Reflections on Hornby Summer School Brazil 2006

The Privilege
As a hornbier, I would like to say that it has been really a privilege to be part of such an inspiring and thought provoking event. The event itself has been a source of such input for us teachers that I decided to write some reflections on what I learned or thought of certain concepts or practices discussed in the event on the ELT field. I will to write it in little chunks as time allows once I am pretty busy with so many things to do and so many more burning or half baked ideas on my mind.
The theme of the event was English as a Global Language Implications for Teaching. The pre-reading material hinted at the fact that English has become this sort of global language because of globalisation and the fact that in the future
Global English? Global Village? Maybe not.
It has been almost fifteen days since the last day of course and I still feel the poignancy of the ideas we discussed. For one thing, the HSS kept me really busy. I have the feeling that a 24-hour day is just not enough. Anyway, one my projects was to write here on this blog some of the things that caught my attention on this course and what were my own personal views on certain issues concerning Language Teaching. The reason I do this is to share with my possible readers some of the things I have been thinking and writing is for me a good way of organizing my chaotic ideas. I would like to apologize in advance if my readers cannot see order in my chaos.
The main theme being discussed was English as a Global Language Implications for Teaching. This head topic was divided into strands English as a Global Language, Global Issues and Perspectives, Intercultural Competence, Internet English and the OSDE Methodology (Open Space for Dialogue and Inquiry). Each of these strands was somehow related to this global perspective and its implications.
Personally, I liked the idea of discussing English as a global language because this a view I came to support myself. It is a fact that English is no longer the language of one country; it has become an international language. No one can claim the ownership of English, not only English, but any other language. I firmly believe that languages belong to the whole of humanity. Languages are         a universal domain. So I went to the course with the idea that English is a global language and so global English would be an ideal term.
However, one of our lecturers, Professor Rajan, came up with very interesting points about the nature of language and communication as well as the assumptions and implications behind the term Global English. First of all, he pointed out that global English would be a misleading term. One of the reasons he gave was that the term implies the idea of a global village. His observations made me start questioning myself about this global village idea that has been pushed down our throats through the media.
If we think about it, global village is not an accurate portrayal of what is happening around the world. Although communication has become much easier, differences and conflicts are still common ground in most regions of the planet. The idea of global peaceful village being pushed at us is more like another product then a reflection of what happens in our very own lives. Aren’t we just too busy trying to make ends meet to live in a global village? Just because we have Internet, mobile phones and all the technological gadgets that enable communication it does not mean we are caring more about each other or talking/writing more to each other.
This all comes down to the communication factor. For communication to take place, people should be willing to communicate. On this subject Professor Rajan said something very interesting with which I profoundly agreed “… language is not a prerequisite for communication, but a consequence.” Such a claim is easily illustrated with examples where a break down in communication happens because of an inherent unwillingness to communicate despite the fact that speakers involved speak the same “language.” Sometimes people understand the words but not the message and other times they get neither. Yet in other circumstances one may not exactly understand the words but gets the message, and communication happens and language was just a consequence. I wonder if this point was clear enough, but I was thinking in the micro cosmos of daily interactions where conflicts also exist and people do not “speak the same language.”
The Native Speaker (A Myth)?
 As EFL professional we always take for granted the idea of native speaker. In language teaching, native speakers rule. On this issue the HSS stirred controversy and discussion when Professor Rajan said there is no such a thing as a native speaker. This idea of native speaker, he explains, can be traced back to the 17th or 18th century when each nation state had to have a national language. In multilingual societies the very notion of mother tongue and first language is of no use. Monolinguals are an endangered species, said Professor Rajan. Some questions would maybe make us think about what a native speaker is. Is a native speaker a person who knows everything about the language? Is a native speaker a model from whom one can learn the language? Is a native speaker the one who can him/her understood by the international community of speakers of the target language? Is a native speaker the one who sets the rules for what is acceptable and what is unacceptable?   If one tries to answer the questions above and think about its implications, we can see that this native speaker looks more like a mythical creature. I do not dispute the fact that we need models, but models of successful communication. What we teachers may need to develop in our students, more than native like fluency, is Intercultural Competence.  

 

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