What do ELFs have for breakfast?

ELF or rather English as a Lingua France or even WORLD ENGLISH or possibly GLOBAL ENGLISH or GLOBISH.

Whatever you call it problems may arise or rather are already arising from what it is and what it means.

For myself, I see the issue from a food lover’s perspective and categorise the possibilities with that in mind.

Possibility 1: The continental breakfast

This is standard European policy of healthy bread, fruit, combined with less healthy jams and pastries with a separate full English breakfast section topped off with fresh fruit juice and tea/coffee with milk.

2: The international buffet

A bit of everything from anywhere and as much as you can eat. Here there’s no emphasis on quality or compatibility so you’ll find carbonara next to goulash and sushi.

At the moment, we seem to still be in our full British breakfast stage which we try to force onto the world but slowly we are having to compromise and have teacher without sugar and salty pancakes. For ELF to really take off it will have to be suitable for everyone and not be culture or country-specific. Will it achieve this by taking a bit of everything or just try to be as neutral and as bland as possible, who knows? But going from my experience of international buffets a plate of 7 different dishes from 7 different countries does not always digest well.


8 thoughts on “What do ELFs have for breakfast?

  1. Love your food metaphors (or is it allegory?) I certainly would not like it bland and must agree that goulash and sushi do not go well together but I do like thoughtfully combined fusion cuisine.

    • I think I was hungry or have been to too many hotels. It’s interesting that when you go abroad you see these 2 things that are a real mix of cultures. In the UK in a B n B you may get a full British breakfast and some croissant perhaps, in Europe you’ll get a continental breakfast but not always with a cooked one. It must just be for the Brits, I mean who else wants baked beans and sausage for breakfast alongside cake, ham, muesli and a muffin?

      It’s a real mix when you look at it as it has evolved to cater to all visitors requirements.

      The International all you can eat Buffet seems newer and part of it is lack of knowledge, as maybe all European dishes just get classed as European so Pizza, Bigos and Crepes all get put together. You can understand it in a way as Europe is aiming for a single identity or rather, it is evolving. I mean, look at the map. How can you make an Asian person understand that food on one side of an old now non-existent border between Germany and France is completely different to that on the other 10 metres away?

      The latest is probably the mix of food and ingredients so you may get Frog in the Hole with a real frog.

      ELF or English is moving and adapting in these foreign lands and as the number of non-native speakers outweighs natives it is no longer ‘ours’. For textbook and exam writers this poses the problem of ‘what the heck to use?’. Will each chapter be about a different international city or just general, dull topics like money and humour with no references to any people, countries, films or anything real?

      • The great thing about an international buffet is that you get to pick what you want to eat. The sushi might be placed next to the goulash but you don’t have to put both of them side by side on your plate. You select whatever works for you while taking your breakfast partner into consideration. If the person you are having breakfast with is clearly put off by the smells of you having chicken curry at 7 in the morning, you might think twice about doing so and adapt accordingly. Some of us even would go to the extent of simply eating what our partners are eating. I know that when my partner goes for the fresh fruit and yogurt, it makes me want to have some too…and when I get the chef to fry me an egg the way I like it, it makes my partner want a fried egg done specially for him too.

        I think the topics in a course book does not define it as an ELF one. It is the use of language and choice of words, coupled with its inter-cultural sensitivity, and the focus on developing accommodation and adaptation strategies. For a good example of any ELF reading or listening text, have a look at any inflight magazines or at the news on CNBC. They are written for an international audience and the English used isn’t dumbed down nor are the topics dull. They simply make use of English that is potentially understood by most people – native or non-native expert users of the language.

        There should be no limit to the kind of topics that an ELF course book/resource pack can cover…the only thing I think you would not find in there is chapters about English culture and how they love bowler hats and walking sticks… Learning English is no longer necessarily equated to learning about the English culture… Does that make the book ‘dull’???

        • Yes, that’s why I used to frequent them quite often but my trick was to choose things that weren’t too different or have different plates, except in the places where you are only given 1 plate.

          Chicken curry at 7 am.Singapore or Malaysia? Sounds familiar.

          That’s true about the inflight magazines. I use them with a travel agency student and they are very general but I wonder if people actually enjoy reading them. I don’t see people clutching them on planes, they all dive for the newspapers. I recall that the BBC world service is the same, they have very strict rules about saying anything cultural or that could be offensive anywhere.

          No unit on bowler hats? But that’s the best topic. Sounds like we have to stay away from any steroetypes at all. I had a tough time studying Sociolinguistics for this reason. I learned about all these things about language and culture in different countries but then when I asked some people about theirs they took offense. In a meeting a colleague mentioned the poor pronunciation of his French students regarding ‘th’ and their ‘zeeer’ and how it was because they did not have the British sound. A French colleague took this as racism almost and got very angry. The same when I mentioned about the issue of time keeping being different. There seems to be a fine line there and a potentially very risky area for coursebook writers if they are to mention cultures. Or they can just do inflight style and show products and different destinations and maps.

          If we remove English and American cultures won’t we lose a lot? After all, many ove music, movies, food, clothes, celebrities etc.

          • No, Phil, Singaporeans and Malaysians don’t eat chicken curry for breakfast…it’s just me…
            But that’s exactly it, isn’t it? The dangers of essentialising a culture or group of people based on stereotypes or generalisations. I think it’s good to raise awareness of the possibility of such differences but it’s also important to still cater for space for the individual differences…
            Shameless plug here but I hope to be able to deal with this issue in the BESIG online workshop on the 5th February, so don’t forget to log on.

            I’m afraid Sociolinguistics isn’t just about cultural differences and generalisations but about how language and society interact and influence one another. It’s language that is alive and constantly changing the societies, the cultures, and the people around it, and in return being changed by these interactants.

            And no, Phil…I don’t think we should remove English and American culture from books…I think that music, movies, celebrities and whatever that might interest the learner should take priority. The use of ELF does not mean that every user of ELF would have the same interests, wants or needs. That’s why we are Dogmeticians, Phil. We conduct a needs analysis, we let topics emerge, we deal with what the learners want and need, and not impose upon them lessons about bowler hats and afternoon tea…But hey, if that’s what they want…!

            • Really. I had it at hotels in both countries. It was heaven but my wife thought it was strange.

              Oh, I didn’t know you were doing a BESIG online workshop on the 5th February on this topic. Sorry, was that BESIG? And is the link http://www.besig.org/events/all/2012/Weekend_Workshop_The_Politeness_and_Pragmatics_of_ELF.aspx

              It begins at 4pm CET doesn’t it? I think anyone interested in this topic will get something from your talk but maybe no curry.

              Yes, that’s what I like about Sociolinguistics but when I studied it some of the research was a bit old. I remember during my postgrad we did multicultural courses and looked at how different ethnic groups fared in state education compared to how they did when tested using their own style of English. Needless to say the latter marks were better. The problem was that a lot of it was already out of date and it wasn’t until we got out into the field that we got to see the current state of affairs. I remember teaching in schools where teachers are students spoke the same ‘lingo’ and could communicate very well but in others there was a problem. This was evident more with refugee students and mentally disabled ones and I had to learn how to communicate with both groups.

              On this note, my friend has a real grudge against the TOEIC exam since doing some analysis on it. He argues that the whole style and language of the test transmits American hardworking culture. This may be true but he is convinced that it is intentional. He also says that another BIG American international school is intent on the same thing as a shareholder is a politician. He may have a point as they gave 1000s of hours of free classes to government officials in some countries. Now if they’d used these as examples on the MA instead of old ‘Jacky’ magazines I think people would have been more interested.

              I do wonder if students really want English topics. The majority I’ve taught have always been interested in US culture. One student even thought British and US culture were the same.

              It’s an interesting area to say the least. Good luck with the webinar.

              • I had to come in when that McDonalds of testing was mentioned! Why McDonald’s ? In the 70s some guy asked for a McDo franchise for France. He was laughed at and given a franchise at a ridiculously low rate (it’ll never work). Then when it DID work the case went before justice for McDo to get its full share of the earnings. Just like the Test Of English for International Commerce – created by ETS for the Japanese business ppl who couldn’t take the US campus English of the TOEFL. Sold by ETS to a smaller testing company Chauncy Group who had some wise guy who realized they could take it out of Japan – thanks to the impregnable fortress of English teaching in France ( no one aware of the RoW until recently !) 2004 ETS buys back the test et voila – with the ETS logistics behind it, the veracity of my story becomes harder to prove …. and such a cheap test, who can resist 😦

                • I’ve seen TOEIC offered at 39 Euros and up to 100. I hear TOELF ibt was over 200. My uni used to cover the 39 Euros so every student got a free TOEIC and it was easy to run. Now people like BULATS but you can’t really do it for 600 students in 1 afternoon. When we ran IELTS there were loads of complaints from staff about how fussy Cambridge were and why they had to be so precise about rules and security etc. This was in complete opposite to a pile of tests handed out my uni staff and then taken back in by the same people. This is exactly why I don’t like inhouse tests. Tests should be run by professionals at exam centres that are experienced and organised. 400 students packed in a room doing TOEIC administered by their normal teachers isn’t quite the same.

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