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World Englishes: Classroom Applications and Activities

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The theoretical frameworks developed by scholars of World Englishes can be used to augment classroom instruction. This resource provides general principles for implementing these frameworks in the classroom, then gives specific ideas for in-class activities.

Note that the sources cited in this resource are catalogued on the World Englishes: Suggested Readings page.

How to Incorporate World Englishes in the Classroom

There is not a single definite answer to this question, as there is no “one size fits all” approach for incorporating the different varieties of English in the classroom. However, generally, teachers can take a World Englishes approach in their lessons by working to pluralize students’ perceptions. This can be accomplished, for example, by accepting cultural, rhetorical, and stylistic variations as well as by treating students fairly when they use different English varieties in the classroom.

Matsuda and Matsuda (2010) offer five principles that can guide teachers to incorporate World Englishes in a writing classroom:

  • Teach the dominant language forms and functions.
  • Teach the nondominant language forms and functions.
  • Teach the boundary between what works and what does not.
  • Teach the principles and strategies of discourse negotiation.
  • Teach the risks involved in using deviational features.

The other strategy Matsuda and Matsuda mention is teacher collaboration. This focuses on designing opportunities for students to interact in socially-diverse activities and reflect deeply on their communication experiences. It also requires teachers to identify key concepts students can use to make sense of the complex communication experiences in their particular contexts.

Activities, Discussion Questions, and Writing Prompts

Kachru (1992) argues that teachers can initiate an attitudinal and methodological paradigm shift in the classroom. He suggests the following points for teaching advanced students:

  • Sociolinguistic profile: an overview of English in its world context with discussion of selected major varieties, their users and uses. A clear distinction is to be made between the use of English in a monolingual society, as opposed to a multilingual society, and its implications.
  • Variety exposure: an exposition of the repertoire of major varieties of English, native and non-native: their uses and users, specific text related to various interactional contexts, shared and non-shared features at different linguistic levels.
  • Attitudinal neutrality: for teaching purposes, one might focus on one specific variety and at the same time emphasize awareness and functional validity of other varieties.
  • Range of uses: the functional appropriateness of the lectal range of varieties within a specific variety (e.g., from educated varieties to the pidgins and basilects).
  • Contrastive pragmatics: the relationships of discoursal and stylistic innovations and their relationships to the local conventions of culture (e.g., strategies used for persuasion, phatic communion, apologies, condolences, and regrets).
  • Multidimensionality of functions: the linguistic implications of the functional range, as in, for example, the media, in literary creativity, in administration, in the legal system. (p. 360-261)

Here are a few prompts for classroom activities, discussions, and writing projects incorporating a World Englishes aspect: 

  • How can we decide whether a non-standard English usage is an “error” or an “innovation?” Does it depend entirely on whether the speaker is native or non-native, or are there other criteria, such as frequency of use, number of users, and so on (Jenkins, 2003)?
  • What are the positive and negative consequences of the spread of English to an Outer Circle country like China (Mesthrie & Bhatt, 2008)?
  • Do you believe it is possible to retain your L1 (first language) accent in other language(s) and still be intelligible to native speakers of that language? Have you had any personal experiences that support your view (Jenkins, 2003)?
  • Find out as much you can about Indian English. What social and/or regional dialects of English are spoken in India? What sorts of attitudes to English pronunciation and/or usage can be found among Indians? What do Indians think of other Expanding Circle varieties of English?
  • Investigate aspects of the role of English or the learning and teaching of English in any country of the Expanding Circle (E.g., Russia, China, Sweden, Nepal) (Davies, 2005).
  • Using a library or the Internet, try to find two texts in English, preferably from a single domain (e.g., newspaper editorials), but written about 50 years apart. Compare them to see how aspects of English usage have changed in the course of the period separating them (Davies, 2005).
  • Using the Internet, compare reports from a range of international newspapers in English. What differences, if any, can you find between them in terms of their lexis, grammar, and spelling (Davies, 2005)?
  • Find two or three texts (e.g. advertisements) which combine dialects in various ways and discuss the linguistic and stylistic effects produced by this combination. Consider the aims of the texts and how the use of more than one dialect contributes to these aims. 
  • Discuss, giving examples, whether or not the cultural context impacts the production of a new variety of English, and how (if so). What does the mixing of local languages with English accomplish for users of that English variety?