language, who have multilingual perspectives on the tar-
language, David Nunan summarizes: “This diversity
get language, its literature, and culture, should emulate
reflects the global spread of English—a trend that has
the idealized, non-existent native speaker. According to
been accelerated by globalization” (p. 3). Because of this
Kramsch, native speakership is neither a privilege of
diversity, English teachers should change their concepts
birth nor of education, but “acceptance by the group
of what is considered “correct language.” Phonetically,
that created the distinction between native and nonna-
“the acquisition of native-like accent is no longer to be
tive speakers” (p. 363).
considered the ultimate objective of the majority of the
Obviously, then, the dichotomy between native
learners” (Jenkins), although it is critical that interna-
speaker teachers and non-native speaker teachers of
tional intelligibility be upheld.
English is false. For Medgyes, non-native English-speak-
As far as syntactical and lexical standards are con-
ing teachers have several advantages over their native-
cerned,Warschauer argues (p. 515):
speaking counterparts. He points out that non-native
In the twenty-first century, speakers of English may
teachers can serve as models of good language learners,
increasingly need to diverge from what they have been
teach learning strategies effectively, provide learners
— 39 —
with complete information about English grammar,
teachers and curriculum and materials developers to
understand the difficulties learners will encounter, and
recognize that English is shared among various groups
speak the learner’s mother tongue. Non-native English-
of non-native speakers, rather than dominated by British
speaking teachers therefore have no reason to feel infe-
or American native speakers. Such a perspective pro-
rior, but instead should feel proud of their status as
vides a theoretical and practical backdrop for all stake-
holders in the English language teaching enterprise. The
linguistic diversity of English as a global language makes
it necessary for local teachers to develop the language
awareness of their students, as well as to decide which
While globalization has become an international
variety of English is to be taught and which cultural and
and intranational force, it is an inherently anxiety-pro-
discourse conventions are to be reflected. Now that the
voking term. Many fear that it is potentially American-
goals of students who learn English for wider communi-
centric with negative characteristics. Motivated by eco-
cation are increasingly interpreted with respect to their
nomic forces and driven by digital technologies and
needs and purposes, there is a need for a theoretical
communication, globalization links individuals and insti-
framework on which a use-based approach to language
tutions across the world with unprecedented intercon-
teaching is grounded.
nection and immediacy. In doing so, it in some ways
In addition, there must be a paradigm shift from
democratizes and intensifies interdependence, and in
teaching the traditional linguistic skills, including vocab-
other ways it creates new forms of local reaction and
ulary and grammar, toward developing students’“critical
self-definition. While it may spread certain freedoms,
literacies in multiple media and genres” (Warschauer, p.
higher living standards, and a sense of international relat-
530) so that they are able to use English not only to
edness, it also threatens the globe with a conformist, uni-
access information and knowledge but also to negotiate
versal economy and culture rooted in North America
their own and other cultural traditions and value sys-
and Western ideas and interests.
tems, express their identities, and make their voices
The spread of English on a global scale, attributed to
heard. English must be taught both as an integrative dis-
globalization, provides a new paradigm in the relation-
course and an empowering discourse through a cur-
ships among linguistics and language teaching theory
riculum that reflects the cultures, values, and lives of stu-
and methodology. Since the landscape of English lan-
dents and provides them with knowledge of the cultur-
guage teaching has changed, it is highly important for
al values and daily lives of the people with whom they
English language teachers to be aware of the status and
are likely to interact. Such a perspective emphasizes
functions of world Englishes now and in the future.
both basic linguistic skills and intercultural understand-
Given the fact that there is not one English, but many
ing and communication. If governments fear that the
Englishes, it is increasingly important to expose our stu-
teaching of English will imbue their younger generations
dents to features of many varieties of English. With
with exotic cultural values and ways of thinking, they
increasing globalization, we can expect more interac-
should invest more in professional development of local
tions among non-native English speakers who use
English language teachers instead of importing native-
English as a lingua franca. There is a need for explorato-
speaking teachers and externally developed materials.
ry research and for pedagogical materials to prepare stu-
Castells argues: “We are not living in a global village,
dents to interact with non-native English speakers from
but in customized cottages globally produced and local-
non-Western cultures, whose interactional styles may be
ly distributed” (p. 341). This is true. Localization is a nat-
very distinct, both from those of the students and those
ural outgrowth of globalization. If globalization increas-
of native English speakers.
es the demand for a single lingua franca, such as English,
In terms of teaching methodology, it is critical for
localization will lead to the emergence of a regional
The spread of English on a global scale...
provides a new paradigm in the relationships among
linguistics and language teaching theory and methodology.
— 40 —
This has been happening already.
State University Press, 1993.
Localization, by enhancing the role of a region, places
Castells, M. The Rise of the Network Society. Basil
greater emphasis on regional varieties of English. In this
sense, it is critical to encourage teachers and students to
adjust their attitude toward English. Instead of looking
Crystal, D. English as a Global Language. Cambridge
to British or North American models of teaching and
University Press, 1997.
learning, regional cooperation in developing and Graddol, D. The Future of English? British Council,
promoting a regional variety of English would make
Warschauer concludes his thought-provoking paper
“Language Structure and Language
Function.” In New Horizons in Linguistics. Ed. J. Lyons.
Penguin Books, 1970.
If the central contradiction of the twenty-first century
is between global networks and local identities,
Harmer, J. “Linguistic Imperialism? It Isn’t Quite That
English is a tool of both. It connects people around the
Simple.” EL Gazette, p. 8,April 2001.
world and provides a means to struggle to give mean-
Honey, J. Language Is Power: The Story of Standard
ing to those connections. If English is imposing the
English and Its Enemies. Faber and Faber, 1997.
world on our students, we as TESOL professionals can
enable them, through English, to impose their voices
Hymes, D. “The Anthropology of Communication.” In
on the world.
Human Communication Theory: Original Essays. Ed.
F.E.X. Dance. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.
This can be achieved if EFL teachers and teacher educa-
tors think systematically about our changing world and
Jenkins, J. “Which Pronunciation Norms and Models for
the perspectives that we and people different from our-
English as an International Language?” ELT Journal 52
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thinking will become more significant in this era of
Kachru, B.B. “Models for Non-Native Englishes.” In The
increasing interconnections and dynamic global change.
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Specifically, we, non-native English-speaking teachers,
should know how to take a critical approach to materi-
als development and classroom pedagogy, as well as
Kachru, B.B., and C.L. Nelson. “World Englishes.” In
how to increase the metalinguistic awareness of our stu-
Analyzing English in a Global Context: A Reader. Ed.
dents. We must also take interest in whether govern-
A. Burns and C. Coffin. Routledge, 2001.
ments have appropriate language policies and are allo-
Kim Dae-jung. “Communication and Cooperation to
cating funding to develop locally appropriate English
Achieve World Peace.” Speech at the Nobel Peace Prize
language curricula. In short, it is vital that all stakehold-
Symposium held in Oslo, Norway on December 6, 2001.
ers in the EFL enterprise act upon the motto: “Local
Korean Information Service, 2001.
mind, global practice.”
Kramsch, C. “The Privilege of the Nonnative Speaker.”
PMLA 112, pp. 359-369, 1997.
Blair,T. Foreword to “Eliminating World Poverty: Making
Medgyes, P. “Native or Non-Native:Who’s Worth More?”
Globalization Work for the Poor.”
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In Readings in English as an International Language.
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Do Thi Quy Thu
World Englishes. Ed. L.E. Smith. Prentice Hall, pp. xi-xii,
Goal: Review present simple and past
simple verb tenses, and practice
Sridar, K.K. “Review of Readings in English as an
making sentences using these forms.
International Language.” RELC Journal 16, pp. 101-
The teacher draws a tic-tac-toe (or “noughts
and crosses,” as the British say) grid on the
Toffler,A. Powershift. Bantam Books, 1990.
blackboard (sample below). Ask students to
fill in the squares in the grid with target
Yoneoka, J. Englishes of the World. Sanshusha, 2000.
verbs (present simple tense).
Wallraff, B. “What Global Language?” Atlantic Monthly,
eat go teach
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Future of English Teaching.” TESOL Quarterly 34 (3), pp.
watch love make
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read tell drink
Quarterly 28, pp. 377-388, 1994.
This article was originally presented on May 31, 2002,
Divide the class into two teams. Each
as a paper at the International University Conference
team will have 20 seconds to choose a par-
on Globalization & Diversity: Towards an Era of
ticular square and produce a correct sen-
tence using the verb on that square. If they
Symbiosis, held at Kumamoto Gakuen University in
take longer than 20 seconds, they lose their
turn and the other team gets a chance. If
they produce a sentence, ask the other team
to judge whether it is correct or not. If it is
Le Van Canh (M.A., TESOL, St. Michael’s College) is the
correct, the team can put an X (cross) or an
Director of the International Relations Office of the
O (nought) in the square. In either case, the
College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National
other team gets a turn next. The team that
University, Hanoi, where he is also involved in teaching
first gets a row of three Xs or Os in any
and teacher education. He started his teaching career in
direction wins the first part of the game.
For the second part, ask students to
1979, has done many conference presentations and
give the past simple form of the same verbs
articles, and is currently completing an Ed.D. with La
and make sentences for them. Then proceed
Trobe University in Australia. His professional interests
in the same way as before. Awarding prizes
include second language acquisition, language pedagogy
can increase motivation.
Do not neglect
in Asian contexts, and teachers’ professional develop-
a smaller prize for the losers for the sake
He has contributed two previous articles to
Teacher’s Edition, and is a featured speaker this month
at the 1st Annual Asia TEFL International Conference in
This activity is based on one in Grammar
Busan, South Korea.
Games, by Mario Rinvolucri, Cambridge
University Press, 1984, pages 13-14.
Do Thi Quy Thu is in her third year of
teaching English at Hue University of
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