Posted by: sbilingual | November 2, 2011

Linguist calls for English changes

People learning the English language around the world should not adopt the “Queen’s English”, a linguist has said.

Dr Mario Saraceni, of the University of Portsmouth, called on native English speakers to “give up their claim to be the guardians of the purest form of the language”.

He argued that the ways it has been used and changed by millions of people around the world are equally valid.

Writing in the latest issue of the journal Changing English, he suggests the way English is taught to non-native speakers, but whose mother tongue is English, needs a dramatic change.

He said: “It’s important the psychological umbilical cord linking English to its arbitrary centre in England is cut. The English are not the only legitimate owners of the language.

“English is the most dominant language on the planet and though it is spoken widely in the western world, westerners are in the minority of English language speakers. For many around the world, the ability to speak English has become as important as knowing how to use a computer. But the myth of the idealised native speaker needs to be abandoned.”

Dr Saraceni, of the School of Languages and Area Studies, said it was time English language teachers abroad took down posters of double-decker buses and Parliament Square from their classrooms and taught English in a purely local context.

He said: “Critics might feel uncomfortable with what they see as a laissez-faire attitude but language use is not about getting closer to the ‘home’ of English, and it is not about bowing deferentially and self-consciously to the so-called superiority of the inner circle of the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand.

According to Dr Saraceni, the widely-held view that English has spread around the world from its original birthplace in England can be challenged.

He said: “The idea seems natural and unquestionable, but if you examine it closer it is patently untrue. It is impossible to identify any point in history or geography where the English language started – one can talk only of phases of development.”

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