Closing out IAWE: Colloquium with M. Berns, E. H. Diniz de Figueiredo, T. Eick, P. Friedrich, Y. Li, & A. Matsuda “The World Englishes Family Tree: Views on its Vitality and Viability”

Please note: This post is a live blog and as such is only lightly edited. Please pardon any errors.

What we want to bring to you today is a multigenerational look at the family tree of world Englishes has evolved over time, going from Braj Kachru, to me [Margie Berns], to Aya and Patricia, and now to Yiyang and Eduardo–and to the expansion of that work from sociolinguistic profiles to the application of the World Englishes framework to new contexts, and new problems.

8:15: Wow! No better way to start a colloquium at a conference dedicated to Braj Kachru, and setting up quite the exciting start to an interesting series of talks.

…The cyclical and self-referencing nature of the field of World Englishes.

8:26: When I first heard this term, I worried about its meaning. Mostly because it seems to cast the work as armchair academia, or at navel gazing. However, the presenter adeptly extended the point by highlighting what’s done with this cyclical and self-referencing work–and this is what I think moves something away from just being an academic endeavor to one that can come to impact other disciplines and policy makers across the globe. That extension is this, the generational nature of the field and the labors that make it up mean that junior scholars are often revisiting, troubling and reapplying foundational concepts to new contexts to generate new knowledge.

Variation is the default condition of human language.

8:31: Truth! Language, to me, is something that evolves and morphs over time through contact with other languages and to fit new communicative contexts and encounters. This is why I’m a descriptivist and not a prescriptivist. It’s because language is an important part of the interpersonal interactional toolkit that is much like a Leatherman Multitool. That is, language can bend and change itself to help human agents to interact effectively and to carry out join action. Over time, changes introduced through language contact or generational language change come to be reified in an increasingly legitimized variety of world Englishes.

World Englishes holds profound implications regarding the internationalization of higher education.

8:45: Exceptionally true. However, I would add the important caveat that it must be bi-direction. That is, it is not just incumbent upon the so-called non-native speaker of English (though they are certainly native speakers of their local variety of English) to gain in English proficiency (and not just a central variety of English), but it is also vital for speakers of prestige varieties to gain intercultural communicative competence to better interact with speakers of other varieties, as well as an appreciation for and tolerance of the linguistic variation that defines English in the global context.

 Teaching English as an International Language (TEIL) Framework

9:06: Dr. Matsuda has just introduced the TEIL Framework, which she predicated on four major areas that have possible applications to both ELT in universities worldwide and K-12 education of ELLs in U.S. schools.

  1. Exposure to and awareness of multiple varieties of English and their users.
  2. Focus on communication strategies to negotiate linguistic difference.
  3. Inclusion of cultural materials from diverse sources.
  4. Understanding of the politics of EIL among teachers and students.

Point one is important just because of the lack of overall awareness of and sensitivity towards other varieties of English. Point four equips educators and administrators to critically engage with the issue of linguistic variation in education and its impacts on language learning and teaching.

I [Yiyang Li] argue for the adoption of the use of the term Chinese English as opposed to China English, based upon the Kachruvian paradigm where the noun + English form is often treated as the informal form and lower prestige form, while the adjective + English carries more positive connotations.

10:00: It’s striking how important labels are. I’ve never doubted that they matter, but I’ve also rarely seen such an impassioned and well-thought out argument for one form over another, and an argument that has been so clearly tied to dignity of the speech community in question.

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