An ELF perspective on English in the post-Brexit EU

Article (PDF Available)inWorld Englishes 36(3):343-346 · September 2017with 673 Reads
DOI: 10.1111/weng.12269
Cite this publication
This%piece%is%part%of%a%larger%forum%on%‘Brexit%and%the%future%of%English%in%Europe’,%in%World&Englishes%
vol.%36%no.%3,%September%2017%pp.302-366.%The%forum%is%introduced%by%Kingsley%Bolton%and%Daniel%R.%
Davis.%This%is%followed%by%a%position%paper%by%Marko%Modiano,%responses%from%ten%other%scholars%
(Berns,%Crystal,%Deneire,%Gerritsen,%Phillipson,%Saraceni,%Schneider,%Seargeant,%
Seidlhofer/Widdowson,%and%my%own%piece%below,%pp.343-46),%and%a%reply%to%the%responses%by%
Modiano.%
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English!in!Post-Brexit!EU:!A!non-variety!perspective!from!English!as!a!lingua!franca!
Jennifer!Jenkins,!University!of!Southampton,!UK!
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Marko%Modiano%succinctly%sums%up%the%various%reasons%why%he%believes%English%will%continue%to%
serve%as%the%primary%working%language%of%the%EU%after%the%British%have%departed.%And%I%agree%with%
him%entirely.%Modiano%also%explains%why%he%believes%that%the%kind%of%English%used%in%the%EU%(and%in%
continental%Europe%more%widely)%is%likely%to%move%away%from%native%English%once%there%are%no%British%
English%speakers%present%to%reinforce%it.%And%again,%I%agree%with%him%entirely.%But%at%this%point,%
Modiano%and%I%part%company,%and%in%this%response%to%his%article,%I%will%explain%why,%and%present%what%
I%see%as%a%more%plausible%alternative.%
%
The%main%reason%for%my%departure%from%Modiano’s%narrative%relates%to%his%orientation%towards%both%
the%phenomenon%of%English%as%a%lingua%franca%and%research%into%the%phenomenon.%His%narrative%is%
premised%on%the%notion%that%English%as%a%lingua%franca%(henceforth%ELF)%is%a%‘variety’%of%English,%and%
also,%rather%bizarrely,%that%it%“has%been%presented%as%an%alternative%to%the%notion%of%Euro-English”%(p.%
10,%my%italics).%I%will%leave%aside%the%second%point%as%it%is%patent%nonsense.%But%the%first%point%needs%
deconstructing.%
%
Modiano%is%of%course%right%that%in%its%earliest%days,%when%ELF%was%a%newly%acknowledged%and%
researched%phenomenon,%and%very%few%were%involved%in%its%study,%it%was%understood%–%by%analogy%
with%recent%World%Englishes%research%into%Outer%Circle%Englishes%–%as%a%potential%variety%or,%more%
often,%varieties%(German%English,%Japanese%English%and%so%on).%As%time%went%on,%many%more%
researchers%globally,%including%large%numbers%of%PhD%students,%joined%the%‘three%founding%mothers%of%
ELF’,%Mauranen,%Seidlhofer%and%me%(thus%labelled%by%Andy%Kirkpatrick%at%the%4th%ELF%conference%in%
Hong%Kong%in%2011).%Meanwhile,%researchers%from%outside%the%field%began%to%engage%with%ELF%and%to%
add%nuance%to%our%understanding%of%it.%A%particular%case%in%point%is%work%on%complexity%theory%and%its%
orientation%to%ELF%as%a%complex%adaptive%system%(see,%e.g.,%Larsen-Freeman%2017).%This%new%
empirical%and%conceptual%activity%demonstrated%that%our%original%understanding%of%ELF%as%a%‘variety%
or%varieties’%was%wanting:%ELF,%or%‘ELF%1’%as%I%later%called%it%(Jenkins%2015),%was%too%variable%to%be%
pinned%down%in%the%way%that%conventional%language%varieties%are.%
%
Modiano’s%orientation%to%ELF%is,%then,%I%would%argue,%seriously%out%of%date.%ELF%research%has%moved%
on,%but%he%still%views%it%as%he%(and%Seidlhofer%and%I)%did%when%we%published%a%joint%article%on%(so-
called)%Euro-English’%back%in%2001.%I%would%not%now%agree%with%much%that%we%wrote%then,%and%feel%
confident%in%saying%that%I%am%sure%Seidlhofer%would%not%do%so%either.%While%we,%like%all%current%ELF%
researchers,%recognise%that%there%are%certain%language%features%that%ELF%users%may%have%in%common,%
or%what%Seidlhofer%has%called%“observed%regularities”%(2009:%242),%we%also%recognise%that%these%
features%are%used%flexibly%and%variably,%even%in%long-term%groups,%according%to%who%is%speaking%with%
who%in%any%specific%interaction.%In%other%words,%the%features%are%emergent,%not%‘engraved%in%stone’,%
let%alone%capable%of%being%codified.%On%the%other%hand,%much%ELF%use%has%been%shown%to%involve%
features%that%speakers%from%different%language%backgrounds%do%not%share,%and%here,%accommodation%
skills%have%been%found%to%be%paramount.%%
%
We%turn%now%specifically%to%English%in%Europe,%or%what%Modiano%calls%‘Euro-English’.%I%prefer%the%
former%term%because%it%does%not%imply%a%variety%of%English.%Modiano%speaks%disparagingly%about%“EU%
jargon”%or%%what%is%sometimes%called%“Eurospeak”%.%But%I%would%argue%that%this%is%the%only%kind%of%
continental%European%use%of%English%that%can&be%considered%to%represent%a%variety%called%‘Euro-
English’.%For%although%EU%jargon%is%likely%to%change%over%time,%including%moving%further%away%from%
native%English%and%further%towards%the%languages%and%English%use%of%the%non-British%member%states,%
it%is%nevertheless%possible%to%document%it.%%
%
The%same%is%not%true%of%English%used%in%communication%among%people%living%in%the%continental%
European%EU%and%non-EU%states%more%generally.%With%the%24%different%first%languages%of%EU%member%
states,%plus%the%languages%of%continental%European%non-EU%states,%as%well%as%a%large%number%of%
immigrant%first%languages%in%both%settings,%and%communication%in%English%between%people%in%all%these%
and%people%from%outside%Europe%altogether,%we%have%a%prime%example%of%ELF%(not%“an%alternative”%to%
it).%And%given%the%findings%of%ELF%research%over%the%past%two%decades,%the%idea%that%speakers%from%
this%large%range%of%language%backgrounds%will%somehow%come%together%to%form%and%use%a%unitary%
variety%of%English%is%implausible,%to%say%the%least.%The%World%Englishes%varieties%model%of%English%
language%communication%simply%does%not%work%for%ELF%communication,%in%Europe%or%anywhere%else.%
In%this%respect,%Edgar%Schneider%has%recently%come%to%the%conclusion%that%his%Dynamic%Model,%so%
appropriate%for%Outer%(and%Inner)%Circle%Englishes,%is%not%a%suitable%framework%for%%the%“new%kind%of%
dynamism%of%global%Englishes”%involving%non-bounded%language%use%such%as%ELF.%He%has%instead%
proposed%the%concept%of%“%‘Transnational%Attraction’%–%the%appropriation%of%(components%of)%
English(es)%for%whatever%communicative%purposes%at%hand,%unbounded%by%distinctions%of%norms,%
nations%or%varieties”%(2014:%28).%
%
A%far%more%appropriate%way%of%accounting%for%the%use%of%English%across%language%boundaries,%be%
these%boundaries%within%or%outside%Europe%or,%indeed,%between%Europeans%and%non-Europeans,%is%
Mauranen’s%(2012)%notion%of%similects.%Her%point%is%that%ELF%users’%first%languages%almost%invariably%
provide%at%least%some%degree%of%influence%on%their%use%of%English.%However,%she%observes,%they%do%
not%usually%develop%their%English%in%conversation%with%their%L1%peers,%but%instead%with%speakers%from%
other%languages,%most%of%whom%are%also%multilingual.%All%this,%she%argues,%“makes%the%communities%
linguistically%heterogeneous,%and%ELF%a%site%of%an%unusually%complex%contact”%(p.29).%She%continues:%%
%Therefore,%ELF%might%be%termed%‘second-order%language%contact’:%a%contact%between%
%hybrids.%…%Second-order%contact%means%that%instead%of%a%typical%contact%situation,%
%where%speakers%of%two%different%languages%use%one%of%them%in%communication%(‘first-
%order%contact’),%a%large%number%of%languages%are%in%contact%with%English,%and%it%is%
%these%contact%varieties%(similects)%that%are,%in%turn,%in%contact%with%each%other…%To%add%to%the%
%mix,%ENL%[English%as%a%native%language]%speakers%of%different%origins%participate%in%ELF%
%communities.%The%distinctive%feature%of%ELF%is%nevertheless%its%%character%as%a%hybrid%of%
%similects%(pp.29-30).%%
This%is%very%different%from%the%traditional%notion%of%a%‘variety’%to%which%Modiano%subscribes%in%
respect%of%‘Euro-English’,%and%a%far%more%realistic%way%of%accounting%for%the%kinds%of%English%use%
developing%in%ad%hoc%and%longer%term%groups%in%Europe%just%as%elsewhere%in%the%world.%
%
As%well%as%this,%Modiano’s%characterisation%of%English%in%Europe%as%a%variety%ignores%the%inherent%
multilingualism%of%its%users.%By%definition,%continental%European%lingua%franca%users%of%English%are%at%
least%bi-%and%often%multi-lingual.%And%in%this%regard,%the%role%of%the%majority%of%ELF%users’%first/other%
languages%in%ELF%communication%has%recently%come%to%the%fore%in%ELF%research,%primarily%under%the%
influence%of%the%findings%of%research%in%critical%multilingualism%(e.g.%Cenoz%and%Gorter%2015),%the%
‘multilingual%turn’%(e.g.%the%works%in%May%2014),%and%the%multilingual%phenomenon%of%
translanguaging%(e.g.%García%and%Li%Wei%2014).%Earlier%I%mentioned%that%I%have%recently%(Jenkins%2015)%
referred%to%the%old%‘varieties’%orientation%to%ELF%as%‘ELF%1’.%By%the%same%token,%I%have%referred%to%the%
later%understanding%of%ELF%as%emergent,%fluid,%and%flexible%as%‘ELF%2’,%and%to%the%most%recent%
understanding%of%its%essential%multilingualism%as%‘ELF%3’%(op.cit.).%%
%
The%key%point%about%ELF%3%is%that%although%in%ELF%communication%settings,%English%is%known%to%
everyone%present,%all%but%the%occasional%(often%monolingual)%native%English%speaker%involved%in%an%
interaction%know%other%languages,%and%may%prefer%to%use%these%some,%or%even%all,%the%time.%We%are%
thus%talking%not%about%English,%but%‘English%within%multilingualism’%(Jenkins,%in%press).%For%this%reason,%
I%have%suggested%that%‘English%as%a%multilingua%franca’%(EMF)%might%be%a%more%appropriate%name,%
with%EMF%defined%as%“multilingual%communication%in%which%English%is%available%as%a%contact%language%
of%choice,%but%is%not%necessarily%chosen”%(2015:%73).%Turning%back%to%the%EU,%the%understanding%of%ELF%
as%EMF%implies%not%only%that%English%will%be%used%increasingly%in%ways%that%suit%first%language%
speakers%of%continental%European%languages%and%their%interlocutors,%both%European%and%non-
European,%but%also%that%their%own%languages%will%gain%in%importance%and%increasingly%be%used%both%
alongside%(by%means%of%translanguaging)%and%instead%of%English.%Having%said%all%this,%I%should%add%that%
in%my%view,%the%greatest%influence%on%the%lingua%franca%use%of%English%globally%over%the%next%20-30%
years%is%more%likely%to%come%from%Chinese%than%continental%European%users%of%English.%
%
In%this%response%piece,%like%Modiano,%I%have%focused%entirely%on%the%implications%of%Brexit%for%English%
in%the%EU.%We%should%not%forget,%however,%that%there%will%also%be%implications%for%those%left%behind:%
the%British,%and%particularly%those%who%are%monolingual%and/or%have%poor%accommodation%skills%(the%
two%are%often%synonymous).%At%a%time%when%the%English%of%Britain’s%closest%neighbours,%continental%
Europeans,%let%alone%the%rest%of%the%English%speaking%world,%is%moving%increasingly%away%from%native%
English,%many%British%people%are%likely%to%find%that%they%cannot%communicate%effectively%even%in%
their’%language%with%continental%Europe%and%the%rest%of%the%vast%non-mother-tongue%English-
speaking%world.%%
%
References!
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Cenoz%J.%&%D.%Gorter%(eds.)%2015.%Multilingual&Education.%Cambridge:%Cambridge%
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García%O.%&%Li%Wei%2014.%Translanguaging.&Language,&Bilingualism&and&Education.%Houndmills,%
%Basingstoke:%Palgrave%Macmillan%
Jenkins%J.%2015.%Repositioning%English%and%multilingualism%in%English%as%a%Lingua%Franca.%
%Englishes&in&Practice%2/3:%49-85.%
Jenkins%J.%In%press.%Not%English%but%English-within-multilingualism.%In%S.%Coffey%and%U.%
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Larsen-Freeman%2017,%in%press.%Complexity%and%ELF.%In%J.%Jenkins,%W.%Baker%&%M.%Dewey%%(eds.)%The&
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Schneider%E.%2014.%New%reflections%on%the%evolutionary%dynamics%of%world%Englishes.%World&
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Seidlhofer%B.%2009.%Common%ground%and%different%realities:%World%Englishes%and%English%as%a%
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