Thursday, September 24, 2009
Below is the complete article from the Financial Times, UK about the direction that English is changing as it becomes the main lingua franca of the world. Some of the observations and predictions are surprising and revealing.
Will English be a victim of its own success? Will it be fragmented and become dialects/varieties of English with the various groups of people who adopt it as their own first, second or third language?
The direction that English will go in the next 50 years will be anyone's guess but the signs are showing that it may just be one of the main communication languages.
By Michael Skapinker
Published: November 8 2007 19:55 | Last updated: November 8 2007 19:55
Chung Dong-young, a former television anchorman and candidate to be president of South Korea, may be behind in the opinion polls but one of his campaign commitments is eye-catching. If elected, he promises a vast increase in English teaching so that young Koreans do not have to go abroad to learn the language. The country needed to “solve the problem of families separated for English learning”, the Korea Times reported him saying.
In China, Yu Minhong has turned New Oriental, the company he founded, into the country’s biggest provider of private education, with more than 1m students over the past financial year, the overwhelming majority learning English. In Chile, the government has said it wants its population to be bilingual in English and Spanish within a generation.
No one is certain how many people are learning English. Ten years ago, the British Council thought it was around 1bn. A report, English Next, published by the council last year, forecast that the number of English learners would probably peak at around 2bn in 10-15 years.
How many people already speak English? David Crystal, one of the world’s leading experts on the language and author of more than 100 books on the subject, estimates that 1.5bn people – around one-quarter of the world’s population – can communicate reasonably well in English.
Latin was once the shared language over a vast area, but that was only in Europe and North Africa. Never in recorded history has a language been as widely spoken as English is today. The reason millions are learning it is simple: it is the language of international business and therefore the key to prosperity. It is not just that Microsoft, Google and Vodafone conduct their business in English; it is the language in which Chinese speak to Brazilians and Germans to Indonesians.
David Graddol, the author of English Next, says it is tempting to view the story of English as a triumph for its native speakers in North America, the British Isles and Australasia – but that would be a mistake. Global English has entered a more complex phase, changing in ways that the older English-speaking countries cannot control and might not like.
Commentators on global English ask three principal questions. First, is English likely to be challenged by other fast-growing languages such as Mandarin, Spanish or Arabic? Second, as English spreads and is influenced by local languages, could it fragment, as Latin did into Italian and French – or might it survive but spawn new languages, as German did with Dutch and Swedish? Third, if English does retain a standard character that allows it to continue being understood everywhere, will the standard be that of the old English-speaking world or something new and different?
Mr Graddol says the idea of English being supplanted as the world language is not fanciful. About 50 years ago, English had more native speakers than any language except Mandarin. Today both Spanish and Hindi-Urdu have as many native speakers as English does. By the middle of this century, English could fall into fifth place behind Arabic in the numbers who speak it as a first language.
Some believe English will survive because it has a natural advantage: it is easy to learn. Apart from a pesky “s” at the end of the present tense third person singular (“she runs”), verbs remain unchanged no matter who you are talking about. (I run, you run, they run; we ran, he ran, they ran.) Definite and indefinite articles are unaffected by gender (the actor, the actress; a bull, a cow.) There is no need to remember whether a table is masculine or feminine.
There is, however, plenty that is difficult about English. Try explaining its phrasal verbs – the difference, for example, between “I stood up to him” and “I stood him up”. Mr Crystal dismisses the idea that English has become the world’s language because it is easy. In an essay published last year, he said Latin’s grammatical complexity did not hamper its spread. “A language becomes a world language for extrinsic reasons only, and these all relate to the power of the people who speak it,” he wrote. The British empire carried English to all those countries on which the sun never set; American economic and cultural clout en¬sured English’s dominance after the British empire had faded.
So could China’s rise see Mandarin becoming the world’s language? It may happen. “Thinking back a thousand years, who would have predicted the demise of Latin?” Mr Crystal asks. But at the moment there is little sign of it, he says. The Chinese are rushing to learn English.
Mr Graddol agrees that we are unlikely to see English challenged in our lifetime. Once a lingua franca is established, it takes a long time to shift. Latin may be disappearing but it remained the language of science for generations and was used by the Roman Catholic church well into the 20th century.
As for English fragmenting, Mr Graddol argues it has already happened. “There are many Englishes that you and I wouldn’t understand,” he says. World Englishes, a recent book by Andy Kirkpatrick, professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, gives some examples. An Indian teenager’s journal contains this entry: “Two rival groups are out to have fun . . . you know generally indulge in dhamal [a type of dance] and pass time. So, what do they do? Pick on a bechaara bakra [poor goat] who has entered college.” Prof Kirkpatrick also provides this sample of Nigerian pidgin English: “Monkey de work, baboon dey chop” (Monkeys work, baboons eat).
It is unlikely, however, that this fragmentation will lead to the disappearance of English as a language understood around the world. It is common for speakers of English to switch from one or other variant to a use of language more appropriate for work, school or international communication. Mr Crystal says modern communication through television, film and the internet means the world is likely to hold on to an English that is widely understood.
The issue is: whose English will it be? Non-native speakers now outnumber native English-speakers by three to one. As hundreds of millions more learn the language, that imbalance will grow. Mr Graddol says the majority of encounters in English today take place between non-native speakers. Indeed, he adds, many business meetings held in English appear to run more smoothly when there are no native English-speakers present.
Native speakers are often poor at ensuring that they are understood in international discussions. They tend to think they need to avoid longer words, when comprehension problems are more often caused by their use of colloquial and metaphorical English.
Barbara Seidlhofer, professor of English and applied linguistics at the University of Vienna, says relief at the absence of native speakers is common. “When we talk to people (often professionals) about international communication, this observation is made very often indeed. We haven’t conducted a systematic study of this yet, so what I say is anecdotal for the moment, but there seems to be very widespread agreement about it,” she says. She quotes an Austrian banker as saying: “I always find it easier to do business [in English] with partners from Greece or Russia or Denmark. But when the Irish call, it gets complicated and taxing.”
On another occasion, at an international student conference in Amsterdam, conducted in English, the lone British representative was asked to be “less English” so that the others could understand her.
Prof Seidlhofer is also founding director of the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (Voice), which is recording and transcribing spoken English interactions between speakers of the language around the world. She says her team has noticed that non-native speakers are varying standard English grammar in several ways. Even the most competent sometimes leave the “s” off the third person singular. It is also common for non-native speakers to use “which” for humans and “who” for non- humans (“things who” and “people which”).
Prof Seidlhofer adds that many non-native speakers leave out definite and indefinite articles where they are required in standard English or put them in where standard English does not use them. Examples are “they have a respect for all” or “he is very good person”. Nouns that are not plural in native-speaker English are used as plurals by non-native speakers (“informations”, “knowledges”, “advices”). Other variations include “make a discussion”, “discuss about something” or “phone to somebody”.
Many native English speakers will have a ready riposte: these are not variations, they are mistakes. “Knowledges” and “phone to somebody” are plain wrong. Many non-native speakers who teach English around the world would agree. But language changes, and so do notions of grammatical correctness. Mr Crystal points out that plurals such as “informations” were once regarded as correct and were used by Samuel Johnson.
Those who insist on standard English grammar remain in a powerful position. Scientists and academics who want their work published in international journals have to adhere to the grammatical rules followed by the native English-speaking elites.
But spoken English is another matter. Why should non-native speakers bother with what native speakers regard as correct? Their main aim, after all, is to be understood by one another. As Mr Graddol says, in most cases there is no native speaker present.
Prof Seidlhofer says that the English spoken by non-native speakers “is a natural language, and natural languages are difficult to control by ‘legislation’.
“I think rather than a new international standard, what we are looking at is the emergence of a new ‘international attitude’, the recognition and awareness that in many international contexts interlocutors do not need to speak like native speakers, to compare themselves to them and thus always end up ‘less good’ – a new international assertiveness, so to speak.”
When native speakers work in an international organisation, some report their language changing. Mr Crystal has written: “On several occasions, I have encountered English-as-a-first-language politicians, diplomats and civil servants working in Brussels commenting on how they have felt their own English being pulled in the direction of these foreign-language patterns . . . These people are not ‘talking down’ to their colleagues or consciously adopting simpler expressions, for the English of their interlocutors may be as fluent as their own. It is a natural process of accommodation, which in due course could lead to new standardised forms.”
Perhaps written English will eventually make these accommodations too. Today, having an article published in the Harvard Business Review or the British Medical Journal represents a substantial professional accomplishment for a business academic from China or a medical researcher from Thailand. But it is possible to imagine a time when a pan-Asian journal, for example, becomes equally, or more, prestigious and imposes its own “Globish” grammatical standards on writers – its editors changing “the patient feels” to “the patient feel”.
Native English speakers may wince but are an ever-shrinking minority.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Eleven Pre-Conference Events and IATEFL’s Associates' Day will take place on Wednesday 7th April, followed by the four-day Conference and Exhibition from Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th April 2010.
Join us in the elegant Victorian spa town with its characteristic architecture and immaculately maintained green spaces. The Harrogate International Centre is set in the heart of the town, within walking distance of shops, hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, parks and gardens.
The Harrogate conference and exhibition will bring together ELT professionals from around the world to discuss, reflect on and develop their ideas. The conference programme will offer many opportunities for professional contact and development. It involves a four-day programme of over 300 talks, poster presentations, workshops, panel discussions and symposiums. It also gives delegates a chance to meet leading theorists and writers, and exchange ideas with fellow professionals from all sectors of ELT, as well as enabling them to see the latest ELT publications and services in the resources exhibition.
Visit www.iatefl.org to:
- register for the conference and PCEs
- submit a speaker proposal (deadline Friday 18th September)
- read the Scholarship guidelines (deadline for applications Friday 18th September)
- join IATEFL to be eligible to submit a proposal or to benefit from the reduced members’ registration fee
- learn more about IATEFL
The plenary speakers are Jan Blake, Kieran Egan, Ema Ushioda and Tessa Woodward.
Jan Blake has an international reputation for dynamic, witty, exciting storytelling. Specialising in stories from Africa and the Caribbean Jan has performed and run storytelling workshops throughout the world. In 1998 she launched The Akua Storytelling Project, her own Storytelling Company and school for new storytellers in the UK. Since 2001 she has been the resident storyteller/consultant at the Royal National Theatre, devising educational projects to run alongside the National Theatre’s annual storytelling festival WORD ALIVE! Jan’s first children’s book Give Me My Yam was published by Walker Books for their ‘Reading Together’ series during National Book Week 1998. Give me my Yam is now enjoying its 8th reprint.
Kieran Egan is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser Univ
ersity, and the founder and director of the Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG). He is the author of about a dozen books, and co-author, editor, or co-editor of a few more. Several of his books have been translated into more than half a dozen European and Asian languages.
Ema Ushioda is programme director of the Doctorate of Education in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching. She also jointly coordinates the MA module on the Psychology of Language Classroom Practices and co-teaches on the Introduction to ELT and ELSM professional practice MA modules. She previously taught English in Japan, and has conducted in-service courses and workshops on autonomy and motivation for language teachers in Europe and Japan. Her main research interests are language learner motivation, autonomy, sociocultural theory and teacher development.
Tessa Woodward is a teacher, teacher trainer/educator, and the professional development coordinator at Hilderstone College, UK. She is also the editor of Teacher Trainer Journal and has authored and co-authored numerous articles and books, including Planning Lessons and Courses (Cambridge University Press) and Ways of Working with Teachers (Tessa Woodward, publisher). Since 2000, she has been teaching courses at SIT Graduate Institute for those wishing to become more skilled as teacher educators, trainers, or mentors.
The Spanish have a proverb: Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week. Clever wordsmiths, those Spaniards.
We all procrastinate. We dawdle and delay, dally and defer. My office floor is still home to a pile of papers that needed filing two months ago; I'm waiting for them to stop dallying and file themselves.
Whatever the task, whatever the excuse, the tips below will help you do today what most people put off to next month.
1. Ask yourself, What's the holdup? People procrastinate for many reasons. Some fear failure. Some avoid boring jobs. Others shy away from getting tangled in a complicated mess (i.e., my pile of papers). Knowing the cause of the problem may open your eyes to an obvious solution.
2. Do you need to do it? Simple question, but it's a good one. Sometimes we put something off because it's not important. If you don't really need to do it, free yourself of the mental burden and drop the task from your to-do list.
3. Ask for help. I have an ancient window mechanism that takes the effort of a drawbridge operator to open. Last month, unsurprisingly, it broke. Someone had to fix it, but I was hoping that someone wasn't me. So I put it off.
After weeks of gazing at the window without actually doing anything, I asked a friend to help. It wasn't only because I have the mechanical skills of an uncoordinated squid; I knew it would get me moving.
4. Commit just five minutes. That's it--just 300 seconds. Telling yourself you only have to do something for a sliver of time does two things.
It transforms a big job into a tiny matter: Five minutes? I can do that. And because getting started is the hardest part, once your five minutes is up you'll often drive right on through to the finish.
5. Focus on the end. Thinking about how you'll feel when you've done whatever needs to be done may motivate you to make it happen.
I don't much like to organize, but I love to be organized. This is what I focus on--the feeling of having everything in its place, clean and tidy--when I need to declutter a space. Although my pile of papers proves that I have some work to do.
6. Just do it. Quit stalling. Quit rationalizing. Stand up, walk to the danger zone, and get to work.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Here's some brief news report from the ELT Gazette (the ET professional's news tabloid)concerning the recent u-turn about the PPSMI policy.
Malaysia to u-turn (again)
MALAYSIA’S SCHOOLS will no longer have to teach mathematics and science in English. In a major climbdown, the Malaysian government announced in July that from 2012 these lessons will gradually revert to being taught in Malay or, in a minority of schools, Chinese or Tamil. At the same time, plans were unveiled to bolster the teaching of English in its own right, including more classroom time, a new emphasis on grammar and literature and 14,000 additional English teachers, 1,000 of whom will come from abroad.
The government’s previous policy, introduced in 2003 to shore up sagging English standards, has been dogged with problems. Many teachers were ill-prepared to conduct classes in English and critics argued that teaching English in a scientific context would not achieve the policy’s stated ends. What’s more, some of the country’s ethnic Malays saw the policy as undermining the official status of the Malay language and as discriminating against rural communities. In March this year, with the government midway through its policy review, Malay opponents of English staged a rally that brought thousands onto the streets of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. (See May 2009 Gazette, front page.)
The government said the about-face was not driven by political considerations, claiming student performance in science and mathematics had been indifferent or declining following the switch to English. While welcoming the u-turn, one leading campaigner against English, Professor Abdullah Hassan, disagreed with the government’s phased approach. ‘Delaying [implementation] till 2012 is wrong,’ he told the Gazette. ‘Those teachers that taught in Malay six years ago have not lost their Malay. There is also no substantial change in the syllabus, so those books used six years ago are still usable.’
Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam, president of the Malaysian English Language Teachers’ Association (MELTA), had a different view. ‘Many who have made a concerted effort to overcome their limitations with English are quite distressed about the change because they say they have forgotten the modalities of teaching mathematics and science in Malay,’ he said. He was sceptical about the new measures, saying a wholesale improvement in the climate surrounding English use in schools is needed, though he added that MELTA would work with the education ministry to smooth the forthcoming transition.
Monday, September 7, 2009
There's a recent great interest in the genre called Graphic Novel which is defined as a type of novel but with lots of pictures in it.
Arguments are still hot regarding whether we can consider this as part of the English language literature.
Anyway, here's a view by a recent "convert" to this medium who has made a point that this is still reading, but in a different way. What do you think?
Graphic novels; reading, but in a different way
A comic-panel version of Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451' is but one particularly choice example of the medium's power.
By Julia Keller
September 4, 2009
The reader was outraged. The thrust of her question: How dare you?
Her contempt arose in response to a column I wrote praising certain graphic novels. And she was not alone in her seething censure. I heard from several other readers as well, wondering why I had allowed myself to be seduced by the easy enchantments of comic books. Frankly, they expected better of me -- given my doctoral degree in English literature and my well-known and oft-alluded-to affinity for dense, difficult, high-minded novels by the likes of Virginia Woolf and Joseph Conrad.
How had I allowed myself to be plucked from the stately, dignified ivory tower and lured down into the publishing world's damp basement, a place of shag carpet, flea-market furniture and flea-bitten ideas, X-Men posters on the wall, empty pop cans underfoot and stacks upon stacks of comic books? Just what did I have to say for myself?
I understood the umbrage. Still do, in fact, even though I'm about to compound my sin and error by praising a graphic novel published last month by Hill & Wang. A new adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic work "Fahrenheit 451" (1953), with a fascinating and challenging new introduction by the author, is a vivid reminder of the special power of a graphic novel, of the genre's ability to do things that words alone can't.
Believe me, I often question my affection for graphic novels. I loved Superman as a kid, but when it comes to comics, we're not in Kansas anymore. Graphic novels have become terrifically popular, thanks to fiercely imaginative practitioners such as Neil Gaiman, as well as to a growing body of sophisticated theoretical work on the genre by astute writers such as Scott McCloud and Douglas Wolk.
Indeed, I find myself wishing graphic novels weren't so hip; their popularity has made me question my own motives. Am I just trying to sound cool? Is an affection for graphic novels by anyone over 25 simply the literary equivalent of buying a sports car or getting a face-lift?
The new graphic version of "Fahrenheit 451" has helped sort out the contents of my soul. And I'm happy to report that I'm in the clear. I am quite certain that I'd be trumpeting the virtues of this work even if graphic novels weren't on everybody's hot list, even if a graphic novel weren't as trendy an accessory as an Obama campaign button.
"What you have before you now," Bradbury writes in the introduction, "is a further rejuvenation of a book that was once a short novel that was once a short story that was once a walk around the block, a rising up in a graveyard, and a final fall of the House of Usher."
What the Waukegan, Ill., native is getting at, of course, is art's protean quality, those quicksilver properties that keep it young -- and not in the sports-car, plastic-surgery sense of the word "young." Some stories captivate us, generation after generation, because they're great stories, not because they happen to show up in a particular binding. They don't grow old because they don't stand still long enough to age. They're constantly in motion: dancing, shifting, darting, remaking themselves to rhyme with changes in society.
Faber, a character in "Fahrenheit 451," puts it this way: "It's not books you need, it's some of the things that once were in the books. . . . Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. . . . The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us."
Most people know the simple, harrowing story of "Fahrenheit 451," the tale of how a future government requires books to be burned routinely, until a brave firefighter begins to question the practice.
If you know the novel, you'll still be thrilled by Tim Hamilton's artwork in this new version, which combines a comic-book clarity -- the panels are simple and straightforward, without the distraction of a lot of visual razzmatazz -- with a deep, humane rendering of the novel's theme.
My reason for enjoying graphic novels, I must confess, is not nearly so grand. The truth is that too many years as a book critic have threatened to turn me into a reading machine. I read too fast. I mow down rows of type like a scythe murdering a field. With a graphic novel, however, I'm forced to slow down. I can't rush. I can't go hell-for-leather across the page. I have to consider both the images and the words. I have to linger. I have to let things sink in. I have to learn all over again how to savor.
Some of my anti-comics correspondents claim that reading a graphic novel is not really "reading" at all. They're right. It's something else again. In the case of "Fahrenheit 451," it's more like a life-changing immersion in ideas, words, echoes, symbols, characters, lines, colors, nightmares -- and finally, daybreak.
Julia Keller is cultural critic for the Chicago Tribune.
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
Sunday, September 6, 2009
The local economist are voicing their concerns that Malaysia is not producing human capital that is of the right quality -- people who are critical & creative; to be innovative and to face the challenges that is needed in a globalised economy. In fact, there's a brain drain. Many of the top talents in many fields are leaving our shores and helping other nations to develop and prosper. We read of such Malaysians in The STAR who made it big and contributing to the economy of foreign countries .
One of the critical factors is our system of education which is still based on rote-learning and the lack of emphasis in the English language. My fear is we may not achieve Vision 2020 even if we are given another 50 years!
As an English teacher, our roles is becoming more important now as Science and Mathematics will not be taught in the English language in the near future.
Education is the key to innovation and competitiveness.
Prof Datuk Mohamed Ariff ... ‘Education is an investment in human capital.’
“To succeed, you will soon learn, as I did, the importance of a solid foundation in the basics of education – literacy, both verbal and numerical, and communication skills”
– ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER US FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN
THE target has been set: Vision 2020 is the destination. The map is ready, and the machineries are being put in place. Question: Who will drive us there?
In the pursuit of economic success, the value of human capital cannot be left out of the equation. Human capital is the DNA of the economy. A country’s success begins and ends with people. Already, the world is competing for “skills” to put the right people at the right place to drive their economies.
But the question is ... does Malaysia have this key ingredient to drive its economy?
According to the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research executive director Datuk Dr Mohammed Ariff Abdul Kareem, human capital is a scarce commodity in the country.
“We have acute shortage of professionals because our education system is not and has not been producing skills and talents that fit into the mainstream of modern business,” he says.
Indeed, the human-capital base is nurtured from the early ages through all levels in the education system. But one of the major concerns plaguing the Malaysian education system is that it has not changed very much from one that is based on rote-learning to one that promotes critical thinking.
Radical change needed
“Our education system is archaic … it does not keep pace with what the nation needs. So, there should be a complete overhaul of our education system, not just cosmetic changes,” Ariff argues.
“We may have beautiful plans, but if our education system does not keep pace, nothing moves,” he adds.
It is undeniable that the Government has invested quite heavily in the country’s education system, considering the fact that it has been allocating more than 20% of its yearly budget in education and training. For instance, in Budget 2009, the budget allocation for education and training was RM47.7bil. The amount accounted for 23% of the total budget allocation that year.
The huge sum aside, director-general of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin, believes it is more important to analyse whether the monies have been efficiently channelled to the right areas where needed to improve the system.
Economists believe that policymakers need to be more radical in their approach to improve the structure of the education system, so that it can produce “thinking” students, who are competitive and have good communication skills.
And to produce quality students, the country needs to get the best brains into the teaching profession for all school levels, experts say. In this case, a better reward scheme for teachers has to be formulated to attract the right talents into the noble profession.
“Education is an investment in human capital,” explains Mahani.
“Hence, improving the system is an urgent requirement to boost the nation’s competitiveness and move its economy up the value chain,” she adds.
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam concurs. He says: “There is no point in moving into a new economic model if we do not have high-quality human capital that can compete with their peers overseas.”
Last month, at the International Conference on Education for All, the Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah stressed the importance of the English language in today’s economy. He said proficiency in the language – the lingua franca of world commerce and finance – would enable one to enjoy many advantages in the global workplace.
“We are in no position to be competitive without the language ... our people must be equipped and master the language to be successful,” former Bank Negara adviser Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim says.
The concern is the lackadaisical attitude towards the importance of English language in the present-day education system in Malaysia, compared to other countries in the region.
Take China. According to its National Bureau of Statistics, English language has become one of the backbones of China’s vocational training market now, with more than 50,000 institutes teaching the language. The total English training market value exceeded 22 billion yuan last year, and it is expected to reach 30 billion yuan in 2010.
Although brain drain has long been a worldwide phenomenon due to greater international labour mobility, it is an issue that Malaysia has to deal with seriously.
“We have lost a lot of talented people who are now contributing significantly to the development of other countries,” Tunku Aziz points out, adding that the problem will likely continue to plague the nation unless fundamental changes such as equal opportunities and meritocracy take place in the system.
In this international battle for brains, economists believe that Malaysia cannot afford to lose if it aspires to be a successful nation. They argue that there is an urgent need to review the reward and compensation system to provide greater incentives to draw local talents back, and to attract foreign expertise into the country.
In short, Malaysia needs to get its “software” right to run.