quarta-feira, 27 de maio de 2009

Burning down the house: Canagarajah’s views on Lingua Franca English

Canagarajah, A. Suresh. Lingua Franca English, Multilingual Communities, and Language Acquisition. Modern Language Journal, 91/5 (2007): 921-937.

In his thought-provoking article, Suresh Canagarajah challenges traditional views of language learning and the status of English in a globalized world, proposing a new understanding of English as a lingua franca that allows communication in multilingual contexts among speakers who have English as an “additional language” and who do not take native-speaker varieties as target models.

A professor at Pennsylvania State University, Canagarajah is originally from Sri Lanka, a former British colony in Asia where multilingualism is widespread. The author’s background seems to drive his research, as issues such as identity, multilingualism and non-Western scholarship are present all over the article.

The article starts reviewing Firth and Wagner’s (1997) questioning of traditional dichotomies such as learner versus user, non-native versus native speaker and interlanguage versus target language, stating that there is a bias that holds the second element in each pair as superior. The author then calls for an SLA research that considers a broader context outside language classes and homogenous communities, overcoming what he considers the traditional Western emphasis on concepts such as cognition, innateness and form.

Lingua Franca English (LFE) is said by the author to be difficult to describe since its form is negotiated in interaction. As LFE does not belong to a limited geographical area, it is part of a virtual community in where all speakers, according to Cangarajah, have native competence. Here, the concept of native competence or proficiency is not fully developed as it applies to LFE. Because of the existence of speakers from different national, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, LFE is characterized by constant variation and active negotiation in each interaction. As a consequence, use and learning cannot be separated in LFE, according to the article. However, one could question if this indissoluble relation is not present in every language learning process, instead of being exclusive to LFE.

As form becomes less important than pragmatic strategies, error also receives a different significance in the context of LFE – error is a failure in communicating meaning, something that, according to the author, seldom happens in LFE. One could point out that Canagarajah does not provide evidences for many of his statements.

In one of the few insights that apply directly to classroom, Canagarajah reminds us how students can use different identities in class and even “subvert” activities that underestimate their identities, an observation that can - or should – affect the way teachers approach classroom material and routines.

A worth-reading article, “Lingua Franca English, Multilingual Communities, and Language Acquisition” makes us question many topics that have been taken for granted in our field and helps us ponder about ideological aspects of English that perhaps we may have wanted to avoid as language professionals and especially as English teachers. As we read it, however, it is impossible to stay indifferent to the iconoclastic perceptions it provides.

More about Suresh Canagarajah here.

For a discussions on the implications of global English to teaching methodologies, click here.

2 comentários:

  1. Voce pode aumentar o seu trafego pro seu blog postando links no Twitter para cada artigo novo, usando hashtags como marcadores. Eg. #Diaspora, #LinguaFranca, #TEFL, etc.

    Eu "retuitei" a sua mensagem colocando um link para esta postagem, aumentando assim sua visibilidade!


  2. Antônio Trevisan Teixeira2 de junho de 2009 09:00

    Obrigado! Tenho ainda que me alfabetizar no uso do blog e Twitter, etc.

    Abraços, Peixe Babel!