The paper was ‘English as an Academic Lingua Franca: discourse hybridity and meaning multiplicity in an international Anglophone HE institution’ by Sami Alhasnawi. The paper considers data on English for special or academic purposes and how this shapes their classroom discussions.
Attendees discussed the differences between understanding English, English as a Lingua Franca, and being able to understand colloquial or native English. This had many implications for teaching in an international University. Many people who didn’t have English as their first language, spoke about the difficulties they experienced personally or observed from their students when accessing teaching and learning activities, particularly with the use of colloquial English. They discussed how to avoid inaccessible language and being mindful of terms and expressions within a teaching environment which may hinder understanding. This would require additional effort on the part of the native speaker but was essential to support learning. It was noted that the pressure to be understood and to understand is often solely placed on the person who doesn’t have English as their first language, which is unfair given that communication goes both ways. There were also conversations surrounding the implications of this for neurodivergent and D/deaf and Hard of Hearing students; expecting them to learn how to communicate from a Neurotypical or Hearing standard, with little or no accommodation from the other party.
The group discussed the potential benefits of multilingualism in an academic setting, as it allowed people to pay greater attention to other areas of language, such as how to sound formal or informal, which can improve teaching quality and student-academic interaction. Multilingualism also offers a greater ability to understand what people are trying to say, without them using the exact words; as the person has multiple languages to draw on, they are likely used to having to work around a forgotten word.
Audiology was put forward as an example department that had adopted English as a Lingua Franca. Although this had been met with some hesitance initially, mainly amongst native English speakers, it had been widely adopted. Discussion followed about the lack of awareness amongst native English speakers about the distinction between English as a Lingua Franca and colloquial English which were almost two separate languages. International students must achieve a certain level of proficiency (known as the International English Language Testing System or IELTS) but these tests do not prepare the student for colloquial English which they are often expected to understand with little assistance from the native speaker. Some students reported feeling like they did not know English well and their English ability (despite good IELTS scores) was not good enough.
The group concluded that given the University brand as an international University, there should be a focus on English as a Lingua Franca which would prompt a cultural shift in reducing the communication barriers experienced by many international students. Raising awareness of these issues would be the first step towards change.
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Alhasnawi, S. (2021) English as an Academic Lingua Franca: discourse hybridity and meaning multiplicity in an international Anglophone HE institution. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, Vol. 10 (Issue 1), pp. 31-58. https://doi.org/10.1515/jelf-2021-2054