English as Lingua Franca in Science contexts

Beyza Björkman

   Read the folloing article written by Beyza Björkman about the importance of English as Lingua Franca and reflex on the following points:

1. Importance of the study of spoken EAP language in the last decade.

2. Influence of spoken corpora projects to study and prepare future professionals related to Science and Technology areas.

You could complete your reading with other articles included in the same Iberica Issue called:

Inglés como Lengua Franca / Special Issue on Academic English in parallel-language and ELF settings) (Fall 2011) or

Tardy, C. (2004). The role of English in scientific communication: Lingua franca or tyrannosaurus rex? Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 3(3), 247-269. http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.uned.es/science/article/pii/S1475158503000717


7 thoughts on “English as Lingua Franca in Science contexts

  1. It is evident that EAP has become more and more important, especially due to globalisation. I think most of us are not really aware of the fact that nowadays there are more non-native speakers of English that natives. This requires a new rethinking of the kind of language that these speakers will need when communicating with other people, mainly non-native speakers like themselves.

    Many people still consider that we should imitate and achieve a native-like level and competence, as well as usage of the language, which in the case of EST will not be the case most of the times, because communication will be between non-native speakers in most of the cases.

    In my opinion, corpora will be useful media to learn, first, and then train EST students for what they will need in their careers when using English as a lingua franca. Therefore, we will see many changes in EST teaching, and probably in ELT in general in the years to come thanks to the study of corpora.

  2. Activity 2.3: Read the whole article by Beyza Björkman, English as lingua franca in higher education: Implications for EAP , and reflex on the following points: The importance of the study of spoken English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in the last decade and the influence of spoken corpora projects to study and prepare future professionals related to Science and Technology areas.

    During the last decade, English as Lingua Franca (ELF) has been used as a medium of instruction in higher education of institutions because of the materialization of three groups of speakers: foreign students studying in English-speaking countries, students studying outside English-speaking countries and speakers from different language backgrounds that use English primarily as a spoken medium, which corresponds to ELF speakers. Because EAP’s focus shifted about a decade ago from written to spoken discourse, spoken corpora of academic English emerged and focused firstly on native speakers’ speech. Most recent research on EFL in academic settings proved that the authentic EFL speech in ELF settings – which points towards a general cooperativeness, metadiscourse, proactive pragmatic strategies and low incidence of miscommunication in dialogic speech- should be integrated into the forms traditionally used in EAP teaching because it would add to the existing set of standards. EFL’s communicative effectiveness in spoken academic communication gained therefore understanding during the last decade. Investigation focused on authentic spoken communication from content courses and analysed its morphosyntactic, pragmatic and phonological issues. Findings implied that effectiveness of a speaker in ELF settings is determined primarily by the speaker’s pragmatic ability rather than his proficiency, implying that pragmatic strategies ensure the effectiveness of communication. Most significantly, these studies revealed that the native speaker as the ideal target for spoken production is inappropriate if the aim of EAP instruction is to help those who will use it mostly in EFL settings and suggest the inclusion of pragmatic strategies in speaking and listening materials, syntactic structures that help increase explicitness, questions that make spoken communication effective, non native speaker accent listening materials, etc. because they prioritize pluralism, an authentic usage of English and communicative effectiveness rather than the accuracy of the standard native variation of English. EAP course examinations should therefore focus on communicative effectiveness, explicitness, efficiency, cooperation, dialogic speech, pragmatic strategies, negotiation of meaning, variety of accents, since native-speaker-like production does not necessarily ensure communicativeness in EFL settings. This theory has challenged EAP teaching significantly forever.
    The last decade saw the emergence of spoken corpora such as BNC, LLC, MICASE, BASE, ELFA and VOICE which provided naturally-occurring speech events from different settings, for three groups of speakers: native, EAP and EFL (which includes future professionals to science and technology), but only CANCODE explores authentic spontaneous speech and investigates spoken grammar, although it comprises only native English. Carter and McCarthy suggest that CANCODE should be used by learners of English because they can “see, hear and understand conversational English in a range of different contexts of use” since it reveals variation in native speaker usage of spoken English and learners. This suggestion did challenge EAP teaching, which for decades had prioritized writing and reading rules rather that speaking and listening ones. EAP teachers have now to consider which of these skills must be controlled by their students because they will practice English within specific and real world situations where effective communication is a priority.

  3. For a few decades, English has been the language of science and technology in the world. From there it has spread to become also the international academic language. In a global world like ours, a Lingua Franca that allows all nations to communicate in a particular context, is more than necessary. That such Lingua Franca is the English Language is only natural. The importance of this language has been growing rapidly in the last years, importance confirmed in the fact that many European universities -from countries where English is not an official language – offer their courses in the English Language. Not everybody, in the same academic context but from different backgrounds, is going to be capable of using their English in a similar manner. For that reason I believe that English as Lingua Franca should have some flexibility and allow the necessary syntactical or morphological adaptations to achieve the perfect communication between all the participants despite their linguistic background. It is not so important to speak perfect English as to being able to communicate in a specific environment. Obviously, always making a correct use of the language.
    About the creation of the corpora, I believe this would be the perfect first step towards the building of an ideal Lingua Franca in the Academic world.

  4. Björkman’s (2011: 79-81) justification of the emergence of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) as an alternative to the multiple other denominations in existence relies on the influential role of three key stakeholders:
    1) Foreign students studying in English-speaking countries;
    2) Students outside English-speaking countries being taught in English and;
    3) Speakers from different first language backgrounds using English as a primarily “spoken” medium.
    The author believes that changes at a global scale have contributed to the reconsideration -some would call it a U-turn- of the needs of language learners in the face of the challenges they will have to confront in their future professional lives. A renewed interest in ‘orality’, which has produced a number of new corpora of spoken English aiming at the progressive inclusion of non-native tokens, is reinforced by the following comment (p. 88): ‘When native speakers have a non-standard usage in their speech, it is generally termed “variation” whereas when non-native speakers have the same usage […], it is considered an “error” in the language classroom’. Therefore, ELF is a useful tool to provide billions of non-native speakers of English with the amount of protagonism they rightfully deserve. Otherwise, native speakers implicitly become ‘gatekeepers’ of communication, which would clearly be detrimental to the goal of intercultural understanding
    In that same issue of Ibérica (2011: 141-162), Shaw and McMillion conclude that: ‘Students on such courses [LSP, Language for Specific Purposes] who lack L1 reading fluency after an education in L1 are probably not ready to benefit from L2 reading strategy instruction’. This statement connects with Björkman’s preoccupation concerning the use of useless antiquated methods when trying to deal with pressing language matters. Shaw and McMillion’s experiment with Swedish and British university students proves that, as long as the didactic approaches respond to the palpable realities of the language learning class, there is no reason to fear the rise of the non-native speaker. To use Crystal’s words -extracted from the link provided by Prof Jordano above: http://youtu.be/WZI1EjxxXKw- ‘a language becomes a global language because of the power of the people who speak it’. If those who speak it are predominantly non-native, a fair share of the power and influence must needs be theirs.

  5. Students from different countries studying at the same universities need to use English as a lingua franca for communication among them. They need to have a good command English, not only to do their assessments, but also as the means of communication in an international environment. This has been favoured by the increasing mobility of students in the last decade. Those students have a lot of materials focused on writing and reading, but few materials on spoken discourse. Björkman stresses the need of developing more materials for those students
    For that purpose, several corpora has been developed: the mICASE (michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English), the T2k-SWALL, the ELFA and the VoICE. Their characteristics are different but all of them provide “authentic data” from natural speech. In Schegloff’s words, “[t]he talk that learners are going to have to do when they’re not in the hothouse of the clasroom is situated in the real world (my emphasis)”, so the students need something more than prefabricated lessons printed in a book.
    The author of the article also stresses the need for students of achieving communicative effectiveness as the key of success in the EAP environment. It is even more important than a proficiency in grammar, because small errors do not affect communication, which is the primary goal for the EAP student.

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