People on the move, English on the move. Reflections on English in non-native contexts
in 21st century Europe
KU Leuven (University of Leuven, Belgium)
In recent decades migratory movements in a broad sense have resulted in the firmly and widely acknowledged establishment of English as an almost spontaneous means of communication between people who do not share the same mother tongue. Various labels have been attached to this new form of English (e.g. English as a Lingua Franca, Global English, International English), and it has – rather controversially – been claimed to constitute a distinct variety of English. As such, it challenges existing models that attempt to capture the wide range of varieties of English. In this lecture I will reflect on the impact this tendency has, or might have, on three levels. First, has the expansion of English on a global scale changed the face of the English language itself? Second, calls have been voiced to adapt the norms and teaching materials in contexts where English is taught as a foreign language to ELF usage. So has it changed the relation of foreign language learners of English to the language? Third, in recent decades European countries have been faced with the challenge of finding ways of communicating with migrants unable to speak the official language of the country. Within this context English has, often unintentionally, been awarded some sort of semi-official status in a country where it is not the native language of its citizens. What role does English play then, and what impact might this have on those using it?