Post-ELF 1: The ELF-Premise

Post ELF series - Article 1. The emerging rainbow beam is the post-ELF idea
Post ELF series – Article 1. The emerging rainbow beam is the post-ELF idea

Do you remember the millennium bug? We were all warned that on new year’s day of 2000, our computers would cease to function properly. Didn’t happen. What DID happen around that time however was a quiet but seismic shift in assumptions about the goals of pronunciation teaching.

In the late nineties, people like Brian Jenner were already worrying away at the unchallenged assumption that learners should aim for one of the standard, prestige accents of English such as RP. Jenner (Jenner 1997) pointed out that millions of people were able to make themselves understood in any number of regional or global native accents, so why would we insist on a specific variety?

But why stop at ‘native’? Surely there were even more people around the globe who were effectively communicating with one another in accents of English which could not be considered ‘native’, so why even insist on a native-like one? This premise seems obvious in hindsight, but it took Jennifer Jenkins (Jenkins 2000) to make it explicit and begin to explore its implications. Let’s call the premise, The ELF Premise (where ELF stands for English as a Lingua Franca).

There have been plenty of arguments, to and fro, about the implications of The ELF Premise, but few people would coherently deny the premise itself – namely, that English is now used as a global lingua franca, and that this must be borne in mind when we are thinking about the goals of pronunciation teaching. If, as I suggest, the premise is unquestionable, then we no longer need to spend time arguing in its favour, and instead, we may concentrate on assimilating it into our pedagogical phonology model. This process of assimilation following the seismic shift is what I am calling Post-ELF. In the visual metaphor at the start of this article, ELF is the triangular prism. The white beam to the right is the pre-ELF idea of pronunciation teaching goals. The rainbow beam emerging to the right is the post-ELF idea. This is what I propose to speak about in my talk at IATEFL 2018, and in later follow up posts right here: Post 2; Post 3.

  • Jenkins, J (2000) The Phonology of English as an International Language, Oxford, OUP
  • Jenner, B (1997) International English: an alternative view, Speak Out! (Newsletter of the IATEFL PronSIG) number 21.

One Reply to “Post-ELF 1: The ELF-Premise”

  1. Mura from eflnotes started a conversation here…
    (Apologies Mura the original thread was accidentally deleted)

    MARCH 25, 2018 AT 1 : 3 1 P M
    Hi Mark
    Look fwd to reading more. Especially how to square the view held by Jenkins and colleagues that ELF is not something that can be codified with your view that it can produce a “pedagogical model”?

    MARCH 27, 2018 AT 11:39 AM
    Hi Mura
    Thanks for your interest. It’s not that the ELF is ‘producing’ the pedagogical model, as you put it. It’s that the pedagogical model is taking the ELF premise into account. To employ a term that many are using nowadays, it’s an ‘ELF-aware’ pedagogical phonology that I’m trying to work towards.

    MARCH 27, 2018 AT 12:48 PM
    hi Mark
    sorry if i got wrong end of stick; if it is called ELF-aware does that treat ELF as some sort of object to be aware of? if so then the same criticism applies no? and if it is not an object (e.g. a variety of English) then what is the purpose of any ELFaware pedagogical phonology? would it be enough to call it accommodation-aware pedagogical phonology? apparently Jenkins considers ELF as English as a multi-lingual franca now so what would that mean for any pedagogy for phonology? i am thinking aloud here by the way 🙂

    MARCH 27, 2018 AT 1 : 5 1 P M
    Hi again Mura
    Let’s both think aloud. ELF-aware to me means not aware of any object, but of a situation: the situation being that English is a global lingua franca (unlike most other languages, making the teaching of this particular language potentially different in kind). The purpose of an ELF-aware phonology would be to take this situation into account. It isn’t a new phonology; it’s the same phonology viewed though a different prism.

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