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June 28, 2013

Online | Teacher Development

The changing face of English, or is that Englishes?

myth-of-planet-english.jpgThe British Council this week published two pieces of interest to anyone who's ever asked the question, "What is English?" In his seminar The Myth of Planet English, Dr Christopher J Hall explains why the idea that there is just one correct and unchanging form of English is a myth. And the Changing Englishes online, self-paced course from York St John University is designed to help teachers cope with the many aspects of a language constantly in flux.

The Myth of Planet English
English tends to be conceptualised as a monolithic entity, more like a planet than a galaxy. We talk about ‘the’ English language, ‘the’ grammar of English, and ‘the’ vocabulary of English, as though it was all one neat system. But linguists have long understood that this is no more than a convenient fiction. In the 21st century, the global diversity of Englishes and uses of English is revealing that the fiction can be rather inconvenient on many levels, especially in parts of the world where native speakers are scarce.

Most English is used now as a lingua franca between non-native users in diverse global situations, and research suggests that the native-speaker norms of Standard English (SE) aren’t always the best solution for effective communication. It’s relevant, then, to investigate teachers’ beliefs about English. What kind of thing do they believe English to be, such that it can be taught, learnt, and used? And how do their beliefs help or hinder the disparate needs of their learners?

Read more or watch a video of the seminar on the British Council website.

Changing Englishes
English, like all languages, is constantly changing. But in these globalizing times, it is changing at a faster pace and in a greater number of contexts of use than ever before. 'What is English?' has become an urgent and important question for teachers. The Changing Englishes online, self-paced course is designed to help you meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities of new ways of thinking about our profession.

Unlike many resources and discussions in ELT, it concentrates on what we teach, and how it is learnt, rather than on how we teach it. Both experienced and trainee teachers, as well as teacher trainers, will benefit from its provocative ideas and stimulating exercises.

The course includes opportunities to:

  • reflect on your own beliefs about English, and engage with new ideas and data
  • complete exercises and try flashcard quizzes as 'concept checks' of your understanding
  • collect and analyse data in your own local contexts
  • contribute your own findings, reflections, and resources to a Discussion Board and read postings by other users of the course

Changing Englishes is published under a Creative Commons Licence. This means that if you decide to use any of the materials in your classes, or re-purpose them as workshop materials, you are free to do so.

Find out more about the course on the York St John University website.

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