Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Politics of Standard English: An Exploration of Thai Tertiary English Learners' Perceptions of the Notion of Standard English

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Politics of Standard English: An Exploration of Thai Tertiary English Learners' Perceptions of the Notion of Standard English

Article excerpt


Given that English becomes a lingua franca in the world in which more and more non-native speakers use it to suit their own purposes in local contexts, the ownership of English becomes denationalized. English as an international language scholars have maintained that English learners do not need to approximate the norms of native speakers as closely as possible. Hence, pedagogical attempts based on native-speaker linguistic standards become irrelevant in the contexts where English is mainly used as a lingua franca to serve such wider communicative purposes. In this study, I investigated how the notion of standard English was construed by the Thai tertiary English majors. Focus group interview was used as a research tool to obtain participants' critical perceptions. The results revealed that although the participants expressed that the notion of standard English was a complex issue that requires careful interpretation, deeply inside, it was still anchored to the ideology of native speaker or at least had to include the construct of native speaker in its working definition. Maintaining that the notion of standard English is a political construct rather than a linguistic reality, the paper ends by suggesting some pedagogical ideas that aim at raising learners' awareness of the global role of English.

Keywords: standard English, English as an international language, English as a lingua franca, world Englishes, native speaker ideology

1. Introduction and Contextualization

It is unquestionable that English functions as an international language (EIL) in the globalized world. Kachru (1992) considers the concept of EIL as the present state of English that is used as a global language for wider communication. In other words, English is considered as the world's lingua franca which is most utilized to serve both intra- and international communication. Additionally, McKay (2002) illustrates that the functions of EIL can be in both global and local sense. In a global sense, it is used as an international lingua franca between speakers from different mother tongue backgrounds. In a local sense, it is used as a communicative tool to cater meaningful interactions between local speakers within one country.

To acknowledge the phenomenal spread of English in the world, Kachru's (1992) classical model of the concentric circles of English use needs to be brought to light. Kachru (1992) describes the way English is used in the world in the form of three concentric circles: The Inner Circle, Outer Circle and Expanding Circle. The "Inner Circle" refers to native-speaking countries (e.g., USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, etc.) where English is used as a mother tongue or as a first language. The use of English in this circle is reflected in every sphere of life. Simply put, people in this circle extensively use English as a means to cater every communicative confrontation. The "Outer Circle" refers to former colonial countries (e.g., The Philippines, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Ghana, Nigeria, etc.) where English is used as a second or institutionalized language. People in this circle use English alongside their mother tongue for official or institutionalized interactions. As many outer-circle English varieties have the history of the colonial past and have institutionalized role within local contexts, they are often called nativized, institutionalized or indigenized Englishes. The last circle is called the "Expanding Circle" which refers to such countries as Thailand, China, Japan, Germany and France, where English is used as a foreign or an additional language. Even though English in this circle does not share the sense of colonization and has no official role in daily-life interactions, it is given special priority as an important foreign language that is dominant in several domains of life (e.g., business and commerce, higher education, media, science and technology).

What we can learn from Kachru's classifications of English is that English is not exclusively used to serve only native speakers' daily communicative purposes. …

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