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Global Importance of English Language

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English has an international status and its utilization is no longer restricted to a couple of nations now, the United States of America, the United Kingdom. One of the first to consider this was Kachru (1985). His core interest was the ‘global diffusion of English’ (Rajadurai, 2005: webpage), the consequent insignificance of the ‘ownership’ of English, and the ‘concentric circles’ exemplifying the global spread of the English language.

Even though Kachru’s hypothesis has been criticized for making history and geography as its basis, and singling out the native speakers as “an elite, preferred group” having central importance, his work has been persuasive in highlighting the regularly expanding worldwide significance of English (Rajadurai, 2005: website page).

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Shohamy (2006) has also discussed the significance of the English language. According to him, “national boundaries are becoming more fluid and less rigid” and the concept of ‘nation-state’ has been challenged in the given situation (2006: 37). Most nations want to play an important part in global affairs focusing mainly on “international affairs and world markets” (ibid). This pattern of globalization has shifted the language policy. The world has recognized the need for a common language for ‘international communication’ Shohamy (2006) says:

Nations… demand that their residents require a variety of additional languages that will be useful for… international and global functions and for economic and academic purposes. (2006: 37)

In this way, English, the Lingua Franca, is now playing an increasingly important role to carry out internationally. Various countries (from Mongolia to Singapore) understand that English is the ‘language of status and globalization’ (2006: 42) and that its utilization will benefit them in various ways. Learning the English language is encouraged in educational institutes. Truly, the power of English to get ‘access to the outer world’ has made it the language of “transcendental significance” (Ashraf, 2006: 95). English is “used widely within society, academics, government, commerce, schools, and public affairs” (Shohamy, 2006: 62).

Now English is used around the globe for various purposes. In Gaza, Egypt, and Botswana English is a medium of instruction at universities as it is considered important for international business. The same is the case in the Far East. Nunan (2003) has highlighted the changes in education policies related to English in the Far East. In Korea, the age at which students study English as a compulsory subject has been decreased from eleven to nine; in Taiwan English has been introduced as a compulsory subject from Grade 1, instead of Grade 5; and many higher education institutions in China have made English a requirement for admission. Teaching students of English as a foreign language from different backgrounds in Britain, Kuo (2006) has stated that fluency in English has become compulsory for selection and success in local and international educational institutions as well as almost all professional fields. These changes indicate the acceptance of the importance of English for getting economic and international success.

Pakistani linguists like Warsi (2004), Masood (2006), Akram and Mahmood (2007) have emphasized the importance of English in the Pakistani context. In addition, the National Educational Policy (2008) has also reiterated the importance of English, echoing Cook, Shohamy, and Nunan. Aly (2007) states that ‘International communities do not view it as merely a foreign language of a politically superior descent but a basic necessity for inter-personal, incorporation and inter-state communications without any national borders’ (p. 53).

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2000) characterizes a ‘textbook’ as “a book that teaches a particular subject and that is used especially in schools and college” (2000: 1343).

In Britain, a ‘coursebook’ denotes the word textbook (Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 2004; MSN Encarta Dictionary, 2009; Macmillan Dictionary, 2009 – 2011, Longman Lexicon of Contemporary English, 2011). Printed materials that encourage English language learning are considered English language textbooks. In this paper, the words reading material, coursebook, and (educating) materials will be used interchangeably.

Suppositions about textbooks differ widely and are certainly contrasting. McGrath (2002) has proposed successive opinions regarding reading material. He infers that instructors may concretize course books, consider them as mediators, see them as one of the accessible alternatives or take them as a hindrance in the learning process. This is very much reflected in the distinctive viewpoints of the two experienced instructors (cited in Tickoo, 2003) towards their reading material:

The textbook often acts as a constraint; it goes against my attempt to respond fully to the pupils’ needs. Its use also goes against learner activity. (Tickoo, 2003: 256) … course books are invaluable supports. They represent the syllabus, offer good models of writing, and provide exercises that help cover the language items that need attention. I cannot do without a textbook; nor can my pupils. (Tickoo, 2003: 256)

Numerous language specialists have themselves favored course books or have gone against them. Towards one side of the scale are Thornbury and Meddings (1999) who are of the view that utilizing coursebooks incapacitates the language of its potential to communicate as they urge students to recreate the proposed language, as opposed to giving them a chance to utilize their own creative mind and use words ‘as vehicles for the communication of their own meaning’ (1999:2).

Furthermore, the writings used in these textbooks are “dead”, whereas, plenty of other useful materials is available to exploit in class:

A classroom library of cheap readers and magazines is worth any number of overpriced coursebooks (Ibid.).

Language learning without textbooks is more prompting and functional.  Allwright (1981) states: 

 …the management of language learning is far too complex to be satisfactorily catered for by a prepackaged set of decisions embodied in teaching materials(1981: 9)

 Block (1990) is of the view that the language of the textbooks is quite improper and outworn. He further suggests that the activities used in these classroom materials are too uninspiring and formulaic. Hutchinson and Torres (1994) argued that textbooks minimize the role of teachers in the classroom. In addition, Garinger (2001) also apprises teachers that they should be aware of the limitations of textbooks. He further suggests that textbooks should only be used if they tend to guarantee structured and proper language study.

Contrary to this, there are linguists as Grant (1987),  O’Neill 1982,1993; Ur, (1996), Richards (1998),  Garbrielatos(2000), McGrath (2002)who view textbooks as worthy tools that teachers can use in combination with other reinforcements in class. These linguists suggest that textbooks can propose plans, present a vast variety and give instances of language.  They also stimulate independent learning for the students, support teachers to learn more and offer diversity in teaching methodologies. Similarly, O’Neill (1982) and Edge and Wharton (1998) emphasize the benefits of textbooks over the materials that are prepared by the teachers. For example, textbooks provide useful plans that teachers can follow and save time for other meaningful activities as lesson planning. Furthermore, they can also provide productive and useful support to inexperienced teachers.

Garinger (2001) also apprises teachers that they should be aware of the limitations of textbooks. He further suggests that textbooks should only be used if they tend to guarantee structured and proper language study. Contrary to this, there are linguists as Grant(1987),  O’Neill 1982,1993; Ur, (1996), Richards (1998), Garbrielatos (2000), McGrath (2002) who view textbooks as worthy tools that teachers can use in combination with other reinforcements in class. 

These linguists suggest that textbooks can propose plans, present a vast variety and give instances of language.  They also stimulate independent learning for the students, support teachers to learn more and offer diversity in teaching methodologies. Similarly, O’Neill (1982) and Edge and Wharton (1998) emphasize the benefits of textbooks over the materials that are prepared by the teachers. For example, textbooks provide useful plans that teachers can follow and save time for other meaningful activities as lesson planning. Furthermore, they can also provide productive and useful support to inexperienced teachers.

It is important to note that most of the course books are written by experts and specialists. Therefore, they are more productive than materials written by the teachers. To some extent, textbooks can help change the thinking of their users. In Asia, books or teaching materials are considered to be quite helpful for their users. Tickoo (2003) affirms this notion and regards textbooks as’ the most reliable source of security and continuity for the teacher and pupils alike”. He also states that the books tend to “reassure both parents and school authorities” (2003: 257).   

 Regardless of the above-mentioned variety of views about the textbooks, their real value depends upon the qualities these books possess. Thus, Davis and Pierce (2000) confirm that the value of a textbook depends primarily on the quality of the book used.

Teaching methodology has been a pivotal development of the last century. Methods, in terms of language teaching, signify

…the notion of a systematic set of teaching practices based on a particular theory of language and language learning (Rodgers, 2001: webpage)

From the nineteenth century until the Forties Grammar-Translation technique was widely utilized in Europe and North America. According to literary critics Richards and Rodgers (2001), the main target or objective of this fashion of teaching is to learn a language to read its literature. Teaching consists of that specializes in descriptive linguistics rules followed by the application of those rules and translation exercises.

The major stress is on reading and writing skills with the sentence being the basic element of teaching and accuracy is stressed and also the students’ maternal or first language is that the medium of instruction. This technique hasn’t supported any theory, however, solely makes use of the subsequent premise:

It… views acquisition as consisting of very little quite memorizing rules and facts to know and manipulate the morphology and syntax of the foreign language. (2001: 5)

The Grammar-Translation methodology continues to be getting used in some components of the globe.

The Audio-lingual Methodology moves out within the Fifties. This methodology of pedagogy is additionally supported by a structural approach that stresses mastering the building blocks of language and learning rules for combining these structures. It’s derived from the behaviorist theory of learning that propagates the subsequent principles:

• Acquisition of language is a habit of formation

• Mistakes ought to be avoided the least bit costs

• Acquisition of language is simpler if it’s provided orally

This system of methods and techniques emphasizes accuracy in pronunciation and grammar of linguistics. The main and major technique is ‘oral pattern drill’ involving the utilization of ‘substitution tables’

In the 1980s Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) became the foremost leading pedagogy approach. In some ways, CLT was a response contrary to the grammar-focused targeted approach [see section three.3.2 above] that needed students to primarily make grammatically correct samples of the target language. McDonough and Shaw (1993) explain this observation with some examples from textbooks:

All teachers of the English language are going to be acquainted with the type of exercise instruction that asks… students to direct narration into their indirect narration equivalent, or to provide the right verb form of a given tense, or to differentiate adjectives from adverbs. (1993: 21)

It was struggled by the advocates of the CLT that this sort of language practice gave rise to learners and who were “structurally competent” and typically “communicatively incompetent”. On the opposite hand, CLT promotes fluency and meaty communication and is based on the principle that “language teaching should be tailored to students’ real-world communication needs’’ (Cook, 2001: 12).

Hymes given in (1972) the theoretical base to CLT by presenting the term ‘communicative competence’, that was a concept which was further elaborated by Canale and Swain (1980) to incorporate four parts – grammatical competency (lexis and rules), socio1linguistics competency (appropriateness), discourse competence (cohesion and coherence), and strategic competency (appropriate use of communication strategies). Since no pre-requisite set of methods were set down, the communicative methodology has been embraced extensively; “practitioners from completely different instructional traditions can identify with it, and consequently interpret it in several ways” (Cook, 2001: 157).

Many different methodologies and ways (like the ‘Natural Approach’ and ‘Cooperative Language Learning’) have developed from ‘Communicative Language Teaching’. These methodologies are mainly based on similar basic principles, however, entail varied techniques. Among these ‘Task-Based Language Teaching’ has become a vital thought by linguists like Prabhu (1987), Nunan (1989), Willis (1996), and Ellis (2003). This methodology system relies on the concept of ‘task’ that focuses on ‘meaning’ rather than ‘form’. This notion “involves real-world processes of language use” (Ellis, 2003: 10) like completing a form; and “has a clearly outlined communicative outcome” (ibid), like ordering a meal.

In conclusion, the appearance of the Communicative approach to the acquisition of language has had so many reaching effects on the acquisition of language learning objectives that now do not specialize in just knowing language rules and their structural options. Significantly, since this methodology is versatile it still has its advocates; for example, it will be used effectively in various contexts:

In practical terms, whether or not helping mixed-ability categories, aiding motivation, leading from attention on kind to at least one of fluency, or supporting learning, it’s tons to supply the… teacher. (Belchamber, 2007: webpage)

Although the 20th century was primarily dominated by the search for strategies for effective approaches for teaching, the initial years of the current century (twenty-first century) has witnessed a move far from ‘generic teaching techniques’ primarily as a result of these are found to be too rigid and limiting (Richards and Renandya, 2002). Furthermore, the communicative model seems to own lost the blind appeal of its earlier years and also the subsequent impetus as a guiding approach (Maley, 2003). During this situation, the term “post-method” has been preoccupied with linguists like Kumaravadivelu (1994, 2001). Nevertheless, Bell (2003) asserts that post-methods don’t imply the “end” of strategies, rather “a want to transcend” the “limitations” of strategies (2003: 334).

In fact, within the current times, the main focus of linguists appears to be on “an integrated methodology to language pedagogy” (Brown, 2002: 11) and “designing effective tasks and techniques advised by that approach” (ibid). Brown (2002) has listed some twelve principles associated with learning of language that can form the basis of a language teaching approach. These principles specialize in automaticity, meaningful learning, intrinsic motivation, and ‘communicative competence’. Similarly, Kumaravadivelu (2003) identifies 10 basic tips termed as “macro strategies” which might be accustomed to generate context-specific ways for the classroom.

The macro strategies embody negotiated interaction, integrated language skills, learner autonomy, contextualized learning, and express language and cultural awareness. Here it’s necessary to focus on that each of Brown’s (2002) and Kumaravadivelu’s (2003) principles are the same as the most beliefs promoted by the communicative approach (Bell, 2003) [see section three.3.3 above].

In short, the teaching scenario remains fluid with new notions perpetually ever-changing one’s perception regarding the acquisition of language as maintained by Brown who asserts that a lot of “ remains – to be questioned and investigated” (2002: 11). During this context, Finney (2002) takes an innovative methodology towards teaching:

Language is communication and … we tend to should develop in our learners the power to speak effectively in a very big selection of skilled and social contexts. However is it potential to show a language at intervals on the four walls of a classroom? I feel not – and then we tend to additionally have to be compelled to facilitate our learners to find out a way to learn and to stay on learning. (2002: 69)

All this predicts taking a contemporary approach to explore the techniques of materials choice and development since “trends in material style tend to progress in parallel with trends in approach” (Dat, 2003: 377).

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