Should teachers reconsider their focus on error correction, bearing in mind that the majority of non-native speakers operate in an English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) environment? When all the ELF speakers of the world are communicating very effectively on a daily basis despite having habitual errors, is it really important to correct little mistakes like an incorrect preposition?
Characteristics of English as a Lingua Franca
- Lack of 3rd person singular ‘s’ in present simple – He work for Microsoft
- Missing definite articles – He’s just gone to shops
- Insertion of definite articles when not needed – We took photos of the Trafalgar Square at the weekend
- Pluralising uncountable nouns – informations, advices, staffs
- Overuse of certain ‘all-purpose’ verbs – do, make, have, take, put
- Overuse of ‘that’ clauses – I want that we discuss the…
- Reliance on a ‘one size fits all’ question tag – They are going to come, no?
(Adapted from Seidlhofer)
If these characteristics of ELF appear every day in innumerable pieces of communication, should we as teachers attempt to correct these deviations from Standard English, when they are clearly not impeding intelligibility?
Should we abandon the native speaker as the benchmark of correctness, as Jennifer Jenkins has proposed and create a new definition of an ELF expert speaker, regardless of whether or not someone happens to be a native speaker?
I wrote a recent blog with a film review containing some of the characteristic English as a Lingua franca ‘mistakes’ and with some accommodation, I think that it is a successful piece of communication. Is it good enough? Or should teachers always demand that learners endeavour to produce as near as possible to Standard English?
I think that students’ wishes should be accommodated, as far as possible, so that students get what they are paying for. In a 1-2-1 class this is easily achievable, but obviously more difficult in a group environment – even with a fantastic, completed needs analysis! 🙂
In my experience, most learners want immediate teacher correction when they make the slightest mistake. (However, even this has to be continually managed with sensitivity, as it’s easy to find yourself in a situation where a tired or stressed student can become demotivated with constant error correction.)
Even though most students profess a desire to speak like a native, Ivor Timmis suggests that we should not urge learners to conform to Standard English norms, but at the same time it is ‘scarcely more appropriate to offer students a target which does not meet their aspirations.
Contrastingly, Vicky Kuo believes that despite the successful ‘international intelligibility’ of error-strewn ELF, this should not necessarily have any repercussions on syllabus design and she defends the native speaker as the ‘appropriate pedagogical model’.
Should teachers change or modify what we teach considering the global importance of an accommodating ELF?