Can we really have more than one English?
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. Current figures suggest that Mandarin is spoken as a native language by over 800 million speakers, Spanish by over 400 million and English is only approximately 300 million. So why is English used on such a global scale?
The difference between those who use it as a first or second language, is that the ones who are using it as a secondary language, have adapted it for their own use.
Kachru devised his ‘Three Circles’ model in 1992, before the rise of the internet, and this has possibly affected how we see it.However, his model doesn’t address diversity of English’s and can be seen to suggest judgments about ‘better’ usage. Canadian English has both aspects of British English and American English, which reflects the influence of culture. The language has been heavily affected by English, American and French influences including spellings, phonology, lexis and grammar. Indian English is embedded into Indian life, culture and literature however when it comes to speech this is where it differs; in terms of phonology, for example Indian speakers have little distinction between /b/, /v/ and /w/.
English as a lingua franca (ELF) refers to English being used as a common language among speakers who have different first languages. Jennifer Jenkins (2006) points to 5 characteristics of ELF:
- Allowing communication among a range of people.
- An alternative to English as a Foreign Language rather than a replacement for it.
- Include innovations that might characterise local varieties of English as well as ‘correct’ English.
- Useful in code-switching and linguistic accommodation.
- Used for description for the purposes of possible codification.