Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

English Language Teaching between the East and the West: Cultural Underpinnings of Language Teaching in the Balkans and Beyond

Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

English Language Teaching between the East and the West: Cultural Underpinnings of Language Teaching in the Balkans and Beyond

Article excerpt

1Introduction

The status of English as the lingua franca of the world in the 21st century is undisputable. With the number of non-native speakers reaching into a seventh of the global population, it is now more than ever clear that English will be the language of the future. However, this immense popularity comes at a price for both the native and non-native speakers of the language. Language, for better or worse, is a vital element of culture, and it is only within a cultural and social context that it comes fully alive. In the unique case of English, where there is a great number of speakers outside of the native culture, it becomes difficult to determine what constitutes an Anglophone cultural context. Indeed, a number of individuals do not concern themselves with this question, and treat their version of English as an international language, devoid of a cultural background. Whether or not it is possible to ever truly divorce language from its culture is an altogether different question, and it has been addressed differently in the past few decades.

One of the more popular views of English nowadays is the one that marks the difference between World English, as the lingua franca in a number of fields, particularly business and trade, and World Englishes, as the versions of English found across the world, including English-based creoles. When it comes to cultural contexts, these two versions are generally well situated, whether because the context is narrowed and goal-oriented as in the case of the former, or because there is an existing tradition tied to the language in the country, in the case of the latter. These two forms of English are best represented in Kachruvian circles (1992a; 1992b). However, we must address a third form of English as well, which is mainly considered a product of the rapid globalisation of the world. (Galloway, & Rose, 2015) This version, called Global English, represents the version of English that has proliferated societies using its momentum as the driving linguistic force in the world. Global English is a by-product of the status English holds in the world, imposed by a world that is, at least in terms of technology, education, business, and information transfer, highly English-based.

The dilemma that teachers of English face, particularly when teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) is whether or not to teach culture-specific content in the classroom. A fast growing movement in the world of applied linguistics advocates for teaching English as a lingua franca, rather than a native variety of English, but that movement while persistent in theory has had little saliency in practice. The influence of English cannot be easily separated from the perception of the countries in which English is an official language, so that the English taught in classrooms around the world is almost always a British or American variety. This is true for countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans as well, and particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina where the majority of textbooks used in English language classrooms perpetuate a single variety of English suffused by examples from the relevant culture, particularly in the form of cultural concepts, religious and national holidays, as well as food and clothing. The issue which arises as a consequence is that the goal of the classroom becomes native-like fluency in not just the language but the culture as well, which in the age of multiculturalism is not a desired outcome. This is particularly true in the Balkans, where the clash between the cultures of the East and the West has shaped the demographic landscape of the countries, and has often culminated in tension and even violence. Language teachers in the Balkans need to have developed high levels of cultural sensitivity as language teaching turns into a balancing act of local and international cultures.

After all, one of the most important variables in the process of teaching English are teachers themselves. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.