Should English be Standardized?

Nov
25
2010

Today we are all part of a "Global Village". The Internet continues to have exponential growth, as even more people are becoming aware of this "Global Village" on a personal level. People correspond with others from around the globe on a regular basis, products are bought and sold with increasing ease from all over the word and real time coverage of major news events is taken for granted. English plays a central role in this globalization and it has become the de facto language of choice for communication between the various people that live on this planet.

Many English speakers do not speak English as their first language. In fact, they often use English as a sort of backup language in order to communicate with other people who also speak English as a foreign language. At this point students often wonder what kind of English they are learning. Are they learning English as it is spoken in England? Are they learning English as it is spoken in the United States or Australia? One of the most important questions seems to be left out: Do all students really need to learn English as it is spoken in any one country? Would it not be better to strive towards a global English? Let me put this into perspective. If a business person from China wants to close a deal with a business person from Germany, what difference does it make if they speak either US or UK English? In this situation, it does not matter what version of English they use to communicate, as both parties are likely to understand each other.

Communication enabled by the Internet is even less tied to standard forms of English as communication in English is exchanged between partners in both English speaking and non-English speaking countries. I feel that two important ramifications of this trend are as follows:

  • Teachers need to evaluate just how important learning "standard" and/or idiomatic usage is for their students.
  • Native speakers need to become more tolerant and perceptive when communicating with non-native speakers of English.

Teachers need to carefully take into consideration the needs of their students before deciding on a syllabus. They need to ask themselves questions such as: Do my students need to read about US or UK cultural traditions? Does this serve their objectives for learning English? Should idiomatic usage be included in my lesson plan? What are my students going to do with their English? And, with whom are my students going to be communicating with in English?

These questions and more should be addressed in order to give ESL students the education they need in the English language so it will be affective in their lives.

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