English as Lingua Franca in Education

30 March 2022

Thanks to advancements in technology over the last century, the world has become a more interconnected place. Global telecommunication networks and the internet have enabled us to interact with people in real-time, regardless of time zone. And advancements in global transportation have shortened the distance it takes to travel to different areas. Global connectedness has necessitated the need for a universal language by which we can communicate. Because of its widespread presence throughout the world, English is a primary language utilized for international business transactions, diplomacy, and other forms of global communication.

English is a primary language utilized to communicate across interlingual barriers where neither party possesses another language they share. As such, English is regarded as a lingua franca, or a universal language system utilized to comminate. English language lessons are needed to help prepare people for an increasingly globalized world. However, many English Second Language (ESL) classes focus on teaching students how to use English grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary in ways that are most understandable to native English speakers. But the reality is that because of its widespread use in countries where English is not the native language spoken, English as a lingua franca (EFL) is a language system that contains diversity. Though there are many places where people speak English as a second language, they also utilize the English language differently than a native English speaker would. Many factors influence how English is spoken in different regions, which can cause miscommunications between people despite them both speaking English. As EFL is much more likely to be utilized between speakers whose native language is not English, it might be valuable to approach English language lessons with language diversity in mind.

Teaching students how to utilize English in practical ways that apply to their circumstances can help prepare students to better interact with other non-native English speakers. Sanako, a Finish Education Tech company highlights four ways that ESL can be taught in more practical ways to non-native speakers. The first step is to teach ESL classes that emphasize the importance of teaching understanding and effectiveness over “native-correctness.” Many ESL instructors spend a lot of time assessing their students on their ability to pronounce English words the way a native speaker would. But this method does not necessarily create understanding, especially between speakers whose primary language is not English. Instead, instructors should focus on how effectively their students can foster communication and understanding between each other rather than if they pronounced the word “correctly”, which would better serve them in the real world. Secondly, ESL should include practice around international pronunciations of English words. There are many different English dialects spoken globally, and the same word may be pronounced differently in different parts of the world. Students should be instructed how to recognize these dialects and pronunciations to better understand and communicate with each other. Thirdly ESL students should be able to practice effective communication strategies to resolve misunderstandings faster. Misunderstanding can make communication tough, especially between speakers who do not share a native language. By preparing for the possibility of miscommunication, non-native speakers can more easily resolve misunderstandings. Lastly, students should develop intercultural communicative skills as well as expand their multilingual repertoires. Though English is a widely spoken language, English is not the only language that exists. Even in places where English is a primary or secondary language, there exist many dialects of English that are influenced by factors such as geography and culture. ESL students would benefit from having a diverse set of English language skills that enables them to understand these influences, which would help them to become more effective global communicators.