Language policies, standards and models

Although ELF itself is not defined in terms of geography or culture, the work of teachers clearly is. Teachers are often bound to observe language policies, which have traditionally been set at national or institutional levels in accordance with descriptions of NS English or nativised Englishes and have then been translated into language syllabi and curricula (Modiano 2009). ELF-based descriptions, on the other hand, which stress the localised diversity of English usage within and across national boundaries, are fluid, transitory and hard to fit in with the standardisation of English as a prescriptive entity. For many language teachers this creates a conflict in the area of assessment - they may recognise the complexity and diversity of the language usage their students need to be prepared for, but lack familiarity with the concepts needed to evaluate that usage owing to the influence of Standard English ideology (Dewey, Chapter 10).

Taking an ELF approach to this teaching dilemma requires rethinking the whole issue of standards in a post-normative way (Dewey 2012). This relates to the application of standards through testing procedures (Hu 2012: 129ff.) and to language teachers' qualifications, where nativeness is no longer viewed as an advantage for English teaching (Braine 2010). In this respect, the proficient and qualified bilingual teacher is highlighted by Goncalves (Chapter 8) as being of particular value to migrant communities.

The application of standards in the classroom is a particularly controversial area. The fact that the fluidity of ELF defies linguistic standardisation has been used to claim that ELF cannot have much relevance to language teaching since ELF descriptions cannot provide a specific standard for learners to aspire to. Three types of answer are given to this objection in the collection: firstly, that ELF standards certainly exist but they prioritise certain functional areas such as intelligibility and pragmatic competence over more formal linguistic criteria such as grammatical accuracy; secondly, that it may be the responsibility of teachers and learners themselves to establish what standards they want to achieve - authors in the collection agree that decisions about language teaching standards and materials have to be ELF-informed and be taken in relation to the needs of the local context; thirdly, they stress how problematic the imposition of NS standards can be in some learning contexts - how it can act as a brake on motivation for textbook users (Yu, Chapter 3), or a cause of insecurity among migrant workers (Goncalves, Chapter 8). One chapter also provides an interesting example of how an ELF perspective can deploy standard language teaching resources in new ways; according to Schaller-Schwaner (Chapter 5), the use of standard phonemic symbols for the 'visual anchoring' of sounds may be a necessary process for improving the intelligibility of her ELF learners' oral presentations.

Finally, the main vehicle for encouraging teachers to rethink their attitudes to language policies, standards and assessment, as well as their implementation of them, is to incorporate ELF awareness-raising into the teacher training process along the lines indicated in Dewey (2012). The reasons why this is proving to be such a challenging task is explained by Dewey (Chapter 10), who illustrates in a case study how even though a knowledge of ELF may be a syllabus requirement in a training course, that course may not be able to turn the requirement into an effective change in teachers' knowledge base or behaviour.

 
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