Languages in the United Kingdom: Status, roles and public perception 

Henry Pickup

Abstract 

It is widely assumed that the English language enjoys a hegemonic status within the United Kingdom, mirroring its spread across the globe. However, there are increasing concerns within the country that the status of English is meeting a challenge in the form of increasing immigration. It seems there may well be a gap between public perception and reality. Language plays a crucial role in education, and whether or not a pupil or parent speaks a language can determine whether they are included or excluded. Another commonly-held fear in the United Kingdom is that the status of the English language is being undermined by language change. This is not a new phenomenon and it can be argued that language change is both impossible to prevent and potentially beneficial. The second most commonly spoken indigenous language in the United Kingdom is Welsh, which has experienced something of a renaissance in recent years. This is the case both in terms of its official status and the increasing numbers of learners. Looking forward, neither the status nor role of these languages can be seen as a foregone conclusion.

Key words: English, Welsh, status, roles, attitudes

Introduction

A great number of words have been written on the growth of importance of the English language in countries across the world. This is with good reason, as there are estimated to be one and a half billion learners of the language worldwide, a total that is greater than the combined number of people learning the next six most common foreign languages to study. (Ulrich Ammon, University of Dusseldorf, Population Reference Bureau as cited in The Washington Post, 2015). However, this article will focus on language within the United Kingdom, specifically the usage and position of English and Welsh, and the way that people see them. These are the two most widely spoken ‘indigenous’ languages in the United Kingdom, and thus seemed natural choices for discussion. There are a multitude of aspects that could be considered in relation to the topic, and it would be difficult to address them all comprehensively. For this reason, I have chosen to pay particular attention to the area of education, a topic about which there is much to discuss.

 

Increasing immigration and the English language

According to Ethnologue (Lewis, 2009), the English language is spoken as a first language by an overwhelming majority of the population of the United Kingdom, with the figure being listed at 56,600,000 people at the date of the last census in 2011. Despite this seemingly invincible position of strength, there are fears among certain sections of society relating to the growth in the local population of speakers of other languages. In recent years, there have been a plethora of articles in the British press decrying the number of first languages spoken by students in British schools, with one columnist in The Daily Express even pointing to a school in Peterborough, at which none of the children had English as a first language, as a symbol for all of Britain’s ills (Hill, 2013). It is certainly the case that the number of people living in the UK born overseas has increased substantially in the last decade, from 5.3 million to 8.6 million people, or from 8.9% to 13.3% of the wider population, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (2016, p.5-7). This will undoubtedly be reflected in the growth in the number of first languages spoken within Britain’s classrooms. Whether or not this has a positive or negative effect on the level of schooling, or upon the status of the English language within the classroom is unclear. However, it seems likely that public perceptions have been, and will continue to be, affected by the media coverage given to this topic.  Continue reading

English and Other Philippine Languages: 

Battling for Linguistic Stature in the Filipino Society?

 

 Noel T. Franco Jr.

Abstract

This paper attempts to describe the status of English (and other languages) in the Philippines. It discusses some legal and socio-cultural factors that may have brought English to being considered an important language in the country. Moreover, it also highlights the proliferation and relevance of Filipino and other languages in the Philippines. The paper concludes by citing the strong hold of English in the Filipino society.

Key words: English, role, status, languages, Philippines, Filipino

 

Introduction

English plays a very important role in the Philippines. Historically and culturally, English seems to have overtaken Filipino and other native languages in several areas and aspects of the Philippine society. Though Filipino is the national language in the country, the use of English has a legal ground to be used as a medium in different forms of communication and even in the country’s educational system (The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Article XIV, Sections 6-8). In fact, the Constitution itself is promulgated in both Filipino and English.

This paper attempts to discuss how English seemingly competes against Filipino and other Philippine languages by looking at some historical events and individuals’ notions that led to these languages’ present statuses and roles in the country.

 

The Spread of English 

The possible first contact of the Filipinos with English can be traced back during the American colonization which began in 1989 when English started to be one of the official (if not the only official) languages of the Philippines at that time. Among other reasons, the use of English during the American occupation was likely caused by the Filipinos’ linguistic diversity; thus, needing for one common, united language. This, alongside other political and socio-cultural events during that time, paved way for the inclusion of teaching of English in the country’s school curriculum (Stevens, 1999).

Even during a few years of Japanese occupation which started in 1941, English was still being used as the official language and favoured by Filipinos (Stevens, 1999; Vizconde, 2006). It was not until 1946, when the Philippines became independent from the United States that one of the native languages called Tagalog, was considered as the official language of the country (Stevens, 1999).

Tagalog was technically known as Pilipino through an executive order of the Department of Education in 1959 and later on became Filipino in 1971 through a constitutional convention (Cruz, 1991). The term Filipino, as Cruz (1991) describes it, is “a future, [Utopina] [sic] Utopian conglomeration of most, if not all, Philippine languages” (p.19).

Approximately from the time the Americans came to the Philippines until before the start of Marcos regime in the 1970’s, there had been a gradual rise in the use of English in several domains of the society. However, when Marcos became the president, there had been an increase in the promotion of English in economic activities and education (Rappa & Wee, 2006 as cited in Dawe, 2014). Continue reading

Welcome to The Warwick ELT!

Editorial…

Welcome to the Third Issue of The Warwick ELT!

We are delighted to present the third issue of The Warwick ELT e-zine.

Following the same pattern of the previous issues, the February 2017 issue of ‘The Warwick ELT’ presents articles from contributors from the Applied Linguistics centre, including MA and PhD students, representing realities from the most varied backgrounds for the informed discussion related to ELT.

In this issue, we have the great contribution from Takumi Aoyama and Sal Consoli  on ‘Introducing FOLLM: the Forum on Language Learning Motivation’, emphasising on the need of the international FOLLM. Betelhem Taye Tsehayu, in her article ‘Current Controversies on the Use of L1 in ELT Classrooms: Focus on the Ethiopian Context’ talks about the context of teaching foreign languages in Ethiopia. Then, Tran Phan brings to the discussion the context of learning foreign languages in Vietnam through her article ‘English Language as a Boom in Vietnam – From Colonized to Domesticated’. Whilst, Chris Zhang, through the article ‘English in China Today and the Influence of Education Reform’, informs us about the education reform in contemporary China.

For ease of access, each of the articles can be found hyperlinked below:

  1. Introducing FOLLM: the Forum on Language Learning Motivation by  Takumi Aoyama & Sal Consoli
  2. Current Controversies on the Use of L1 in ELT Classrooms: Focus on the Ethiopian Context by Betelhem Taye Tsehayu
  3. English Language as a Boom in Vietnam – From Colonized to Domesticated by Tran Phan
  4. English in China Today and the Influence of Education Reform by Chris Zhang

We expect that the articles shared can provide the readers with a general knowledge about what is going on in the area of teaching and learning of languages around the world and really motivate reflection on the teaching and learning of languages as learners of languages and teachers and inspire teacher development as well. Besides encouraging more authors to give their contribution to our Ezine in the following editions.

Finally, we would like to thank all of those whose effort has gone into the creation of this edition of the e-zine.

Issue editors,

Frazer Smith, Komila Tangirova and Mirian Fuhr.

Introducing FOLLM: the Forum on Language Learning Motivation

 

Takumi Aoyama & Sal Consoli

Abstract

In this commentary, we first map out the reasons which make language learning (LL) motivation a crucial research field within the domain of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). However, while we recognise that researchers have made considerable progress in the attempt to theorise LL motivation, it is clear that the construct is difficult to define and investigate in its wholeness. Despite these challenges, influential work has been produced, and we offer a brief overview of the seminal publications which give LL motivation inquiry a sense of achievement and orientation. We conclude with a brief outline of the recent international academic events which have successfully gathered researchers and practitioners to discuss the new dimensions of LL motivation research, its application in teaching practice and new lines of inquiry. Finally, we introduce the international Forum on Language Learning Motivation (FOLLM) which has been set up with a view to building an international network of researchers and practitioners who have an active interest in LL motivation.

Keywords: motivation, research, language, learning, conference.

Introduction: Motivation 

Language learning motivation is one of the most prolific research areas in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Nonetheless, whereas a lot of research discussions have centred upon the notion of motivation within language learning, it has become apparent that no conceptualisation of motivation, to-date, has been able to theorise the fullness of such a construct (Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2011, p. 4). Ellis and Shintani (2014), for instance, offer a definition which incorporates many of the definitional components attached by researchers to motivation: ‘motivation is a complex construct that involves the reasons or goals learners have for learning an L2, the effort they put into learning and the attributes they form as a result of their attempts to learn (p. 287).’ However, although researchers have inevitably been selective in their conceptualisations of motivation and therefore unable to ‘capture the whole picture’ (Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2011, p. 4), we recognise, in line with Dörnyei and Ushioda, that motivation is concerned with ‘the direction and magnitude of human behaviour (…) in other words, motivation is responsible for why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity, how hard they are going to pursue it’ (p. 4).

  Continue reading

Current controversies on the use of L1 in ELT classrooms: focus on the Ethiopian context

Betelhem Taye Tsehayu

Abstract

In Today’s multilingual world, teaching English or any other second language especially as a school subject, may or may not need the help of students’ first language. Different experts in English Language Teaching have been promulgating their claims on whether to use students’ L1 in ELT classes or not. The assertions made so far are of three types. The first ‘direct method’ type, bans students’ first language from interfering the learning of English while the second one opposes this approach, proposing translation as the best way of teaching a new language. The third, and the one, mostly accepted by many theorists these days, is the judicial use of students’ L1 by providing more space to the use of the target language being taught. These arguments mentioned are context-sensitive and can be applied effectively if they are good fit to the education environment of respective teachers. The writer does not intend to provide one precise response to the controversy of whether to use L1 in English classes or not but rather entertains the current varying viewpoints on the issue displaying no favour to any side of the argument. Thus, the paper aims at showcasing the current L1 use debate in language classrooms and allows readers to identify their stance on whether to use or not to use L1, or to be somewhere in between the two extremes depending on their specific contexts. In doing so, the writer referred to Ethiopian context as a relative real life instance to further elaborate on the perspectives presented.

Key Words: L1, first language, monolingual, English

Introduction

Teaching English as a second or foreign language raises the issue of first language use in the classroom. The use of students’ first language in an ELT class is a debatable issue in English Language Teaching and probably continues to stay so for some time until reliable researches are conducted to explicitly state the pros and cons of using L1 in a language classroom (Debreli & Oyman 2016). When the use of L1 is considered in any English language Teaching (ELT) classroom, it is not only about how teachers use their students’ first language to teach English but it is also how students use their L1 to learn the new language (Harbord 1992; Debreli & Oyman 2016; Burden 2000).

On my very first day of public school teaching experience after graduation from college, I was strongly challenged by one of my students who insisted on the use of the first language in my English class. I was never taught to use any L1 while teaching English but was rather trained to teach the language using the language itself. I was taught to teach English in English so that I can help my students improve their fluency as well as their accuracy throughout the learning process. What I knew was, English Teaching should totally be monolingual and the interference of L1 was considered a failure from the teacher’s side and a taboo from the students’ side. Continue reading