Standard English: The Widening Debate

By Tony Bex; Richard J. Watts | Go to book overview

10

FUNCTIONS AND FORMS OF ENGLISH IN A EUROPEAN EFL COUNTRY
Bent PreislerTraditionally, the concept of Standard English, or rather Standard British English, has been essential in the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Europe. Until 1945 Standard British English was practically the only EFL norm at most European universities and, although American English and, to a lesser extent, other varieties have been making inroads since then, the European tradition in the teaching of English is still largely based on Standard British English and Received Pronunciation. However, in recent years the concept of Standard English has, for a number of reasons, come under attack. This chapter examines to what extent the problematisation of Standard English is relevant and justified in the context of EFL, in view of the actual functions of English in an EFL country, pointing out in the process some important functions and related EFL problems which seem so far to have been overlooked. The main arguments against the usefulness of Standard English as a concept, whether or not they are relevant to the EFL context, can be broadly summarised as follows:
1 In countries where English is a native language, Standard English is often synonymous with the arbitrary norms of purists wishing to assert their own social and intellectual superiority as ‘guardians’ of the language (compare, for example, Milroy and Milroy 1998; Leith 1997).
2 Standard English is not even a linguistic reality. ‘Standard’ presupposes invariability, but Standard English is anything but invariable. At best the term should be reserved for a functionally reduced or simplified variety (see Bex 1993).
3 In an international context, Standard English is associated, in particular, with the standards of Britain and North America. Thus, by implication, it challenges the autonomy of all the other Englishes in the world

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