ESL in the Academy Today

By Vandrick, Stephanie; Messerschmitt, Dorothy et al. | Education, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview

ESL in the Academy Today

Vandrick, Stephanie, Messerschmitt, Dorothy, Hafernik, Johnnie Johnson, Education

As the population of the U.S. continues to change, becoming increasingly a nation of non-native speakers of English, the role of the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) has become more and more important. Long a stepchild of academe, ESL is now beginning to assume a legitimate and respected position within many American post-secondary institutions. The profession has grown from two distinct roots, a linguistic heritage grounded in American structuralism and a pedagogical heritage reflected in intensive language institutes patterned after the English Language Institute, founded by Charles Fries, at the University of Michigan in 1941. These institutes have evolved, in some cases, to full-fledged academic departments. Later the founding of the Peace Corps in the 1960's with its large demand for English language teachers, gave even more visibility to the emerging field of ESL/EFL (English as a Foreign Language, the term which is used for instruction in non-English speaking countries). The discipline of ESL has been shaped and continues to be shaped by three distinct influences. The first is political reality; the second is a broadening of the curriculum within the field as part of a reflection of the political influence; the third is the realization of the interdisciplinary nature of the field itself. These influences have converged to bring about recognition of ESL as an academic discipline with its own professional and scholarly concerns.

Political Realities of ESL

One strong influence on the development of ESL as a distinct discipline is the increasing recognition of English as a world language. Raloff (1995) reports, "Earth's inhabitants speak some 6,000 different languages. But within the next century, 90 percent or more of that linguistic diversity - all but 250 to 600 languages - will probably disappear." (p. 117). While this trend is unfortunate from the perspective of cultural heritage and diversity, it undoubtedly reflects reality. And, while there is no guarantee that English will be the preferred replacement language, it certainly seems likely. English language instruction is occurring in record volume around the world both in classrooms and over the airwaves. It is estimated that from 750 million to a billion and a half people around the world use the English language, and only 300 million of these are native speakers (Morley, 1993). English is now the official language of air traffic controllers and the common language for much of the technological revolution. The global fields of travel, entertainment, and telecommunications rely heavily on the use of English throughout the world.

It is important to note here that "English" is not monolithic; it has become increasingly diversified in different populations. In the past, we spoke of British English, American English, and perhaps Canadian and Australian English, and acknowledged some dialectical variation. But it was considered that there was one fairly standard "correct" English. Now linguists acknowledge and respect differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, style, and even grammar, and speak not of one "English" but of many "World Englishes." English is no longer owned by the original English speaking countries. Widdowson (1994) writes, "How English develops in the world is no business whatever of native speakers in England, the United States, or anywhere else. They have no say in the matter, no right to intervene or pass judgement. They are irrelevant. The very fact that English is an international language means that no nation can have custody over it" (p. 385). In other words, the Englishes spoken in Africa, India, the Caribbean and elsewhere are not seen as inferior or quaint variations on "real" English by applied linguists; they are all, along with British English and American English, equally valid forms of the language, if they serve their intended function of promoting communication in that environment.

While it would seem that the recent movement to make English the official language of the U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

ESL in the Academy Today


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    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.