I would like to express my appreciation to my supervisor Nikola Fořtová, B. A., M.A. for her valuable and constructive suggestions during the planning and development of this research work. Her willingness to give her time so generously has been very much appreciated.
My grateful thanks are also extended to all respondents for their support and willingness to spend some time to fill in the questionnaires.
Finally, I wish to thank my parents for their support and encouragement throughout my study.
L2 = second or foreign language (to contrast with L1)
LFC = Lingua Franca Core
NES = Native English Speakers
NNES = Non-Native English Speakers
NNS = Non-Native Speaker
NS = Native Speaker
RP = Received Pronunciation
TESL = Teaching English as a Second Language
TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language
WE = World Englishes
With English having the status of an international language serving for communication in numerous contexts across cultures all over the world, it is only natural that it has diversified into many varieties. The traditional view of English language as a property of the English, where the language originated, is no longer acceptable. The English spoken in Singapore is as relevant variety of the language as is Scottish English. The English language has a long history of assimilation of other languages, and the process still continues. It is estimated that about 80% of all communication in English now takes place among non-native speakers (Crystal, 1997), and in this context English is often referred to as the global Lingua Franca.
In the globalized mainland Europe, English is the most common foreign language taught in all the school systems. 94.1 % of all students from EU Member States at upper secondary general education level were studying English as a foreign language in 2014 (Eurostat, 2016). “Two thirds of Europeans (67%) consider English as one of the two most useful languages for themselves. The next most frequently mentioned languages include: German (17%), French (16%), Spanish (14%) and Chinese (6%)” (Special Eurobarometer 386, 2012, p. 7) having considerably lower share. English is gaining universality at the expense of other European languages.
A language conveys not only verbal communication, but also culture and attitudes of its speakers. English is used among people of various backgrounds, carrying their own culture and beliefs, different from those of the native speakers (NS). One of the consequences of the global spread of English might be the homogenization of cultures, so there has been a growing need to maintain one’s identity while being able to communicate internationally. Linguists are therefore proposing to move beyond the reliance on native English standards for educational purposes. In the European context, it is the Standard British English – which has been traditionally imposed on the learners in Europe.
One of the first things to consider is the position of the learners themselves in this regard. In the current trend of student-centered teaching, where learners are supported to take responsibility for their learning without the teacher being the one imposing rules on them, students should be encouraged to take part in the debate. It is sensible to find out how far they want to conform to the native-speakers norms. What should be the standard that is to be taught and what is the learners’ position on it?
When we concentrate on the issue of native-speaker norms, perhaps the most noticeable difference between the native and non-native speech is the accent. It seems to be at the heart of the non-/native-speaker debate. Given the prevailing use of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) (Jenkins, 2000) among Europeans, the English users now need to become more familiar with features of non-native varieties in order to be able to engage in successful communication, which for the majority takes place with other non-native speakers. Inclusion of these varieties in education would also foster increasing tolerance towards non-native accents, which are often associated with prejudices and negative evaluations of the speakers.
Prior to the year 1989 Russian was a compulsory language in the states of the former Soviet Union, which included the former Czechoslovakia. After the year 1989 English became the dominant foreign language, and it has been more so after the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004. According to the national Framework Educational Programme for Elementary Education, two foreign languages are now mandatory, and English is given preference, although it is not compulsory like in several other EU Member States (Eurostat, 2016). There is “a need for a common language of communication to which the majority of Europeans have access. At present, this role is filled by English, since it is currently recognized as the most widely used lingua franca within Europe and in many other parts of the world” (Cogo and Jenkins, 2010, p. 271). For learners in the Czech Republic, English is an indispensable tool for international communication, for access to information, and more intensive personal contacts, enabling its users a global outlook. It is stated in the Framework Educational Programme for Basic Education, which formulates the requirements of the state for the goals of basic education, that the foreign language education helps to “promote an awareness of the importance of mutual international understanding and tolerance” (2008, p. 19). “A development of a positive attitude towards multilingualism and respect for cultural diversity” has been added as one of the ways of formation and development of the key competences for elementary education in the new updated version of the program from 2013 (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports).
However, with prevailing pedagogical EFL materials representing generally only one variety of English, e.g. Standard British English (see Modiano, 2009), English is not presented as an international language with features expressing the various world cultures. Being taught one single variety of NS accent, learners would struggle to understand and be understood in the European settings. Further, they are exposed to many local English varieties in the media, public life, and popular culture, so the school system should not ignore this fact and hold on to one standard, but rather embrace the multiplicity. Imposing the NS norms on learners only further broadens their frequent lack of confidence in speaking. As Jenkins in her research quotes one teacher’s view, “students will find it reassuring that ‘they don’t really have to sound native’”, and she adds that up to now, students weren’t aware of having a choice (Jenkins, 2007, p. 135). Thus, to promote respect for cultural diversity, it is vital to introduce larger variation of the language presented in the classrooms and to adopt a more NNES-oriented approach. Simultaneously, it is important to consider the learners’ individual perspectives and goals. Learners themselves should be aware of and understand their needs for the English language.
It should be noted, however, that the term ELF speaker cannot be applied to all speakers of English as a Foreign Language. At the same time, some EFL speakers have native-like language proficiency, and it would be inaccurate to refer to them as learners. For the sake of this thesis the term EFL learners refers to both learners and users of English in the context of English as a Foreign Language as well as English as a Lingua Franca.