Sandra Lee McKay - EIL Curriculum Development

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In this paper the author argues that current changes in the nature of English and English language learners warrants a re-evaluation of two widely accepted notions of ELT curriculum development, namely, that the goal of English learning is native speaker competence and that native speaker culture should inform instructional materials and teaching methods.

Transcript of Sandra Lee McKay - EIL Curriculum Development

  • http://rel.sagepub.comRELC Journal

    DOI: 10.1177/003368820303400103 2003; 34; 31 RELC Journal

    Sandra Lee McKay Eil Curriculum Development

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    2003 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. by Irena Vodopija on November 23, 2007 http://rel.sagepub.comDownloaded from

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    EIL CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT

    Sandra Lee McKaySan Francisco State University

    2slmckay@attbi.com

    ABSTRACT

    In this paper the author argues that current changes in the nature of Englishand English language learners warrants a re-evaluation of two widelyaccepted notions of ELT curriculum development, namely, that the goal ofEnglish learning is native speaker competence and that native speaker cul-ture should inform instructional materials and teaching methods. Recogniz-ing the current status of English as an international language (EIL), theauthor describes central features of an international language and how theseinfluence the relationship between language and culture. The paper thenproceeds to demonstrate how native speaker models and culture need to becarefully examined in reference to EIL curriculum development.

    As Richards points out, curriculum development entails a range of plan-ning and implementation processes that form a network of interactingsystems so that change in one part of the system has effects on other partsof the system (2001: 41 ). This paper argues that in the current teaching ofEnglish two significant aspects of the network have changed, requiringchanges in other parts of the system. These changes relate to the nature ofEnglish today and the characteristics of its learners.Most people agree that today English is a global lingua franca. English

    has achieved this status not because of a growth in the number of nativespeakers but rather because of an increase in the number of individuals inthe world today who are acquiring English as an additional language. Thissituation has resulted in a tremendous growth in the number of secondlanguage speakers of English. In fact, Graddol argues that

    2003 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. by Irena Vodopija on November 23, 2007 http://rel.sagepub.comDownloaded from

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    based solely on expected population changes, the number of people usingEnglish as their second language will grow from 235 million to around 462million during the next 50 years. This indicates that the balance between L1 1and L2 speakers will critically change, with L2 speakers eventually over-taking L 1 speakers ( t 999: 62).

    The growing number of people in the world who have some familiaritywith English allows English to act as a language of wider communicationfor a great variety of purposes, contributing to its status as a global linguafranca. In order to develop an appropriate curriculum for English as aninternational language (EIL), it is essential to examine how English hasachieved its status as an international language and how this role hasaltered the nature of the language.

    Features of English as an International LanguageBrutt-Grif~ier (2002) argues convincingly that one of the central features ofany international language is that it spreads not through speaker migrationbut rather by many individuals in an existing speech community acquiringthe language, what Brutt-Griffler terms macroaquisition. Although theinitial spread of English was clearly due to speaker migration, resulting inthe development of largely monolingual English-speaking communities(e.g. the United States, Australia and New Zealand), the current spread ofEnglish is, as Graddols projection demonstrates, due to individuals acquir-ing English as an additional language for international and in some contextsintranational communication. However, unlike speaker migration, this typeof language spread results not in monolingualism but rather large-scalebilingualism.The fact that the spread of English today is primarily due to macro-

    acquisition has several important implications for EIL curriculum develop-ment. First, it suggests that many learners of English today will havespecific purposes in learning English, which in general are more limitedthan those of immigrants to English-speaking countries who may eventu-ally use English as their sole or dominant language. Second, many L2speakers of English will be using English to interact with other L2speakers rather than with native speakers. Finally, many current learnersof English may desire to learn English in order to share with othersinformation about their own countries for such purposes as encouragingeconomic development, promoting trade and tourism, and exchanginginformation.

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    Such purposes for learning and using English undermine the traditionalcultural basis of English, in which the teaching of English has ofteninvolved learning about the concerns and cultures of what Kachru (1985)terms Inner Circle countries (e.g. Canada, Australia and the UnitedStates). Since by its very nature an international language does not belongto any particular country but rather to an international community, asSmith (1976) points out:

    1. learners of EIL do not need to internalize the cultural norms ofnative speakers of English;

    2. the ownership of EIL has become de-nationalized;3. the educational goal of EIL often is to enable learners to com-

    municate their ideas and culture to others.

    Throughout the paper I argue that since by its very nature an inter-national language is no longer linked to a particular culture and since oneof its primary uses will be for bilingual speakers of English to commu-nicate with other bilingual speakers, it is no longer appropriate to usenative speaker models to inform curriculum development. Hence, it isessential to examine three widely accepted ELT assumptions, namely that

    1. ELT pedagogy should be informed by native speaker models.2. The cultural content for ELT should be derived from the cultures

    of native English speakers.3. The culture of learning that informs communicative language

    teaching (CLT) provides the most productive method for ELT.In what follows I examine each of these assumptions in reference to EIL

    curriculum development. Throughout the paper I maintain that the increas-ing number of bilingual users of English and the uncoupling of Englishfrom Inner Circle countries have significant implications for curriculumdevelopment.

    In the paper I use the term bilingual users of English to describeindividuals who use English as a second language alongside one or moreother languages they speak. Although Jenkins (2000) includes both nativeand non-native speakers in her use of the term bilingual English speaker,in my use of the term, I am excluding so-called native speakers of Englishwho speak other languages. I do so because the domains of English formost native speakers tend to be quite different from those of other bilin-gual users of English, who frequently use English in more restricted andformal domains. I also make use of Kachrus (1985) useful distinction of

    2003 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. by Irena Vodopija on November 23, 2007 http://rel.sagepub.comDownloaded from

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    Inner Circle countries where English is spoken as a native language,Outer Circle countries where English has official status, and ExpandingCircle countries where English is a foreign language, though like Yano(2001) and Gupta (2001), I recognize the limitations of these terms.

    Present-Day English LearningTo begin, it is beneficial to examine why many individuals today arechoosing to learn English so that curriculum objectives and approachescan be designed to meet their needs. Some contend that one of the majorreasons for the present-day interest in learning English is the extensivepromotion of English by Inner Circle countries. One of the major expo-nents of this view is Phillipson, who in his book Linguistic Imperialism(1992) describes the spread of English as a postcolonial endeavor of coreEnglish-speaking countries to maintain dominance over periphery (inmany cases developing) countries. He coins the term linguistic imperial-ism to describe a situation in which the dominance of English is assertedand maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution ofstructural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages(1992: 47).However, to assume that the active promotion of English is the primary

    cause of the current interest in learning English is to oversimplify thecomplexity of the spread of English. Today many individuals desire tolearn English not because English is promoted by English-speaking coun-tries, but rather because these individuals want access to scientific andtechnological information, international organizations, global economictrade and higher education. Knowing English makes such access possible.Indeed Kachru, in a book entitled The Alchemy