English is used as a first, second or foreign language by approximately 2 million people worldwide, however, it is not the most widely spoken language in the world. English is spoken by 300 million native speakers, whilst Spanish is spoken by over 400 million, and Mandarin by 800 million speakers. So is the term “World English”, big enough to describe the current status of English?
There are fewer native speakers of British English than there are of English speakers around the world. The difference between those who use it as a first or second language, is that those using it as a secondary, have had to adapt it for their own use, establishing their own varieties rather than taking it on as a whole.
Braj Kachru (1992) derived the ‘Three Circles’ model before the rise of the internet which establishes World Englishes. However, his model doesn’t address diversity and can be seen to suggest judgements about ‘better’ usage. Canadian English has both aspects of British English and American English, reflecting the influence of culture. The language draws heavily on English, American and French influences including spellings, phonology, lexis and grammar. Indian English is embedded into Indian life, culture and literature however differs when it comes to speech; in terms of phonology, Indian speakers have little distinction between /b/, /v/ and /w/.
English as a lingua franca (ELF) refers to English being used as a contact language between speakers of different first languages. Jennifer Jenkins (2006) has developed 5 characteristics of ELF:
- allows communication
- an alternate to English as a Foreign Language
- include innovations that characterise local varieties of ‘correct’ English
- useful in code-switching and linguistic accommodation
- used for description for the purposes of possible codification