French Shrinking in the Netherlands

French used to be a very important foreign language in the Netherlands. Knowledge and use of French have perceptibly shrunk in the last few decades, and this trend is likely to hold:
"het Frans wel onder hevige concurrentie lijdt van het Engels, Duits en tegenwoordig ook Spaans in het beroepsonderwijs. (...) is er steeds meer passieve kennis: leerlingen kunnen de taal wel lezen, maar niet schrijven of spreken. Ook zijn er op de universiteit steeds minder studenten Frans (er zijn zelfs meer studenten Nederlands in Frankrijk dan andersom!)."
Translation: "French is under fierce competition from English, German and now even Spanish in vocational education. (...) Its knowledge is increasingly passive: students can read the language well, but cannot write or speak it. Universities also have seen French enrolment numbers decrease constantly (there are more students of Dutch in France than of French in the Netherlands!)."

Decreasing Use of French in Aosta Valley

Aosta Valley, Italy: everyday usage of French is decreasing:
In Valle d’Aosta, dove dal 1948 vige ufficialmente il regime di bilinguismo italiano-francese vincolato ad appositi trattati internazionali con la Francia, il francese gode di un forte prestigio. L’uso del francese come lingua amministrativa e di cultura risale agli storici legami della valle con i domini d’Oltralpe di casa Savoia, presso i quali l’utilizzo ufficiale della lingua risale al 1560. L’azione politica di tutela (ad opera soprattutto del partito di raccolta, l’Union Valdôtaine) si è quindi basata sulla promozione del francese assai più che sull’uso quotidiano del patois francoprovenzale, e ciò malgrado il progressivo regresso del francese stesso, che ha oggi funzioni prevalenti di carattere statutario e rappresentativo, mentre l’utilizzo quotidiano appare insidiato dal progredire dell’italiano.
liceopercoto.ud.it: there are no native French-speaking communities in Italy:
Utilizzo: per i motivi accennati, non si può affermare che esistano comunità, in Italia, che abbiano il francese come lingua prima: salvo casi individuali, in Val d’Aosta e nelle valli piemontesi l’utilizzo di tale idioma è legato all’apprendimento scolastico o a una consuetudine acquisita al di fuori del contesto familiare, ed è pertanto impossibile dare stime anche approssimative sulla frequenza d’uso. Si può asserire che almeno l’intera popolazione della provincia di Aosta sia in vario modo coinvolta in una conoscenza più o meno attiva del francese, che trova impiego (sempre meno nell’uso parlato) accanto all’italiano, ai locali dialetti franco-provenzali, al tedesco walser nelle zone interessate e ai dialetti italiani degli immigrati, in particolar modo il piemontese. In base alle normative di legge, il francese è riconosciuto come lingua minoritaria dallo Stato Italiano, in Valle d’Aosta vige ufficialmente il regime di bilinguismo italiano-francese. La scelta dell’una o dell’altra lingua nei rapporti con l’amministrazione è a discrezione del pubblico.

Removing the Language Barrier

As European universities continue moving toward standardizing their degree cycles, universities in the continent’s non-English speaking countries are increasingly offering master’s degree programs in which English is the language of instruction — in a bid to increase their competitiveness throughout Europe, and beyond.

“It’s taken off in the past 5 to 10 years, since the advent of the Bologna Process,” says Mariam Assefa, executive director of World Education Services, a non-profit organization specializing in foreign credential evaluation. The Bologna Process, named for the Italian city where the agreement for “harmonizing” European higher education was signed in 1999, aims in part to foster greater student mobility by creating a common structure for higher education in Europe.

“Basically when they decided to open their systems internationally, it was thought that English-language taught programs would make the programs more accessible, because the students don’t necessarily come equipped in German or Dutch or French – particularly if they wish to attract students from beyond Europe,” Assefa explains.

The English-language professional degree programs are primarily in business, the sciences and engineering, but as more and more pop up, more and more options are obviously available. A database of “international” master’s programs (which, by and large, are taught in English) maintained by Finland’s Centre for International Mobility yields 151 master’s degree programs in everything from radio frequency electronics to forest products technology to tourism. The number of master’s degree programs taught in English in Germany has risen to 362, with most of the programs less than a decade old. The University of Heidelberg, for instance, offers master’s degree programs in American Studies, international health and molecular and cellular biology, all in English.

Even France, a nation not known for its love of the English language, has jumped into the arena with a 206-page guide to programs taught in English. “Students no longer have to choose between coming to France and studying in a language they understand,” André Siganos, director-general of Agence CampusFrance wrote in a message to potential students in the front of the guide.

“That,” says Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice president for the Institute of International Education, “was a big break-through in France over the past decade or so.”

The faculty composition for these programs can vary, with M.B.A. programs often taught by a mix of international and host country faculty, and engineering programs, on the other hand, mainly taught by host country faculty fluent in English, Blumenthal says. The cost of these programs for international students can also vary dramatically, from nothing at all (the old European price model) to 20,000 Euro or so, or about $27,000 (much more akin to the American model). Yet, by offering instruction in English, the international language of business, universities aren’t solely looking to attract American or British students in search of a cheap(er) or even free program — far from it.

In Germany, for instance, the majority of students are coming from China, India and Latin America, with a “considerable” number also hailing from Eastern Europe, says Ulrich Grothus, director of the German Academic Exchange Service’s New York office. “There’s a much smaller number of students coming from developed countries like the United States or Western Europe – in these particular programs,” says Grothus. “It is true that the majority of American students coming to Germany do so not in spite of the fact that we speak German but because we speak German.”

Hat tip: Edward J. Cunningham


English – fifth language of Switzerland?


swissinfo.com, August 22, 2002

While the majority of Swiss speak one of the four national languages, the number using foreign tongues – especially English - continues to rise.
According to a recent study, almost 64 per cent of Swiss speak German, 19.5 per cent French, 6.6 per cent Italian and less than 0.5 per cent Romansh.

But almost ten per cent of people living in Switzerland do not count one of the national languages as their main tongue.

Since 1950 the proportion of foreign language speakers has risen steadily and now languages such as Serbian, Croatian, Albanian, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish and Kurdish – not to mention English - are more frequently spoken than Romansh.

Of all the foreign languages spoken in Switzerland, English is by far the most dominant and could soon become the main foreign language taught in schools in many cantons.

So is English destined to become the principal lingua franca between the different linguistic regions of Switzerland?

A decision last year by canton Zurich to make English – rather than French - the first foreign language in the school curriculum has made this more likely.

Canton Zurich’s decision met with a strong reaction in French-speaking Switzerland.

The day after a press conference in September 2000 by Zurich’s chief of education, Ernst Buschor, the French-language newspaper “Le Temps” asked if the inclusion of English in the canton’s school curriculum spelled the “End of Switzerland?”

Many people, particularly in the French- and Italian-speaking areas of the country, feared the choice of English would undo the glue in the Swiss national identity.

While Switzerland’s linguistic minorities need to learn German for professional reasons, Swiss from all language areas find it useful to acquire a knowledge of English.

Many parents want their children to have access to the language of globalisation. In the field of scientific research, in some professions and at the higher levels of UBS, Swisscom, and Novartis, English is already used for in-house exchanges.

Decline of Romansh and Italian

But while French and German are continuing to hold their own against the onslaught of English, Romansh is rapidly losing ground.

In 2000 Switzerland’s fourth national language was spoken by just 0.46 per cent of the population – or around 34,000 people – compared with 0.6 per cent 10 years before.

This trend has led a number of Romansh representatives to ask canton Graubünden for stricter measures to protect the language.

One example would be to oblige dual-language communities – where Romansh and German are spoken – to use Romansh as the language of teaching and administration.

Fewer people are also speaking Italian. Some 7.6 per cent of people living in Switzerland used Italian as their main language in 1990. Ten years on this figure has dipped by one per cent.

The drop is in part due to the diminishing number of Italians amongst Switzerland’s foreign population. In 2000, Italians accounted for 21.4 per cent of the country’s foreign population, compared with 60 per cent in 1960.

Federalism – a double-edged sword
It remains to be seen how many cantons will ultimately embrace English as their first foreign language.

But the debate on English highlights one of the fundamental problems which has be to confronted by the Swiss federalist system: the possibility of a clash between the autonomy of the cantons with respect to education, and an appreciation of the needs of cultural minorities, and the subsequent effect on the sense of unity within Switzerland.

swissinfo/ Andrea Tognina

English is the 'Neutral' Language of Switzerland

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I follow the use of English in Switzerland more than in other parts of the world because my school is made up of a large percentage of Swiss students. Most of them come to San Diego to prepare for the Cambridge Certificate Exams.

On my first trip to Switzerland in 2001, I went with the expectation that the people there could speak at least two of their four national languages (German, French, Italian, Romansh) and that since I knew some French, I could rely on that more than on German. I didn't expect people to prefer to use English. Contrary to my image of a country where people moved freely from region to region, easily slipping into French in Geneva, Italian in Lugano, and German in Zurich, there were strong feelings against German-speakers in the French or Italian part, and against Italian- or French-speakers in the German part. So, apparently, the way this small country functions with four distinct national languages is by strong regional linguistic separation. In addition, with the recent introduction of English into the public school system, English is becoming the neutral lingua franca of Switzerland. That is, most German speakers would rather speak English than French in Geneva, and French Swiss would rather speak English than German in Zurich.

Naturally, I am not the first to make this observation, and I've often queried my students about this phenomenon. Their responses vary. For example, I have encountered Swiss school teachers who were rather irritated or indignant that they had to pass an advanced level Cambridge exam in order to secure or hang on to their teaching positions in Switzerland, even though English is not one of the country's national languages nor is there any deep historical connection to an English-speaking country. (But see an account of the English love of Swiss). On the other hand, many young Swiss German students are happy that they had an opportunity to study English early in their education. Few German-speakers enjoy studying French, especially since they 'dislike the sound of it.' Likewise, the French and Italians claim that German is a harsh-sounding language that is difficult for them to pronounce.

The following are some online references which you might want to peruse. The first is an essay by Duermueller entitled "English in Switzerland: From Foreign Language to Lingua Franca?"From a different perspective, there is an abstract by Christof Demont-Heinrich, "Language and National Identity in the Era of Globalization: The Case of English in Switzerland." For a historical perspective, Duermueller also wrote an article about 20 years ago based on a survey of roughly 5,000 Swiss military recruits, exploring their attitudes toward learning English.

Romansh, which is a nationally recognized language of Switzerland, now appears less important than English. In fact, the canton of Zurich broke tradition when it made the change from French to English as 'the first foreign language' for its school-age children. Swissinfo.com comments here on the importance of English - the Fifth language of Switzerland? Finally, here is some commentary in French and German about English in Swiss schools. 

Hat tip: Edward J. Cunningham 

Switzerland: more English, less French



Foreigners often assume that the fact that there are four national languages in Switzerland means that every Swiss speaks four languages, or at least three. However, the reality is very different.

The Swiss can certainly be proud of their linguistic proficiency and many understand the other languages of their fellow countrymen very well. However, proficiency in the national languages is decreasing in favour of English. Quadrilingual Switzerland is apparently becoming a two-and-a-half-language Switzerland. Many people speak their mother tongue and English and understand a second national language.

Each canton makes its own decision about which language will be taught when. In German-speaking Switzerland children have traditionally started French from the age of 9, while French speakers have started German at the same age. In Ticino and the Rumantsch-speaking areas, both French and German are learned during compulsory schooling. Ticino decided in 2002 to make English a compulsory subject, alongside French and German. To lighten the load, children will be able to drop French when they start English in the 8th year.

Zurich's education minister provoked a national debate in 2000 by announcing that his canton intended to make English the first foreign language, rather than French. Supporters of the move point out that English is more useful in the world. They add that children and parents are in favour and that since motivation is an important ingredient in language learning, pupils are likely to learn English more successfully than they do French.

Opponents see the decision as a threat to the unity of Switzerland, and fear that French and Italian speakers will be put at a disadvantage because they will still need a good standard of German to rise in their careers within Switzerland.

The French are afraid of the workload of learning languages. Who'd have thought?

Hat tip: Edward J. Cunningham

English Language in Switzerland



Traditionally, Switzerland is home to a large anglophone community. The English language is very widespread and is used as a link between Switzerland's various linguistic communities. Switzerland is extremely open culturally and economically, and thus has all the services an anglophone could possibly want. So much so that some English speakers who have lived in Switzerland for years have not felt the need to learn one of the national languages, since they are able to deal with any situation in English.

The bulk of the anglophone population is concentrated in the Lake Geneva area (31%), where the cities of Geneva and Lausanne are located. Other thriving communities also exist in large cities such as Basle (12%), Zurich or Zug (9%). The percentage of anglophones has reached as much as 13 to 15% of the population in some communities such as Founex or Bogis-Bossey, near Geneva.

The English language is very widespread in Switzerland. After their mother tongue, the Swiss speak English best, since it is used as a link and the language of communication in this multilingual country of germanophones (65%), francophones (20%), italophones (7.5%) and Romansh (0.5%). The Swiss English-language skills shown in the following table indicate that two out of three German-speaking Swiss and one out of two French-speaking Swiss speak English.

Swiss English-language skills (Grin: 1999)

The tourist industry and the presence of many international organizations and businesses make English a must in Switzerland. English dominates the worlds of business, commerce and finance. The Swiss are used to English, which conveys a young and positive image. It's the language of choice for advertisers wishing to avoid multilingual campaigns. And it's not by chance that the recently privatized Swiss telecommunications firm adopted a single English-sounding name: Swisscom. The same goes for the major Swiss airline, which is called Swissair. As a general rule, "Do you speak English?" is greeted with a smile and a well-spoken reply in this multilingual country. Proof of this is the fact that many anglophones who do not speak any of Switzerland's national languages have lived there for years without the slightest communication problems.

English is really en vogue with young people. Most of the successful films are American and the music that is popular with the youth is almost exclusively anglophone. English is also the language of the Internet, which many Swiss use as a means of communication.

You can be understood in English in almost any shop or business. At the post office, the bank or the train station, all the employees speak English. In all the major urban centres there are English-language bookstores and video rentals as well as English grocery shops. Most of the cinemas show films in the original English as well. The anglophone community in Geneva benefits from a dozen or so cultural organizations, notably the American library. Several English-language radio stations broadcast in this region, the main one being World Radio Geneva on 88.4 FM. And of course, all the English newspapers are available at any news stand.

You can find English churches in all of the linguistic regions, and anglophone schools are located throughout Switzerland. The most renowned are along the Genevan Riviera and in the Vaud Alps, giving Switzerland its excellent international reputation for private education. Young people from around the world come here to study. Princess Diana studied in Switzerland, as did many other members of the Royal Family. So it's not surprising to find the gliterati taking part in the joys of skiing each winter in the Vaud Alps and Gstaad ski resorts.

Hat tip: Edward J. Cunningham

The Globalization of Language


PUBLISHED OCTOBER 29, 2008 on the columbiaspectator.com

In case anyone had any doubt, the contagiousness of our current economic crisis has made it painfully clear how integrated our global neighborhood is. It doesn’t make much sense, though, that we can’t all speak about this world-embracing problem in the same language—literally. It is time that all nations swallow their pride and agree to adopt a common language, one that every person on Earth would speak, read, and write.
Visceral reactions to such a call for language commonality are understandably indignant. What about national sovereignty, cultural identity, or tradition and history? On the surface, demanding that everyone speak the same language seems bigoted and culturally imperialistic—who can say that one language is better than all others?
A universal language does not, however, mean the extermination of linguistic diversity.
It is possible to maintain bilingualism or even multilingualism in a society. Everyone at Columbia, for instance, speaks English, but we are all required to learn a foreign language as well. Rather than linguistically and culturally homogenizing the world, speaking a common language would increase opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue and intercultural understanding, as it would allow direct dialogue between people of different origins.
Furthermore, times of economic suffering remind us that being rational and pragmatic is sometimes more important than clinging to tradition. It is inevitable that some feeling of national sovereignty and distinction will be lost if everyone speaks the same language, but it is naive to believe that the conception of cultures as discrete entities has not already been significantly eroded. The fact of the matter is that adopting a universal language is not too large of a step from where we already find ourselves in our globalized world—English has already infiltrated societies across the globe.
Evidence for the proliferation of English abounds. France has found itself so inundated by English that one of the branches of its Ministry of Culture, the Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie, has devoted itself to preventing the contamination of the French language by English words. Although it maintains Web sites intended to encourage French speakers to use native alternatives for words such as “podcasting” and for phrases like “beach volleyball,” it is difficult to be optimistic about its chances for success when words such as “Internet” have become so universally ingrained.
Indeed, if the French backlash against English only hints at the extent of the globalization of English, the Japanese obsession with English offers unequivocal evidence. It is not only words for things that are un-Japanese, such as “pizza” or “necktie,” that the Japanese borrow from English. Using English in Japan has become so trendy that English words regularly replace Japanese ones in pop culture: for example, “getto,” Japan’s adaptation of the word “get,” is so frequently used that it has become part of the vocabulary of the average Japanese youth. With English so prevalent in societies across the globe, it isn’t as huge a leap as one would expect to call for a more formalized, codified role of a global language. The obstacles are largely ideological and psychological—the will rather than the way seems to be the largest barrier to linguistic unity.
Yet the fact that English has become increasingly globalized does not in itself justify a more formal role for universal language. The reasons for a global language are more fundamental and more pressing. A common language would be a significant step towards the elimination, or at least the diminution, of racial and cultural prejudices that have no place in our contemporary world. When people are technologically capable of communicating with essentially anyone in the world with Internet access, why should they be linguistically deprived of this opportunity?
More importantly, a single global language makes economic sense. According to an article in July 2006 in British newspaper the Independent, the European Union budgeted one billion euros for translation of documents into each of what was then its 20 official languages. One billion euros is only the budget for one year in the EU—the cumulative cost of translation for small and large businesses and organizations across the globe must be staggering. With world economies slipping into recession, it is the right time to reconsider the wisdom of allocating resources to the culturally symbolic but highly impractical and difficult service of translation.
Of course, some may rightly argue that adopting a universal language would also incur costs. Would the staggering one-time cost of translating already-existing documents in all countries to a single global language really be less than the cumulative daily costs of translation? What would happen to translators and interpreters whose jobs would be demoded? How feasible would such a shift to a common language be? How many generations would it take? All these questions are profound and challenging, but they are nonetheless—or therefore—ones that multinational organizations should consider carefully.
Our global economic recession reminds us that we are all interconnected on this planet, and it is detrimental to seek to sustain anachronistic and artificial linguistic barriers merely for the sake of the antiquated concept of cultural autonomy. Each nation, of course, should value its own culture highly and seek to preserve it, but not at the cost of the welfare and progress of our world. Perhaps the United Nations could put the question of language on its agenda. To avoid having English or any other language inadvertently or arbitrarily imposed upon them, nations must proactively and cooperatively decide their own linguistic destiny.

The author is a Columbia College first-year.

The Rise of English in Switzerland

English in Switzerland: From Foreign Language to Lingua Franca?
Urs Dürmüller University of Bern

Since World War II English has been spreading all over the world in (sic) an ever increasing tempo. Like so many other countries in which English was once nothing but a foreign language, Switzerland, too, has allowed English to acquire a more dominant place within the national language repertoires. Before World War II the presence of English could be felt only where the citizens of the Anglo-American countries - then above all Britain - came into contact with Swiss citizens. In Switzerland borrowings into the Swiss national languages - German, French, Italian and Romansh - were made in the domains of sports, entertainment and other leisure time activities. These borrowings were mainly terms that could easily be integrated into the Swiss languages and did not change them structurally. Sport, corner, foul, jazz, charleston, fox-trot, star and many others were taken up in the same way as the Italian spaghetti and gelati or the French parfum and jupe. The average Swiss citizens did not have any fluency in English; typically they would acquire an English language competence only if in contact with English speaking foreigners, as in tourism. In the Bernese Oberland the English speaking Swiss wanted to accommodate the British mountaineers and skiers in every way possible, thus also linguistically. No doubt, there existed Swiss citizens who were able to converse in English, but they would make use of that language only because they had to communicate with English speaking foreigners. The idea that English might also be used for intra-Swiss purposes, if it had occurred to them at all, would have been judged utterly absurd. English was generally and doubtlessly identified as a foreign language. To the average Swiss English was much farther removed from their mother tongue than any second national language. In German-speaking Switzerland the name of the legendary comedian Charles Chaplin was made familiar not in its English phonological shape, but in a French form, not as [t*æplin], but as [*aplæ] . [Now, that's odd: my fellow French pronounce that name "shapleen"--Unfrench Frenchman] Equally, the generation born before World Word II would call the trendy Levi‘s pants becoming fashionable among the young from the fifties onward [blu*㶶a] according to a French pattern, not [blud*in]. [Is it so? In France "jeans" is pronounced "jeen", in Germany, "cheence". Maybe a Swiss reader could enlighten us?--Unfrench] What is interesting about these two cases is that everybody knew that the Chaplin movies and the jeans came from the USA, not from France; nevertheless, the names in question were pronounced in French, not in English, i.e. in the non-native language most familiar to the German speaking Swiss. (cp. Dürmüller 1992) Although it is difficult to obtain any data on the language competence of speakers in the past either qualitatively or quantitatively, it is assumed quite generally that second-language (L2) competence was fairly good. On the other hand, third-language (L3) competence seems to have been scant, except maybe in Italian-speaking Switzerland where the German influence had become more and more important already from the beginning of the century onwards. More recent data confirm this impression by indicating that the population of those over 65 years of age in German-speaking Switzerland still show a positive attitude toward French, their L2, while all the younger ones show a preference for English. (Dürmüller 1986) People‘s language repertoires in the past consisted of the native languages - German, French, Italian or Romansh - plus a second national language, and, maybe, a third national language. English was definitely not part of these repertoires. It was a foreign language only and because of its fringe status, would not appear in the language repertoires of the Swiss.

Since the end of World War II, particularly since about 1960, the situation regarding the place of English among the languages used in Switzerland has drastically changed. The worldwide spread of English has not stopped at the Swiss border. Today, it is estimated that about a third of the world population has at least a marginal knowledge of English; and a third of that third is said to be able to use English as L1 or as an additional language of coherent and fluent communication. This is what can also be observed in Switzerland. Indeed, everyday life is full of objects, processes and phenomena that are defined and referred to in English. In domains like economy, science, technology, entertainment, leisure time English is present in Switzerland to a degree that has evoked defensive measures by people who fear that what they consider to be the "true" culture of Switzerland - which includes the Swiss national languages - might be endangered. (Dürmüller 1993) Up to 20% of the language of presentation in some music radio programs is in English; up to 50% of the language used in public commercials and in graffiti texts is in English; names for Swiss products tend to be anglicized, etc. (Dürmüller 1986) English has quite definitely become part of Swiss life. People in Switzerland are now often more familiar with English than with the languages of their compatriots. English has definitely changed its status, it has moved from the fringe to the centre, from the status of a foreign language to that of an additional language with lingua franca functions, i.e. a language that can be used for special purposes and for wider communication. As regards the language repertoires built up in the schools, where the languages are numbered according to the weight they are given, Switzerland has officially admitted English only as L3 (L4 in the Italian-speaking area), unofficially, however, English has now won the L2 position, at least among the young. There has therefore been a split status for English in Switzerland in recent years, an official one and an unofficial one, or, to put it differently, a de iure status - English as L3 - and a de facto status - English as L2. This parallel existence of a de iure and a de facto status for English in multilingual Switzerland has encouraged two types of model repertoires:

1) a repertoire with English as a foreign language in third position

German-speaking Switzerland French-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland

L1: Mother tongue German French Italian

L2: National language French German German/French

L3: Foreign language English English English

and 2) a repertoire with English as a national lingua franca

German-speaking Switzerland French-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland

L1: Mother tongue German French Italian

L2: lingua franca English English English

There appears to be some competition between these two models. In everyday life it has been observed that occasionally English is preferred as the vehicle of communication to one of the national languages when people have to talk to someone not able, or not willing, to speak their own language. This is possible if both partners have sufficient competence in English, i.e. if in their individual repertoires they have shifted English up to the L2 slot.

It is especially the young who prefer to make use of English in this way. That is to say, they are replacing the traditional Swiss language repertoire consisting only of Swiss national languages with one that conforms to their wishes, needs, and competences. (Dürmüller 1991) In response to this trend, in the 1990s, the education authorities in several cantons began to give in to the clearly articulated wishes of the young and also the apparent needs of employers for personnel with good English language skills. Language learning at Swiss state schools is now seen in a more global perspective. Rather than insisting on the various types of Swiss bilingualism (or trilingualism), the cantonal Departments of Education have begun to accept the idea of helping the young to build up language repertoires in which English always occupies a central place. These repertoires comprise one of the local national languages (mostly, but not always, identical with the pupils‘ first language), a second national language, and English. This means that English is now quite generally available to Swiss teenagers. In the Canton of Berne, for instance, 99% of eighth grade secondary school students are taking English lessons (1999). In the Grisons, the authorities are giving the L2 slot, which before was occupied by French, over to English or Italian. The discussion in Switzerland is no longer about whether to offer English classes or not, but about when to do so: already at the primary school level? already before the second national language? There is no doubt that English now belongs to the language repertoire of Swiss people and to the language repertoire of the nation. In spite of such readiness to accept English into the national language repertoire, public opinion does not support the idea of introducing English officially as a lingua franca into multilingual Switzerland. Even the young, by whom English is favored most, would not like to see English become an official Swiss language. (Dürmüller 1991) English is a language that is useful to them, but it is not their home tongue.This means that there is a split attitude towards English. On the one hand there is agreement that English, being a foreign language, should not become an official language of Switzerland; on the other hand, people seem convinced that English cannot be removed from everyday Swiss life any more and that some knowledge of English is necessary if one wants to go through life profitably. In their everyday activities, they are turning more and more towards English as an additional language for many purposes, preferring that language over the other Swiss national languages in situations where English can compete with these, and thereby gradually moving English to the L2 slot in their individual language repertoires. The embedding of Switzerland in a world dominated by English indeed creates needs for English also inside the country, as is well illustrated by the increasing use of varieties of English for Special Purposes in various professional domains.

A look at Swiss universities can show how such varieties of English for Special Purposes are gradually occupying territory formerly covered by the Swiss national languages. Science and research have long been singled out as fields within which English has attained a commanding presence world-wide. That is why, in Switzerland, too, the language of science tends to be English. English has definitely become the language of and for research in Switzerland, too. As research is an integral part of graduate and especially postgraduate education, English quite naturally also is the language used for presentations, for discussions, and for written reports. This means that, quite often, English is also used for prescribed work, such as the writing of theses and dissertations, and, more rarely, in oral examinations, and it means that where a course is devoted to the discussion of research, particularly ongoing research, the language chosen is English as well. (Dürmüller to appear) The academic disciplines in which English is used in this way are first of all the medical and natural sciences, then disciplines like psychology, and parts of the social sciences and economics; while theology, law, and most disciplines in the humanities, apart from English studies, can still do without English most of the time. The use of English at Swiss universities differs from discipline to discipline. It depends on whether English is already established as the language of that discipline outside Swiss universities. Where it is and where there is a need to participate in the international scientific discussion, English will be used without reservation. Where English is only one among several languages serving a discipline, as in history, e.g., the pressure to use it is much smaller. Although, in Switzerland, the universities are state institutions, they do not appear to be under any obligation to follow a particular state policy regarding the use of languages. All of them have accepted the language of the territory within which they are situated as their prime language. However, they do not control whether the local territorial languages are used by all the departments and institutes without exception. That is why the languages of web pages, of courses, examinations, and publications depend on whoever takes the responsibility in these departments and institutes. There are, however, certain attitudinal differences with regard to [the] use of English. In German-speaking Switzerland, there are hardly any reservations with regard to using English. Pragmatism rules, what counts is easy exchange of information and the productive dialogue across language boundaries. English is accepted as a lingua franca, and as the language of the club. If you can express yourself in Scientific English, you belong. In this way, English has the same function as did Latin in the Middle Ages, giving access to the community of scholars and maintaining partisanship within it. In French-speaking Switzerland, on the other hand, and especially, in Italian-speaking Switzerland, there is more hesitation to adopt English, or, to put it differently, the bond between the universities and the territorial languages is stronger there. One is tempted to establish a correlation between the relative openness towards English and the minority/majority status of the territorial language: the larger the language territory is and the more speakers of the national Swiss language it has, the more open it is to allow English in. And the smaller the territory is, the less likey it is that English will be used. For publications and research proposals, however, this correlation is not valid. Nor is it for teaching graduate and postgraduate students in in the medical and natural sciences. Where the goal is to reach the international community of scholars, even the representatives of French speaking Switzerland will use English; and where students and scholars meet to discuss research written up in English, even the French speakers will switch to English. (Dürmüller to appear)

When people are used to reading, writing and talking English in their professional lives or/and when they engage in leasure time activities that are characterized by English, it is only a small step for them to also try and use English for general communicative purposes. Swiss people, on the whole, cannot be considered truly multilingual, often they are not even functionally bilingual. (Bichsel 1994, Dürmüller 1997) Polyglot dialogue within multilingual Switzerland is the exception rather than the rule. It may be practiced by the educational elites, but is not generally popular. (Girod et al. 1987) It seems much easier to make communication possible by means of a shared lingua franca, i.e. a foreign language used for wider communication. That is why it is possible to consider the spread of English in the world and in Switzerland as a chance for a better understanding not only between one Swiss language group and another, but also between Switzerland and the world. At the end of the twentieth century English is the principal language of Western culture and civilization. Traces of English are visible wherever that culture has been allowed in; they are certainly visible in Swtzerland, and in all of the Swiss language areas quite in the same way and to the same degree. Bike, Body, Stretching, Jogging, Cool, Acid, Rock, Non-food, Fashion, By-pass surgery, Heart attack, Compact discs, Sorry, Hi and All you need is love mean the same to all the Swiss, whatever their L1. English vocabulary, whether for leisure time activities or special science branches, is at the disposal of Swiss speakers everywhere. The English language as it appears in such domains does not make communication among the Swiss more difficult, but, actually, makes it easier. As a matter of fact, it is in domains where English jargon has already become dominant that Swiss people of different L1 backgrounds, sometimes even from one and the same L1 background, may be heard talking to each other in English: in medicine, physics, management, business administration, product planning, computer programming, film distribution, banking, trading, defence strategies, etc., etc. English facilitates the contacts of all these groups and their members both across the borders of the nation and across the linguistic barriers within the country. English is an ideal lingua franca for Switzerland. For one thing, it is not one of the Swiss languages, it is not the L1 of any of the four language groups, but a foreign language for all and everyone. The other reason why English has good chances of being used within the Swiss multilingual community is its „general acceptancy", a term introduced into the language discussion by public opinion (Dürmüller 1993). It indicates that the public is ready to accept English and that English is generally welcomed as a language one might take up into one's repertoire.

In 1989 a government report on the linguistic situation of Switzerland acknowledged certain trends working in favour of English. It noted that Switzerland was more and more exposed to economic and cultural influences from abroad, and that the economic concerns had generally become more dominant. Both the cultural and linguistic influences from abroad and the use of language(s) in economic domains defied control, it said, and did not respond to measures in language policy. The report also noted that the linguistic behavior of a large part of the population was changing - helped on by modern communications technologies. There was, the report regretted, a tendency away from "languages of culture" towards a language which is "merely functional and communicative". This development, the report said, would lead to "a loss of esthetic values, of cultural diversity and expressiveness"; to "a general levelling" which would find "its adequate instrument" in the English language. While the competences in the traditional languages of Switzerland, even in the citizens' own L1, were being diminished, a compensatory competence was being built up in English. People's motivation to learn a second or third Swiss language was falling, but Swiss people seemed keen to learn English. This observation the report linked to the utilitarian thinking of the Swiss and their acceptance of a world-wide culture transported by the English language. As a consequence of all these trends, the state of Swiss multilingualism was appraised rather soberly: the four-language repertoire of Switzerland had been reduced to a repertoire of two and a half languages, the report said. For, as the country as a whole was concerned, only German and French could count as full languages. Italian, the report commented, might be an official language, but on the national level it had, at best, the significance of half a language. And Romansh, which is L1 not even for one percent of the Swiss, should not be counted at all. The report went on to say that the distribution of languages according to their relative importance could also be seen differently, especially if one looked ahead into the future. The quadrilingualism of Switzerland might then be reduced to the bilingualism of German and French. English might then be the language to join these two national languages in the repertoires of the citizens, where it would probably occupy the L2 slot, leaving the second national languages to the uncomfortable L3 slot, where they would be no more than "half languages". (Eidgenössisches Departement des Innern 1989) The spread of English in Switzerland and the apparent status change of English from a foreign language to a language of wider communication have been described and documented (see references). As suspected by the government report quoted, the attraction of English lies mainly in the economic benefits that come with the acquisition of English and the share in a modern Western, mainly American, culture that English gives access to. While material gains and cultural affiliation are strong factors promoting the spread of English in other nations, too, in Switzerland English also [benefits] from the factor of linguistic diversity. As English is entering competition with the traditional Swiss languages for a key position in the national language repertoire, its international prestige and the promise of world-wide understanding it carries, as well as its other assets make it look like a winner. Of course, English cannot replace German, French or Italian where these are L1, but it is replacing them where they are L2 in people's individual repertoires. It seems that a distinction has to be made between the individual repertoires of Swiss citizens, in which English may indeed be advancing to the L2 position, and the language repertoire of the whole nation, which continues to be dominated by German and French. Yet, for communication across language borders, from one language community to another, the shape of the individual speaker repertoires are decisive. It matters which language(s), apart from their L1, speakers are able and willing to use. In this respect, English has some advantages not only over Italian, but also over French.

This apparent change in the status of English has not gone unnoticed. During the eighties self-appointed language purist groups were writing letters-to-the-editor complaining about the increasing use of English inside Switzerland; they also published newsletters urging that the spread of English be stopped by measures of a kind similar to those that had been adopted in neighbouring France. In France the "purity" of the language is indeed an age-old concern. Unlike Switzerland, France has a long tradition of language planning. That is why it was possible in France to take steps against the increasing use of English by French speakers. From 1959 onwards a language policy with an anti-Anglo slant can easily be detected. Ministers of Culture, like André Malraux and Jack Lang, and even French Presidents themselves, voiced their concerns about the permeation of French by Anglicisms. Anglo terms were banned from the French language, and people were challenged to join a crusade against the "sprititual imperialism of the USA" as it appeared in TV serials like "Dallas" or "Denver". (cp. Goudailler 1976) In multilingual Switzerland there is no such easy equation of language and culture. If the authorities wanted to battle the foreign elements intruding into the national languages, they would find themselves in a difficult and complex situation. The influence of English is felt in the same way in all of the linguistic regions of Switzerland. The domains concerned are more or less the same in Italian-speaking Ticino, in French-speaking Western Switzerland and in the dominant German-speaking part. Taking measures against English would be easiest in French-speaking Switzerland because it would be possible to simply follow the example set by France. Since neither Italy nor Germany have taken comparable measures against the intrusion of English into their national languges, the Italian- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland would find themselves in quite a different situation from their French-speaking compatriots. Indeed, the French language policy of fighting off English is unique in Europe. It must be assumed that the difference in mentality reflected in the language policies regarding English among the neighbouring states of Switzerland would also be reflected among the Swiss population groups. That is to say, a Swiss language policy following the French example would probably not be well supported in the German- and Italian-speaking parts of the country. In addition, such an anti-Anglo language policy would solidify the language barriers already existing inside Switzerland rather than weaken them. For every language region would have to enlarge its vocabulary quite drastically. Again there would be an inequality in these efforts because the French group would be able to use the newly created terms with their French neighbours, while the German and Italian groups would lack that advantage, since in Italy and Germany the anglicisms seem to be acceptable. These appear to be some of the reasons why officially nothing is done to stop the spread of English in Switzerland. Gradually, therefore, English is allowed to acquire a more prominent place in the language repertoire of the country, even one with a communicative function for the Swiss themselves: i.e. that of language of wider communication or lingua franca.


Bichsel, Reinhard, 1994. Individueller Multilingualismus. In: Mehrsprachigkeit - Eine Herausforderung. Hans Bickel & Robert Schläpfer, eds. 247-279. Basel/Frankfurt a.M.: Helbling&Lichtenhahn

Dürmüller, Urs. 1986. The Status of English in Multilingual Switzerland. Bulletin CILA 44 : 7-38.

- 1991 Swiss Multilingualism and Intranational Communication. Sociolinguistica 5: 111-159

- 1992 The Changing Status of English in Switzerland. In: Status Change of Languages. Ulrich Ammon and Marlis Hellinger, eds. 355-370.Berlin-New York: Mouton de Gruyter

- 1993 Themen der Schweizerischen Soziolinguistik m Spiegel der öffentlichen Meinung. In: Schweizer Soziolinguistik - Soziolinguistik der Schweiz. Iwar Werlen, ed. 79-92. Bulletin CILA 58

- 1997. Changing Patterns of Multilingualism. From quadrilingual to multilingual Switzerland. Zürich: Pro Helvetia.

- to appear. The Presence of English at Swiss Universities. In: The Effects of the Dominance of English as a Language of Science on the Non-English Language Communities. Ulrich Ammon ,ed. Berlin-New York: Mouton de Gruyter

Eidgenössisches Departement des Innern. 1989. Zustand und Zukunft der viersprachigen Schweiz. Bern: EDMZ

Girod, Roger et al. 1987. L‘eventail des connaissances. Aarau/Frankfurt a.M.: Sauerländer

Goudailler, Jean-Paul. 1976. Sprache und Macht. Dialekt 6(1): 28-51


Hat tip: Edward J. Cunningham

Meeting in French poses question of clarity

In the dailyworld.com, NOVEMBER 20, 2008:
We are all for preserving the language and traditions of south Louisiana, but we wonder whether a public meeting is the place to do it.

The Evangeline Parish Police Jury has voted to hold its entire meeting on December 8 in French. It has been the jury's custom to do that for the past several years, and we understand and applaud the motive behind it.

But, given that so many of the people today no longer speak or understand French, there is a legitimate question of whether a meeting held in a language that is unfamiliar to most of the population does not run afoul of the intent, if not the letter, of the state's Sunshine laws.

Those laws were passed - and have recently been strengthened - to make sure that public business is done in a forum in which the public understands what is going on and can participate in the proceedings.

There was a day when a meeting in French in Evangeline Parish would have met that standard, but we think, sadly, that the times have changed too much for that to be the case today.

There is a bit of legal history here, that seems to indicate that legal matters can proceed in French, but only in addition to English.

Louisiana has never declared an "official language" as such. In 1812, when we entered the Union, more people spoke French than English. Because of that Congress insisted that the state's first constitution to require that all laws and official documents be published in the language "in which the Constitution of the United States is written" - that is, in English, but not only in English.

Until the Civil War, Louisiana continued to publish documents in French and the legislature continued to operate bilingually as a practical necessity and the current state constitution provides:

"The right of the people to preserve, foster, and promote their respective historic linguistic and cultural origins is recognized."

Under state law, all legal advertising "shall be made in the English language and may in addition be duplicated in the French language."

We would love to see both languages used, regularly rather than once a year, but only in forums and in a way that it is certain that the full public understands the public issues being presented.

The fading French connection


Greenway wrote this in the IHT, on November 19, 2008:

As summer was ending I went up to St. Andrews in Canada; a pretty little seaport town near where New Brunswick melts into Maine.

There are signs everywhere of a British past. The streets are named Prince of Wales, King, Queen and Princess Royal, not to mention Victoria Terrace. Up the hill is the Loyalist Burying Ground, filled with New Englanders who decided to remain British during the Revolutionary War.

But this is bilingual Canada, and in places where they don't want you to leave your car the signs say: "Stationnement Interdit" as well as "No Parking."

Canadian French may make Parisians wince, but it is French, nonetheless, jealously promoted and mandated by Canada's Francophones even in English-speaking provinces. Canadian politicians when speaking abroad often begin the first couple of paragraphs in French, which will be broadcast back home, before they revert to English.

Elsewhere, the French language isn't doing so well. A recent insult came last summer when the Ladies Professional Golf Association insisted that proficiency in English be required of its players. Libba Galloway, the organization's deputy commissioner, was quoted as saying that since the fan base and the sponsors are mostly English speaking, "we think it is important for our players to effectively communicate in English."

South Korea's golfing star, Se Ri Pak, said: "We play so good all over.... When you win you should give your speech in English." But the rule could run into trouble in the United States, where discrimination on the basis of national origin is illegal.

French used to be the language of diplomacy. Lingua franca means a common language by which people can communicate. But today most diplomats use English as their lingua franca. I remember covering a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in which the Asian leaders really got to know each other on the golf course speaking English.

English-language schools dot the back streets in former French Indochina, and a meeting of French-speaking countries in Hanoi a few years back had difficulty finding enough local people to make up a French-speaking staff. Attempts by France to insist that French be spoken in Cambodian hospitals donated by France failed miserably when Cambodians demonstrated in favor of English.

The World Economic Forum, which is based in French-speaking Geneva, insists that English be the official language of its annual meeting in German-speaking Davos. But the forum provides a French-speaking dinner for those Francophones who need a little relief.

Some say that fear of English influences French foreign policy. It is said that France backed the murderous Hutu faction in Rwanda because France didn't want English-speaking rebels from Uganda to win. The Rwandan government prepared a 500-page document accusing France of assisting the genocide, and took Rwanda out of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, or OIF, the French-led association of French-speaking countries.

France denied the charges, but now the former French-speaking Belgian colony is switching its entire educational system from French to English.

The OIF is well financed and, with the help of the Foreign Ministry, tries to make sure that France remains a language of international communication.

The LPGA may stress English, but last summer saw what the Financial Times called an "eccentric quest for perpetual linguistic pre-eminence in the Olympic movement."

Eccentric is not the word any linguistically patriotic Frenchman would have used. After all, was not the modern Olympic movement founded by Baron Pierre de Courbertin? And did not the Belgian head of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, declare in Bejing last summer that although English and French were both official languages of the OIC, French took precedence in cases of dispute?

At the Games, signs were in French, English and Chinese, although the Chinese themselves preferred to use English when not speaking their own language.

Spanish, Chinese, even Portuguese, never mind English, may be spoken more than French around the world, but France's effort to keep its beautiful language alive, to turn back the rising tide of English, and combat the dreaded American cultural tsunami has a certain doomed nobility about it.

Even in Uruguay

Here is an interesting account by a French Columbian expat of the decline of French in Uruguay. It is in French. I have no time to translate it into English right now. Should someone volunteer a translation, I'll post that too. Here is a Spanish version of that research work.


Samantha CHAREILLE Alliance colombo-française (COLOMBIE)

Abstract: The Eastern Republic of Uruguay, one of the smallest countries of South America, is located ten thousand kilometers from France between Brazil and Argentina, with less than four millions inhabitants. An average French person will be surprised to learn how important the French language was for a long time there. Uruguay students used to learn French as their first foreign language. French had a special status. Today it is in steep decline even though it enjoys a positive image. The Lycée Français itself is experiencing grave difficulties. English has been the only mandatory foreign language in schools since 1996 while fewer and fewer students in secondary education have begun the study of French since 1991. One factor contributing to the decline of French in Uruguay could be the lack of interest shown by French and Uruguayan media in the other country. Portuguese and English are increasingly useful languages for Uruguayans to learn, and the young have bathed in Anglo-American culture for decades. Meanwhile, the number of French expatriates living in Uruguay is steadily decreasing. What's more, current French policies for spreading and maintaining French outside of France are very inappropriate.

A few excerpts:

Samantha Chareille
Doctora en Didactología de las lenguas y de las culturas.
Université Paris III – la Sorbonne Nouvelle.
Ecole normale supérieure de Lettres et Sciences humaines de Lyon.

Decline of French Teaching in Valencia, Spain

In a this pdf from the www.sie.upv.es web site, interesting statistics document the steep decline of French teaching in the area of Valencia, Spain in just five years 1995/2000:

The Rise and Role of English as an International Language. Some educational Consequences


November 04

Arthur van Essen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands:

Many non-native speakers (NNSs) associate 'English' with native-speaker (NS) English and culture, as they were taught to do at school. But many more NNSs the world over use English to interact with other NNSs without giving a single thought to anything related to the language and cultures of English native-speaking nations. For such language users (and their numbers are growing by the day) English is not 'English' in the restricted sense of 'relating to England or its people or language' (New Oxford Dictionary of English, 1998), but just a useful tool for communication between people of varying linguistic and cultural backgrounds in a variety of communicative contexts.
The rise of English as an international language (EIL) and the resultant status of English as a medium for global communication (predicted by Sapir as long ago as 1931; Sapir 1931:66) poses new challenges to the ELT profession in the sense that we need to rethink some of our traditional aims and objectives (cf. McKay 2002). As an international language, English has become de-nationalised. It is no longer the property of the native English-speaking nations; it has got into the hands of foreigners. They own it now. What does that mean for us teachers and materials designers? It is my purpose in the following sections to outline some of these challenges in relation to the various roles of English in the European and global context and to suggest ways in which each of these challenges could be met.

English in Europe

Over the last thirty years or so it has become received opinion in Europe that foreign-language instruction should be aimed at (primarily) spoken interaction between NSs and NNSs across the frontiers of the nation states. Underlying this view is the ideal of European citizenship, which requires learners to familiarise themselves not just with the other language but also with the culture concerned (often involving extensive literary studies). The target language and culture are viewed as potential sources of enrichment which supposedly contribute to the formation of an 'open and multiple identity' (Sheils 2001:16). This ideal has a long tradition in Europe. Over the past decades it has received support from various quarters: linguistic, psycholinguistic, and anthropological alike. To give you one example, it has been assumed for years now that all languages have a universal base that is largely genetically determined, and a culture-specific superstructure (probably the bigger part), which is fully in tegrated with the base. So, much of what is transmitted through language, whether this has a referential or a social/expressive function is therefore not so much universal as culture-bound (cf. Lyons 1981). Some (e.g. Phillipson 2003:108) would even go so far as to say that language is not just a reflection of reality but a conceptual filter through which we constitute reality and see the world. This point of view, known as the 'Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis', would make translation, any translation, a precarious venture. Whatever we may think of this position, it is considerations like these which have legitimised the existence of a Landeskunde component in European foreign-language education, even if Landeskunde and the cultural referents of a language need not be co-extensive (witness the massive cultural differences between and within the US and the UK for example). Such culture teaching traditionally regarded the foreign culture as a monolithic whole, a view that is no longer tenable (if it ever was). It included Cultural (with a capital C) products such as literature, maybe some films and perhaps music, the way of life (in an anthropological sense) and institutions of a people, their history, and the interaction between the culture and the language they speak. No one would blame European language teachers for wanting to retain this cultural element in their teaching (after all to them English is just another national language of just another European state), had not the unprecendented growth of EIL upset the apple cart. This I shall take up in the following sections. But as we go along we shall have to keep in mind that our discussion is ineluctably bound up with European language policy as a whole.
Apart from paying lip service to linguistic equality, plurilingualism and pluriculturalism ("letting a thousand flowers bloom"), European (here in the more restricted sense of the 15 states making up the EU) language policy is still far from transparent. As some languages turn out to be more 'international' than others (a fact recognised by most EU citizens), the equality of the 11 official EU languages has largely remained a myth (Phillipson 2001:80). For a smooth functioning of the EU institutions, the use of EIL would therefore be infinitely better (House 2001:83), but politically unthinkable (see Phillipson 2003, especially Chapter 4]).

Since legislation on educational, linguistic, and cultural matters is in principle the prerogative of the individual member state, all attempts at European curriculum development and syllabus design (such as those put forward by the Council of Europe's Modern Languages Projects [CEMLP] group) cannot be other than 'recommendations'. Despite the various updates of such a well-known specification of English language teaching/learning objectives as the Threshold Level, the CEMLP does not, as yet, seem to have taken the idea of EIL on board.

To give an example of the intrinsic vagueness of supranational language policy, in 1995 the European Council of Ministers adopted a resolution suggesting that "pupils should, as a general rule, have the opportunity of learning two languages of the Union other than their mother tongue". But what are we to make of 'mother tongue' here? It could be any one of the hundreds of languages within the Union. At the moment the EU is home to over 200 indigenous languages, in addition to several hundred immigrant languages. In everyday educational practice the other two languages referred to above would probably be a national language in addition to English. And whether the politicians like it or not it is probable that English will always be included in the choice of languages. Again, official policy is loath to recognise this. This has led some scholars to accuse the EU of a hypocritical language policy (e.g. House [2001]). They argue that the role of EIL is irreversible and that a distinction is therefore to be made between languages that we use primarily for communication (such as EIL) and languages that we use for chiefly cultural purposes. The latter are traditionally objects of study in Europe, the former concern us here.

English, a world language

The rise of EIL cannot be viewed in isolation from its role in the world. Few people today will contest the fact that English is a world language.But what is a 'world language'? Numbers of NSs are not decisive here. When it comes to numbers English is outdone by Chinese and probably also Urdu (figures from the Internet). Saying that English is a world language does not mean that everybody on earth speaks English, or that everybody views it as such. That English has become a world language has nothing to do with the intrinsic qualities of the language either, even if it has a rich vocabulary, thanks to its contact with other European and non-Western languages. Some would view this richness as proof of its flexibility, others see in it a helpful bridgehead to learning other languages (and thus a considerable asset for a linguistic passkey). Still others would aver that English is businesslike and that it has a lucid syntax, exuding masculinity (Jespersen 1938:1-16).
Even so the global spread of English has been the result of totally different factors, both political, military, and economic (Crystal 1997:7-8; Kennedy 2002). Though it may require military power to establish a dominant language, it takes economic power to expand it and to keep it up. After the last war, during the decline of its Empire, Britain had to face up to the consequences of this reality, as it had to withdraw from its numerous overseas bases, unable to foot the bill for a continued military presence (cf. Neillands 1996). These days the US is virtually the only nation to have the economic resources to maintain and promote English around the globe. In the aftermath of the war on Iraq the dominant position of the US in the Anglo-American-Australian coalition is becoming a liability rather than an asset for American English, indeed for native-speaker English generally.

Other factors that have contributed to the worldwide spread of English over the past century are the development and explosive growth of the new communication technologies. They have enabled us to communicate (in English!) on a truly global scale. If we add to these the various international organisations using English as the dominant working language (such as the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, or the World Bank) and it will be obvious why English became a world language (Crystal 1997:8-10). The only real rival to English in international forums is French, which is, however, not seldom used as a means of resistance to the hegemony of English (Graddol 1997:9).

But this is not all. English has also become the language of science and technology. This is particularly true of the natural sciences. In Germany, for example, 98 p.c. of all physicists claim English as their working language, as against 8 p.c. of all students of law. It will be obvious that a person's lack of proficiency in English (or French for that matter) may result in inequality, in science just as in politics. Some of us, having submitted an article to an international journal and having found it rejected on the grounds of 'poor' English, and others, like our Europarliamentarians, having had to struggle in their debates in a non-native language (even though translation services are provided), have found this to their cost (cf. Van Essen 1989:113-26). This may not be fair, but it is a fact of life.

To summarize, for a language to become a truly world or global language it has to be recognized for its special communicative role in most countries around the world. This recognition is often reflected by the special status English enjoys in those countries, either by being an official language or by being the first foreign language in the language curriculum (Crystal 1997 and McKay 2002:5).

As we noted above it is not necessary for a world language to have a large number of NSs, even if a large number may facilitate a wider communicative range. It will be clear that a large body of NSs has the capacity to produce a greater variety of culture goods (e.g. literary works of art, motion pictures, (pop) music, news broadcasts, etc., as well as dictionaries, grammar books, educational materials, etc.) than a small number and that it will also create more opportunities for interactions with its NSs (Graddol 1997:12).

This may all be very well but today English increasingly acts as a lingua franca between NNSs (thanks to the fact that it has become a world language). Therefore if one wishes to understand fully the position of English in a world where the majority of its speakers are NNSs, one needs to consider the place English holds vis-à-vis the other languages that are used alongside it.

In Europe, where I live, the view is universally held that each language has its natural home ( e.g. German in Germany, French in France, Italian in Italy, English in England, etc.) and that a bilingual speaker is somebody who can converse and/or correspond with unilingual speakers from more than one country (i.e. from their own country and the other country). In other words, the ideal bilingual speaker is imagined to be someone who is unilingual in two languages at the same time (co-ordinate bilingualism). Elsewhere in the world, especially in the former British colonies, where a more a less independent variety of English has evolved, one may come across a situation where bilingual or multilingual speakers will communicate with other multilingual speakers in English, not because English is the only language they share (more often than not they share more than one language), but because in that particular (e.g. formal or official) communicative context English is regarded as the most appropriate language in the verbal repertoire available to that multilingual speaker. In such multilingual countries it is equally possible that a speaker will switch from one language to another during a conversation (code-switching), indeed even within a single sentence, in ways that are fully appreciated only by other members of the same speech community. In these societies English occupies a position of its own in the linguistic hierarchy, mostly at the apex. It is not inconceivable that within the EU a similar hierarchy will evolve. Recent surveys into the use of non-native languages within the EU already show English at the top, followed by German and French, which are in turn followed by national and regional languages. Along with Graddol (1997:12-3) on whose work I am basing myself here, one may conceptualize a linguistic world hierarchy with English and French at the top, but with the position of French on the decline and that of English becoming more clearly the world's lingua franca. All the more reaso to re-consider the position of English in the language curriculum.

English for specific purposes

A special case, indeed a major reason for the existence of English as an international language (EIL) is its use for specific purposes (ESP). Like other varieties of English as a lingua franca ESP is chiefly learnt not to indulge in social talk with NSs but to acquire a passkey to a global community of experts so as to become a member of that community and communicate with other members of that community (e.g. medical doctors, airline pilots, engineers, business people, lawyers, scientists, bankers, etc.), in the language (register) of that community, irrespective of their ethnic, geographical and cultural backgrounds, about topics of common interest and concern. In a word, ESP is a variety of English used not so much for interactional as for transactional purposes, learnt not so much as a means of cultural expression than as a language for communication.
Widdowson (1997:144) has argued that EIL is ESP: "otherwise it would not have spread, otherwise it would not regulate itself as an effective means of global communication. And otherwise there would, for most people, be little point in learning it at school or university". This would apply as much to places where English is said to be a foreign language (as in mainland Europe), as to where it is said to be a second language (as used in former British colonies or in English-speaking homelands by immigrants ). Though there is much to be said in favour of Widdowson's argument that EIL and ESP are co-terminous, I cannot (yet) go along with his identification of the two. For as far as I am able to make out some uses of EIL are not even remotely related to 'expert communities' in Widdowson's sense, for example, the EIL used by backpackers in a hostel in Nepal. On the contrary, a speaker's ability to use English for specific purposes does not rule out the possibility of him/her using it for wider purposes (cf. McKay 2002:84/5). But assuming for the moment that the primary purpose for learning English worldwide is not to prepare learners for interpersonal interaction across cultures with NSs from a neigbouring state (as is the case in Europe) but to procure them access to a global community (not so much of experts but of EIL speakers, as I would like to believe), this too would have to have drastic consequences for curricula and syllabuses across Europe, as we shall see below.

Culture. What culture?Which culture?

The majority of EIL interactions world-wide take place between speakers for none of whom English is the mother tongue and for none of whom English is a cultural symbol. On these grounds it may be questioned whether the teaching of culture is at all necessary to the teaching of EIL. For example, if a Dutch person conducts business in China, EIL is likely to be used. If the business is conducted in writing any reference to culture will be to the international conventions of doing business, or to local, regional, or national conditions. This is the kind of extra-lingual information that needs to be taught in ESP courses. If in face-to-face interactions any cultural elements enter the conversation (which is unlikely though; see House 1999:84) they are likely to be part of the socio-cultural make-up of the Dutch and the Chinese interactants. The kind of traditional cultural knowledge that we teach or used to teach our students at school (and which we touched on above) will not do here either. What will rat her be needed in such situations is an awareness of potential pitfalls resulting from cultural contrasts. We need to prepare our students for such situations. An effective way to do this is to raise their cross-cultural awareness by making them reflect on the differences between their own culture and the target culture, given a particular situation. This will sharpen their understanding of both cultures (McKay 2002: 94/5). A reflective learner is an effective learner.
Another extremely important element in any EIL course is the teaching of politeness strategies so as to prevent offending the other person. A first step would be to raise our students' awareness of 'dominance behaviour', for example by teaching them to be communicatively competent without being dominant in supervised role-plays. Dominance behaviour is often, though not always, a trait of NSs.

As Janssen (1999) rightly points out there is a great lack of concrete experience in resolving problems of this nature, simply because these developments in EIL are fairly recent ones. From the few examples given here it will be clear though that they necessitate a change in the English language curriculum. For example, if we decide to focus more on 'conversation management' in the sense just discussed, then we might have to cut down on traditional cultural and/or literary studies. Or the kind and amount of vocabulary taught. For if an international language is one that has become de-nationalised, detached from its original cultural soil, there is no reason why learners should have to acquire the localised lexical items of any country other than their own (McKay 2002:85). Though any such surgery is likely to cause a great hue and cry in professional circles, the ELT profession has to face up to these challenges.

Content-and-language-integrated learning (and teaching) for EIL.

As we have observed more than once, while traditional language-and-culture-integrated teaching may be acceptable for Europe, it is unlikely to be suitable for English in the global context. Here we need, first and foremost, the kind of English that is used by both NSs and NNSs in professional (and less professional!) circles around the world. And what we would like to do is to prepare our learners to become potential members of those communities (even the community of backpackers). A more appropriate approach to instruction here would be so-called content-and-language-integrated learning (CLIL), i.e. the teaching of subjects like geography, history, maths, etc. in English instead of in the learner's mother tongue. In CLIL English is no longer the 'object of study' but the means of instructing other subjects across the whole of the school curriculum. CLIL currently takes place in quite a few schools in Europe as well as in the Netherlands, and not just in English. Reports of how this approach is devel oping in schools across Europe (Grenfell 2002) as well as recent research show that the results are encouraging (Huibregtse 2001). If anything, CLIL marks a fresh approach to the teaching of EIL in Europe. In the upper forms of secondary schools it could be supplemented with more traditional assignments such as writing business letters, letters of application, reports, along with taking minutes, drafting memos, agendas, and calling and chairing meetings.
Evolving a global standard for EIL

With the development of so many varieties of native and non-native English, regional (e.g. Indian English) as well as functional (e.g. ESP), the question arises whether some sort of common standard can be established for EIL. For it will be obvious that for EIL to function properly mutual intellibility must be ensured. This question will be discussed in the next sub-sections.
Written English

Two major developments have contributed to the evolution of English as a standard language: the invention of the printing press and the rise of the nation state. The standard language solidarised the nation and gave an identity to its citizens. The standard language was thus linked with ideas about correctness, while the grammar book gradually evolved into a legal code. Printers' conventions and editorial policies put the finishing touches to it (Graddol 1997:56). As a result written English, apart from a few minor spelling variants, formed a fairly monolithic whole across the English-speaking world. Language watchers (cf. Graddol 1997:56) and computer analysts of English say that this situation has now come to an end. Rather than fixing the language, as printing did, Information Technology has come to act as a de-stabilising force, which will subject English to various new influences which are likely to alter and extend it. E-mail and 'texting' (i.e. sending text messages) are creating their own voca bulary and semantics. Another factor in establishing and maintaining a global standard (of speech), broadcasting, is also falling away. So de-standardisation has become rife. The trend towards 'informalisation' (meaning that the one-time gap between formal and conversational styles is closing) is further eating away what remains of the standard language. (Notice that ESP comprises, for the most part, written varieties). These trends, collectively, suggest a weakening of the practices and institutions which once mainatined the standard language (Graddol 1997:56). It will be obvious that the ensuing uncertainty will aggravate the position of the teacher, who is supposed to provide guidance to the learner. But the teacher can take some comfort from the fact that help is bound to come from the ELT industry in the various native-speaking countries. This industry is likely to follow markets (as it has always done) and to provide materials in several standards. But at the end of the day it will be up to the NNS teachers to decide whether a British model, an American model, or one based on an EIL variety, will be taught, learnt, and used. They can take comfort from the fact that the grammar of English is taught virtually without variation throughout the world (Graddol 1997:56) and that grammatical change appears to be very slow (Clear 1999).
Though the choice of the British model for European countries, obvious enough in the past, may not be so obvious now, we would do well to consider the possible consequences of dismissing British English too readily. For much of the negative reaction to English around the world is currently directed against the American variety. This was the case before 11 September 2001 and even more so now. The development of a separate (not: autonomous) EIL standard may obviate the need for a choice here. At the same time it would remove EIL (and part of the ELT profession) from the domination of any one NS variety as EIL favours neither of the existing NS varieties.

Spoken English
The standards for spoken English that we used to have, have largely evaporated., due to a variety of causes (e.g. a lesser deference to authority, a greater tolerance of diversity and individual styles, etc.). Radio and television broadcasting, once powerful centralising forces, will probably no longer be able to serve this function, following the mushroom rise of regional stations.

What with the fragmentation and regionalisation of pronunciation models it is all the more remarkable that NSs of English are the least tolerant where phonological deviations from the norms are concerned, but that "they can live with semantic deviance" (James 1998:47). Naturally NNSs are less certain in passing judgements on cases involving pronunciation, as they lack the knowledge and experience of the NS. This often makes them the butt of derision by NSs. On the other hand NNSs may take heart from the fact that they are often better understood by one another than they understand NSs.

The most recent and convincing attempt so far to fill the need for an international pronunciation model is Jenkins's Lingua Franca Core (LFC). Its aim is international intelligibilty among NNSs, rather than the imitation of NSs (though learners wishing to sound as native-like as possible, e.g. prospective teachers, may pursue this 'higher' aim, provided that .they familiarise themselves with the LFC in order to equip themselves for international communication). The model is empirically based, focusing on genuine interactional speech data.. It is artificial in that it contains elements derived from Standard British, Standard American, and varieties of EFL/ESL. It is also a prescriptive programme, at least insofar as the core is concerned, while offering individual speakers the chance to express their own personal identity through the phonological features of their own language. The LFC, which tries to keep sounds as close as possible to spelling (this is one of the reasons why , both productively and receptively, American /r/ is preferred to Standard British /r/, and British intervocalic /t/ to American intervocalic /t/, which has a tendency to become /d/ intervocalically, thus endangering intelligibility), has a segmental and a suprasegmental part. The segmental part comprises all the consonants (some with the addition of phonetic features like aspiration, as in initial /p,t,k/, to prevent confusion with /b,d,g/ here). Worth noting for NNSs is the possibility to substitute /f/ and /v/ for voiceless and voiced /th/ respectively. The same is true of 'dark' /l/ and 'clear' /l/. Also for the sake of intelligibility consonant clusters are not to be simplified (an exception being made for medial and final clusters, but only in conformity with the phonological rules of English as a native language). In the vowels length is all-important. This also applies to 'free' and 'checked' vowels such as /bid/ vs /bit/ and /bi:d/ vs /bi:t/. Of the diphthongs only three remain (/au/, /ai/, and /oi/), due to the addition of American /r/ word-finally. In the suprasegmental part 'weak' forms are not recommended (unless one wants to sound native-like). Accentuation and especially contrastive stress are regarded as more important than intonation, which appears to have no clear-cut grammatical functions.

It will not be necessary to go into more detail here. It goes without saying though that anyone taking a serious interest in Jenkins's proposal should refer to the work itself (Jenkins 2000). But it will be obvious from the few examples given here that the LFC may drastically reduce the teacher's task by removing from the pronunciation syllabus many time-consuming items which are either unteachable or irrelevant for EIL, thus also relieving the learner of an unnecessary burden. It is equally obvious that CLIL needs to take the LFC on board as well. It is time teachers of English became more aware of the educational implications of English as an international language and of the benefits it may hold for them and their students.


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Arthur van Essen
Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics and Language Pedagogy at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands