Discussion

The data provided by the teacher survey indicate that ELF was still perceived to be a controversial issue at the end of this project. Let us now consider some of their pedagogical implications.

First of all, it should be noted that NBLT has become an important resource in contemporary ELT, independently of the ELF-based approach that is presented here. Today, the use of digital materials such as audiovisuals, hypertexts and online dictionaries have become an integral part of English syllabuses, while digital aids such as computers, interactive whiteboards and tablet PCs have become very common devices in the English classroom. Nevertheless, recent research (Matsuda 2012; Vettorel and Lopriore 2013; Bayyurt and Akcan 2014) has pointed out that the reality of ELF is underrepresented in textbooks and Web- based teaching materials, while the traditional EFL-oriented curriculum is still dominant in language education. Not surprisingly, since English teachers have not been well informed about the sociolinguistic phenomena that have determined the emergence of ELF in the age of globalisation, they tend to reject any deviations from NS norms. For this reason, the results of this pilot study support the reconceptualisation of English based on the assumption that EFL and ELF are not mutually exclusive, but tend to converge along a continuum that runs from the NS model of English to the students' natural appropriation and adaptation of this language when learning is situated in a real multilingual and multicultural context. The argument of this chapter, therefore, is that ELF represents a viable option whenever the class is participating in authentic communication online.

Secondly, the techniques required to carry out networked activities like cooperative creative writing and fanfiction are not specific to either EFL or ELF. What varies is the teacher's approach to the learners' performance. While in the case of EFL the teacher has a gatekeeping function that entails the correction of the students' errors and the assessment of their work according to NS-based descriptors of competence, such as those provided by the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), in the case of ELF the teacher focuses on the pragmatic relevance of the process that leads to successful communication, such as the effective use of communicative strategies like language transfer and accommodation. From this perspective, the assessment of the whole communicative interaction should involve the teacher and their class in a joint effort to reflect on the process that was carried out by the CoP and on the results that were achieved as regards the improvement of the learners' communicative and intercultural competence.

Finally, the analysis of the texts produced by the students who participated in this project indicates that their shared Italian languacultural background influenced their use of ELF considerably, as shown by cases of reverse unilateral idiomaticity. Hence, it is advisable for teachers to interconnect classes from diverse languacultural backgrounds in order to situate ELF in an international environment where its use as a contact language would be more genuine. To this end, language teachers should promote partnerships with colleagues from other countries and create opportunities for their students to cooperate.

 
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