English is a very important language nowadays, because it is the only language that links the whole world together, unites it. The other languages may be important for their local values and culture. Kumar in his article points out that English is an universal language that connects people and has a huge impact on education. English can be used as a language in any part of the world as it is a lingua franca. People speaking English might not have the same accent as others, but the language at least will be understandable.
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In recent years, there has been a rapid progress in the demographics of English speaking communities around the world, with a growth in the number of users and learners of English. In most cases, these learners and users are those who would have been classified as “non-native” speakers. The evolving nature of English in the globalisation context has called for a revaluation of a number of key ranges in applied linguistic studies of English. Scholarly debates have surfaced about various political issues including the validity of the old distinction between “native” and “non-native” speakers, what form English should, or is likely to, take as a language of international communication (lingua franca), and which groups are empowered and which ones disadvantaged by the accelerating prominence of English.
What country does English belong to?
Smith, Widdowson and Canagarajah are discussing very important and up-to-date issues of world Englishes. In the presented fragments of their works they are concerned upon English language belonging and the perfect pronunciation.
According to Smith and Widdowson, English belongs to the speakers. Language is connected to people, not to a nation-state. In this way, language is the property of whichever country chooses to use it. Worth noticing while looking at the history is that, while English originated in England, as a consequence of disseminating it through empire, it no longer belongs to England alone. Further, many of England’s former colonies have replaced her in power and prestige.
Languages evolve within a local setting. While American English has spread globally, it is seen as foreign outside of the United States. In for example India, English is a common language and it’s evolution is different that in places where it is the primary languages. However, Indian English is no less valid a language than any other forms of English. English belongs to any country that chooses to use it.
English became a lingua franca. It is chosen as a way to communicate among people from different first language backgrounds across linguistic boundaries. It is being shaped by its non-native speakers and native speakers. According to Seildhofer (2005), the majority of verbal exchanges do not involve any native speakers of the language, and, what is interesting, there is still a tendency for native speakers to be regarded as custodians over what is acceptable usage. In order to establish the ‘rules’ of using English research has been done at the level of phonology, pragmatics and lexicogrammar.
Language and identity.
Smith’s words shows that language can be taken as a tool to communicate. It does not belong to English people or anyone else – it is given to everyone. English is my second language, but I am one of the many. Roughly only one out of every four users of English in the world is a native speaker of the language (Crystal, 2003). As we, European, are told they ALL are using Receive Pronunciation. It is absolutely not true. There are few Englishes in UK and much more varieties, dialects and individual or regional variations. Which variation or dialect should be taught in schools? Is RP the right choice? Public schools in Poland do not have any other choice than RP, as it is included in the course books. It is believed to be the ‘perfect’ English, so teachers are spending lots of time trying to sound like native-speakers and correcting students’ pronunciation.
Language and dialect have took a critical role in identity formation. The process of becoming a member of a community has always been realized by acquiring knowledge of the functions, sociology, and interpretation of language (Ochs and Shieffelin). In most of the world, the ability to speak two or more languages or dialects is a given, and language choice by minority groups is “a symbol of ethnic relations as well as a means of communication” (Heller, 1982, p.308). Nowadays, language indicates historical and social boundaries that are less random than territory and more discriminating than race or ethnicity. As Castells (1997) notes:
If nationalism is, most often, a reaction against a threatened autonomous identity, then, in a world submitted to culture homogenization by the ideology of modernization and the power of global media, language, the direct expression of culture, becomes the trench of cultural resistance, the last bastion of self-control, the refuge of identifiable meaning.
Language as identity also plays a substantial role in today’s world. Identity is multiple, vital, and conflictual, based mostly on the choices that individuals make in different circumstances over time (Henriquez et al. 1984; Schecter, Sharkeu-Taboada, and Bayley, in: Weedon 1987). Language is deeply rooted in personal and social history which allows a greater flexibility than race and ethnicity. Is gives a person an ability to consciously or unconsciously express dual identities by the linguistic choices they make – even in a single sentence (through code-switching; see Blom and Gumperz, 1972). Through choices of language and dialect, people constantly make and remake who they are.
Accent and identity.
A person’s identity is determined not only by personal but also by social identity. Social identity includes ethnic identity and originates from group membership (Tajfel, 1978; Turner, 1987). Accent and language are considered to be major determinants of social identity although recent research raises doubts as to whether non-native speakers always regard their accent to be part of their identity(Darwing, 2003). Having a foreign accent, can cause either positive or negative emotions. On one hand, accent is a part of our personality and points back to the country of origin, a place you likely have fond memories of. On the other hand, heavy accent can cause difficulty in understanding or misunderstandings as well as standing out from the other speakers. According to Canagarajah instead of wasting time on trying to have pronunciation as similar to RP as it is possible and working hard to remove accent, teachers should consider the fact that it could become a positive part of the identity with a little work and they should focus more on improving theirs teaching skills. The accent in which we speak English makes us unique. Trying to lose the accent or imposing it onto for example students may have negative results especially on personality. The are more important things that teachers should work on, like ELT level and methodology.
English Language in Polish education system.
English is widely consider as a global language. The process of globalisation has been evaluating since 1850s. Unfortunately “The cold war” stopped the spread of the language in the middle-east Europe. Dobrzycka (Warsaw University) was the first one who rised this issue in Poland in 1946. In the introduction she considers English as an international language, but she was alone in her believes. Cristal (2003) continued her studies in English as a Global Language.
English is one of the most popular foreign languages taught in Poland. It is believed that knowing and being able to use it gives a ‘communication power’ around the world. Education system had to take it into account; especially as far as teaching English as a second/foreign language is concern. An example of this situation can be found in Poland. Compulsory education is there from age 6 to 18. Citizenship education is an increasingly important feature of the curriculum. Foreign Language Learning is compulsory from year 4 in Primary Schools though in practice many schools start teaching foreign languages (usually English) from year 1 and even in some cases in year 0, at pre-school to give children a better start.
During the recent several years Poland have introduced a compulsory course of English for children in primary grades. For this reason the government is developing new sets of standards, but in practice the teaching policy in most cases remains input-based rather than output-based and documents that describe the desired level of language proficiency and skills often do not exist. Teaching is focused mostly on grammar rules and it is teacher – centered. Tools for internal and external assessment are also under developed or even unmentioned. So the standards as well as the curriculum documents remain sometimes vague and unfocused. It is not for whole country scale, but it happens mostly in villages and small towns where schools are more concerned upon providing students with basic knowledge than any additional like foreign language.
Practical application of any educational infrastructure, however, must rely on the teachers, for whom the language programme will need to provide appropriate training, professional support and development opportunities. In all will benefit in positive, trusting relationships in the classroom, which are essential for the promotion of student/ teacher confidence, motivation, and independence, and hence for language learning.
My teaching experience is focused mostly on young learners. I have been teaching English in a state school in Zakrzew (near to Radom) for a year as a University practice. I had been a private tutor too. The school is situated in a small town. Some pupils come there from far away, but it is still the nearest school. The building is quite new and massive, but very cosy. As kids are from different social backgrounds I came across various attitudes to learning as well as expectations towards it. Most of them are from small villages, some from the town. A very clear distinction is made also by kids family financial status. Poorer families cannot even afford textbooks for children.
English language is in the Polish curriculum from about 12 years of age. In this primary school it seems to be not as important as other subjects. A clear evidence of that is timetabled of English classes. There are only 2 – 3 lessons (45minutes) per week, depends on the age of the students. Few years ago the government stated, that in language classes cannot be more students than 15. It helps a lot in teaching English.
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Although students have different background they are all very similar. First of all, they are all Polish in the same age. What goes next, is their attitude towards learning English as a compulsory subject. Worth mentioning is fact, that there are few students whose parent is abroad. Is is not a meaningless fact, because those kids can see England as a ‘dreamland’ and learn is eagerly or as a place which took his/her parent and resist to learn.
According to Zielonka (2005, p.147), foreign languages teachers in Poland have traditionally been qualified to teach foreign languages solely . These teachers are the core of FL teaching staff at the moment. Although Poland is becoming a popular destination for foreign English teachers, in the presented school all of them are Polish. However, there are two English teachers who used to live in England. They have got different teaching methods, focused mostly on ‘language in use’ not only on grammatical structures. Those experienced teachers are considered to be better than others. Seidlhofer sees them valuable just because they are non-native teachers, like their colleagues: The non-native teachers has been through the process of learning the same language, often the same L1 ‘filter’, and she knows what is like to have made the foreign language, in some sense, her own, to have appropriated it for particular purpose. It is an experience which is shared only between non-native teachers and their students. (Seidlhofer 1999, p.238).
Polish is the official language of Poland. It is spoken by most of the 38 million inhabitants of Poland (census 2002). Some minority languages are taught at schools ans used in offices. In the Kaszubian district the names of some institutions are given in two languages, Polish and Kashubian. (Zielonka, 2005, p. 1)The Polish language originated in the areas of present-day Poland from several local Western Slavic dialects, most notably those spoken in Greater Poland and Lesser Poland. It shares some vocabulary with the languages of the neighbouring Slavic nations, most notably with Slovak, Czech, Ukrainian, and Belarusian. The school that I used to teach is located 12 km from Radom (central Poland). Due to the localisation there are Belorussian and Ukrainian ethnic minorities in the region, although there are none in this school.
Poland is pretty much ethnically homogeneous. Ukrainian, Belorussian, Slovakian, and Lithuanian minorities reside along the borders. It should be pointed out that there are communities residing in distinct geographical regions, for example Silesians in Silesia, which demonstrate a weaker sense of ethnic, cultural andlinguistic identity than either the minorities inhabiting territories which are not so clearly defined, for example Kashubs or Belorussians (White Russians), or those living in the diaspora and not occupying a distinct territory, such as Ukrainians and Ruthenians after the post-war displacements. The capital and other cities are experiencing some inward migration from foreigners.
The role of English in Poland.
According to Fannell (2001, p. 256), Poland belongs to the expanding circle, this means that country recognize the importance of English as an international language though it has no history of colonisation and English has no special administrative status. This is English as a foreign language.
Why do people learn English? As mentioned before, English is an international language, a lingua franca, a medium to communicate. Nations are more closely linked with each other than ever before, companies operate world-wide, scientists of different nationalities co-operate, and tourists travel practically everywhere. The ability to communicate with people from other countries is getting more and more important.
Communication technologies, the Internet, electronic mail and other technological advancements have all contributed greatly to mobilizing people to the furthering of the English language over the last decade as well. “Any language at the center of such an explosion of international activity would suddenly have found itself with a global status,” notes Crystal (2003). “And English…’a language on which the sun never sets’…was in the right place at the right time.”
Today, we will acknowledge that English is sweeping the planet’s physical, economic, cultural and cyber space. Hollywood, Microsoft, Coca-Cola – English is the language of pop-culture, of tourism, of markets and trade, of the Internet. It’s the language the young in the developing world, the powerful world, and the world learning the democracy feel forced to learn. It is becoming a global language unlike any other in the history. English is an increasingly classless language. It encompasses more than just a convenient means of communication among the globe’s citizens; it’s an ideological movement – even if by accident.
Paradigm shift in ELT.
In various fields of knowledge every thing is going to change and Linguistics is not an exception. This change is known among scientists as “Paradigm Shift”. Throughout the history of linguistics, the linguistic theories, thoughts and ideas have kept adjusting.
The concept of “Paradigm shift” was first introduced by Thomas Kuhn in 1962 in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolution” which represents a turning point in the people’s viewing and perceiving the advances and changes in human life. Paradigms provide all phenomena with a theory-determined place in the scientist’s field of vision. According to him “Paradigm” means a set of procedures, models, and hypotheses.
English Language Teaching in Poland has change but it still needs more radical modifications to meet students expectations and universal needs. As pointed out by Rogers () shift from “teaching” to “learning” is required. Classrooms need to be learner-centered instead of being teacher-centered, because students are learning differently nowadays (Sprague & Dede, 1999; Shirer, 1999). The significant change from teaching to learning noticed by Angelo (1966) is moving “from a teaching culture that ignores what is known about human learning to one that applies relevant knowledge to improve practice”.
In Polish schools students are still spending more time on metalinguistic activities like studying grammatical rules and memorizing vocabulary. Gass (1977, p.158) states that “increased metalinguistic awareness” can take place between the forms learners are using and ones used by the native- English speaker. It means that the more the learner is exposed to the native-speaker speech, the greater opportunity there is for the learner to make appropriate modifications, to sound like native-speakers. This point of view is completely opposite to the one presented earlier by Canagarajah, and supported by many linguists concerned upon losing identity.
The paradigm shift which is happening in ELT will be beneficial for the World Englishes. As stresses earlier by Smith every county adjust English to their needs and especially to their first language and culture patterns and behaviours. The language and language teaching methods need to change as English is no longer a British language. It has an international status, which means it belongs to everyone. The flexibility of the language makes it as unique as every nation is.
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