The Concepts of International English and Standard English


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As a result, these colonized countries have accepted the language which then makes the language essential to them. Following this situation, globalization has caused the English language to become greatly powerful and its usage becomes important across the globe. The uncolonized countries realized the significance of the English language and assimilated it into their communities. However, many of us have yet realized that the English language has a different degree of standardizations namely IE and SE. Are these two comprise the same concept and functions? In this essay, we will discuss the concept of IE and SE whether they are simply similar or different from each other.

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As defined by McKay (2002) cited by Seidlhofer (2003), IE is used by both native speakers and non-native speakers as intercultural communication. It serves as a medium that connects the speakers of varied cultures and languages within a country and also across its region. In contrast, many linguists have argued on the definition of SE. As suggested by one of the linguists McArthur (2003) cited by Mai (2017), a variety of English language which is broadly accepted, recognized, and even appreciated within an English-speaking country is known as SE.

IE and SE share a criterion which neither demands a particular accent to accompany the language in its spoken form. As stated by Stubbs (2008), various accents are used whilst speaking in SE due to the absence of standardized accents. This can be proven when two nativized speakers from different countries such as a Malaysian speaker and a Japanese speaker have difficulty in understanding each other while conversing caused by their own accent even though both are using SE. Kivistö (2005) has cited Jenkins (2002) saying that IE should not focus on native accent but be spoken in an intelligible and acceptable accent in a society that includes non-native speakers. As an example, when a native speaker of British English with a thick accent speaks to any native speaker, it will be barely comprehendible.

SE refers to the standard variety of English within a country only. Every country has its own SE which may differ from each other in terms of their vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. For example, in the United Kingdom, British English is the SE while in Singapore, Singapore English is the SE. In Standard Singapore(an) English, uncountable nouns such as furniture and chalk are treated as countable nouns (Peter Trudgill, 2013) while in Standard British English, plural forms of these words do not exist. As for IE which has interchangeable terms such as English as a lingua franca, English as a global language, English as a world language, English as a medium of intercultural communication (Seidlhofer, 2003), it is especially important to the non-native speakers of English as they use English as a wider communication within their country for purposes such as meetings and formal occasions. IE is also used globally such as when someone travels abroad, the person will use IE in that country. In short, SE is the official variety of a country while IE is the language used for intercultural communication among non-natives particularly.

IE and SE are used differently. According to Seidlhofer (2005), IE is internationally acceptable to facilitate communication between native speakers and non-native speakers of English. An example of IE is the date writing format. Writing a date by following UK formats such as 12/04/2018 or US format as 04/12/2018 could be ambiguous for audiences who are neither from both regions. Therefore, writing the date in an international format like 12 April 2018 will be more understandable. In contrast, SE is primarily used in print, and public media by mostly educated or working-class speakers and also used in the education system, hence, it is taught to learners of English as a foreign language (Stubbs, 2008). SE is a social dialect that is considered as a prestige variety due to the speakers’ prestige. For example, the public media such as British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is owned by the small social elite with prestigious status who speaks SE (Stubbs, 2008). In short, IE emphasizes the use of English as a means of international communication while SE is a social dialect and is commonly used in the public media.

IE and SE can also be differentiated by their language features. IE focuses on being comprehended by using simple language as it involves speakers from cross-cultural countries. With that said, Naithani (2016) mentioned that it is not encouraged to use phrasal verbs such as “we can give you a hand”, idioms or any difficult words that may lead to miscomprehension. In contrast, Hang Thi Nhu Mai (2017) cited Kachru (1992) that SE is a variety of English used in the English-speaking country which it shows through the pronunciation, syntax, vocabulary, and also style strategies. She also stated that the concept of SE is to be generally identified on printed medium, spoken by newscasters on media, used in any media network, and links to the social class and education level. Hence, the language features of IE and SE are absolutely different.

Another different concept of IE and SE is that IE is expected to be culturally neutral as McKay (2018) said because it is shall not use in assuming that the listeners would be able to understand their culture’s reference such as American’s birthday money. As for the SE, it is claimed by Stubbs (2008) that it is the native language of a social group and has internal stylistic variation included in it since it is also a dialect. It is not considered culturally neutral since slang, swear, and more features that are related to social etiquette are comprised in it. For example, a British can include their own slang such as ‘fag’ whilst conversing with someone from the same variety since they would be sharing the same meaning ‘cigarette’ meanwhile an American or an outsider would have mistaken the word as a derogatory term for a gay person. Hence, only IE is culturally neutral and SE is not.

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