ELF program

Exploring ELF pedagogy

Applied Linguistics, Global Englishes, and English as a Lingua Franca

Applied Linguistics is commonly defined as “[t]he theoretical and empirical investigation of real-world problems in which language is a central issue” (Brumfit, 1995: 27). Global Englishes is a research thread in Applied Linguistics, and a major real-world problem for its scholarship is how English users communicate effectively in the world. Statistically, 388 million first-language (L1) English speakers (i.e., Anglophones) of different origins constitute a tiny minority of an estimated 2.3 billion English speakers (Crystal, 2019). Global Englishes is relatively new in academia and comprises two thriving research fields: World Englishes (WE) and English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). The former is often associated with a ground-breaking forerunner English as an International Language (EIL), and the latter is closely aligned with translanguaging (e.g., Garcia, 2009).

While WE has enquired into the relationship between the global spread of English and different local cultures and identities (e.g., Kachru, 1992), ELF has enquired into transnational communication among English users. ELF corpora, such as the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (VOICE) (Seidlhofer, 2004), have attested that monolingualism in English is no longer the norm. Instead, ELF corpus analytic studies illustrate that multilingual influences and effects are contingent across linguistic levels, such as phonology, grammar, lexis, pragmatics, and discourse structure (e.g., Cogo & Dewey, 2012). In this regard, ELF ethnographically informed studies have repeatedly indicated that mutual understanding derives from linguistic accommodation or adjusting and adapting language use according to the situation (e.g., Dewey, 2011), often through pre-emptive and other communication strategies (e.g., Dimoski et al., 2019; Sato et al., 2019). Put differently, participants, including Anglophones, need to use linguistic resources flexibly and dynamically in order to fit communication participants and purposes. More recently, with an increasing recognition of inherent multilingualism in global encounters (e.g., Jenkins, Baker & Dewey, 2018), and in conjunction with trans- theories (e.g., Hawkins & Mori, 2018), especially translanguaging, ELF research has started to question the existence of the clear boundary of the English language.

Selected references

Cogo, A. & Dewey, M. (2012). Analysing English as a lingua franca. Continuum.
Dimoski, B., Kuroshima, S., Okada, T., Chaikul, R., & Yujobo, Y. J. (2019). The initial stages of developing resources for teaching communication strategies in ELF-informed pedagogy. Waseda Working Papers in ELF, 8, 105-128.
Jenkins, J, Baker, W., & Dewey, M. (2018). Routledge handbook of English as a lingua franca. Routledge.
Garcia, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century. Wiley-Blackwell.

Teaching and learning English within multilingualism

In applied linguistics, many second language acquisition (SLA) studies have viewed additional language leaning as if it were a universal process of becoming another monolingual person who speaks a second language as the main language “rather than different people from monolinguals in L1” (Cook, 2013: 37-38). Despite the monolingual, nationalist ideologies surrounding English language learning, our real-world communication goes across the national scale, and English is normally just part, not the whole, of our communicative repertoires.

Jenkins (2015) foregrounds multilingualism in the ELF field, and her notion of English as a multilingua franca (EMF) posits that multilingualism is “the one single factor without which there would be no ELF” (p. 63). The working definition of EMF scenarios is: “Multilingual communication in which English is available as a contact language of choice, but is not necessarily chosen” (p. 73). English users in a multilingual world face the opposing forces of monolingually orientated, ideological fixity and multilingual, pragmatic fluidity during interaction. The ideology of national languages, especially ‘standard’ varieties, as systematic ‘objects’ remains powerful whenever we learn language and communicate. This seems to be particularly true of Standard English in English language teaching (ELT). Even so, English learners and users develop and exploit linguistic resources in a situated social context, frequently multilingual, through and across global networks. With a view to reconciling the tension between ideological and pragmatic considerations, EMF awareness (Ishikawa, 2020) advocates challenging dominant essentialist, nationalist discourses around the English language. Specifically, taking such an approach, instructors provide students with experiences of EMF scenarios and encourage their critical thinking about language, culture, and identity in reference to their own experiences and in reference to extracts from published research. EMF awareness frames English communicative competence within multilingualism and requires it to move towards symbolic (Kramsch, 2009) and performative (Canagarajah, 2013) competence. Precisely, in the light of empirical data from EMF awareness and study-abroad experiences as teacher training (Suzuki, 2021), this competence may be conceptualized as follows.

  • Conscious understanding of linguistic and cultural roles and effects on interaction as well as meaning-making modes, both linguistic and non-linguistic,
  • Flexible, situationally appropriate interactional practice based on this understanding, and
  • Motivated attitudes or positive feelings and curiosity towards different communicative practices and ‘others’.

Selected references

Ishikawa, T. (2020). EMF awareness in the Japanese EFL/EMI context. ELT Journal, 74(4), 408-417.
Jenkins, J. (2015). Repositioning English and multilingualism in English as a lingua franca. Englishes in Practice, 2(3), 49-85.
Suzuki, A. (2021). Changing views of English through study abroad as teacher training. ELT Journal, 75(4), 397-406.

Teaching and learning English from trans- perspectives

Translanguaging investigates how individuals bring in particular linguistic resources to create and interpret meaning, in defiance of the historical, political distinction between named national languages (e.g., Li, 2018). It often associates multilinguals’ creative communicative practice as a way of pursuing social equity, reflecting its roots in researching speakers of minority languages (Williams, 1994). Translanguaging also positions language as embedded in wider meaning-making resources, and the notion of transmodal communication directly pays attention to how our communication meshes multiple modes (e.g., color, layout, music, gesture) as if they are inseparable (e.g., Newfield, 2014). Related to translanguaging and transmodal communication is transcultural communication. Given the complexity and fluidity of culture, it is often unclear what specific cultures we are in-between in global encounters. Transcultural communication eschews describing how interactants mix elements of presupposed cultures and instead takes the nebulous, overlapping nature of cultural categories, similarities, and differences as the starting point of investigation (e.g., Pennycook, 2007). In line with trans- theories, the ELF field seeks to take a holistic approach to global communication, and precisely, to comprehend how English users make use of multilingual, multicultural, and multimodal resources by transgressing and transcending ideological boundaries, linguistic or otherwise, in order to create new social spaces, practices, and identities (e.g., Jenkins et al., 2018).

The trans- theories of translanguaging, transmodal, and transcultural communication (or better put, translingual, transmodal, and transcultural communication) feature the pragmatic side of the aforementioned notion of EMF and EMF awareness. They focus on processes of communication and adaptable use of meaning-making resources and modes. The ELF field, in turn, has documented the cruciality of linguistic accommodation as an overarching pragmatic strategy for mutual understanding. Taken together, it seems that there is a further scope for ELF researchers and educators to conceptualize accommodation broadly as follows (Baker & Ishikawa, 2021).

  • Adjusting and adapting the way of using language flexibly and creatively (i.e., translingual accommodation)
  • Appropriating available meaning-making modes in an integrated manner (i.e., transmodal accommodation)
  • Adjusting and adapting the way of creating and interpreting meaning beyond cultural stereotypes or generalizations (i.e., transcultural accommodation)

Selected references

Baker, W., & Ishikawa, T. (2021). Transcultural communication through Global Englishes. Routledge.
Pennycook, A. (2007). Global Englishes and transcultural flows. Routledge.
Li, W. (2018). Translanguaging as a practical theory of language. Applied Linguistics, 39(1), 9-30.

Teaching Standard English in ELT as an example

Globally commodified Standard English emanates from an ‘imagined’ Anglophone speech community of affluent monolingual speakers in a certain period of time. Fundamentally, it often relies on the intuitions of materials writers who are typically ‘white’, middle-class Anglophones, and is different from the English they use for themselves (e.g., Leung, 2005). Certainly, Standard English in ELT satisfies practicality in the classroom by prescribing and applying one-size-fits-all linguistic rules. However, ELF research, in reference to complexity theory, “sees communicative norms as always contextually embedded and subjectively mediated, and therefore as emergent rather than predetermined” (Ishikawa, 2020: 104). The crux of the argument would be that ELT ought not to conflate English in its entirety with the ‘convenient fiction’ (e.g., Widdowson, 2015) of Standard English. Given that most English learners are exposed to Standard English models, and that Anglophones become familiar with a similar ‘standard’ variety through schooling (Hall, 2018), the ELF program would not completely reject Standard English in ELT.

ELF instructors would heed the idealized nature of Standard English in ELT and teach its linguistic usage, along with associated cultural interpretation, as discrete samples rather than de-contextualized norms. The instructors would encourage students to explore and adapt these and other samples in and out of the classroom, “with all knowledge provisional and continually open to reflection and revision” (Baker & Ishikawa, 2021: 296), for the sake of their own communication. In keeping with observations made by Jenkins and Leung (2019), the ELF program no longer places new students based on their Standard English test scores, and instead encourages their self-regulation by having them examine different levels of classes and self-assess their readiness for class communication.

Selected references

Hall, C. J. (2018). Cognitive perspectives on English as a lingua franca. In J. Jenkins, W. Baker, & M. Dewey (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of English as a lingua franca (pp. 74-84). Routledge.
Ishikawa, T., & McBride, P. (2019). Doing justice to ELF in ELT. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, 8(2), 333-345.
Widdowson, H. (2015). ELF and the pragmatics of language variation. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, 4(2), 359-372.

Five guidelines in the ELF program

The ELF program seeks to facilitate teaching and learning English within multilingualism and from trans- perspectives, thereby recasting Standard English in ELT as an example rather than a pre-determined linguistic ‘object’. This endeavor is not reducible to a single teaching methodology, but is likely to be made possible through the following broad guidelines.

Guideline 1:

Examine instances of linguistic usage and cultural interpretation, including Standard English in ELT, as discrete samples rather than de-contextualized norms.

Guideline 2:

Take a critical approach to communication that challenges dominant essentialist, nationalist discourses through EMF awareness: (1) providing students with experiences of EMF scenarios, and (2) encouraging their critical thinking about language, culture, and identity in reference to their experiences and in reference to extracts from published research.

Guideline 3:

Move from traditional (intercultural) communicative competence to EMF-aware symbolic, performative competence: i.e., the competence to embody (1) sensitivity to linguistic, cultural, and modal resources, (2) flexible practice according to the situation (i.e., accommodation), and (3) tenacious interest in individual diversity.

Guideline 4:

Focus on processes of communication and adaptable use of communicative resources, in other words, translingual, transmodal, and transcultural, and accommodation: i.e., adjusting and adapting (1) language flexibly and creatively, (2) meaning-making modes in an integrated manner, and (3) cultural interpretation beyond stereotypes or generalizations.

Guideline 5:

Appropriate teaching to local contexts by recognizing how Guidelines 1 to 4 are implemented will be variable depending on their relevance to local conditions, cultures, and needs.

As the world’s first ELF pedagogical center, the Center for English as a Lingua Franca (CELF) is not pursuing something revolutionary in language teaching. As per the evolution of the ELF field, CELF is pursuing good language teaching practice in general through the above five guidelines. As articulated by van Lier (2007: 62):

The learner is a whole person, not an input-processing brain that happens to be located inside a body that should preferably sit still while the input is transmitted, received and computed by the brain. The learner is a person with a social, embodied mind, with dreams, worries and beliefs, and in need of forging productive identities that link the personal self to the new worldly demands presented by the new language.

To help students make meaningful connections with the globalized world, CELF continues centering human agency and action in its education, and teaching English as a global lingua franca in this multilingual world-in the hope that students “are able to take possession of the language, turn it to [their] advantage, and make it real for [them]” (Widdowson, 1994: 384).


van Lier, L. (2007). Action-based teaching, autonomy and identity. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1(1), 46-65.
Widdowson, H. G. (1994). The ownership of English. TESOL Quarterly, 28(2), 377-389.