By Villy Buenaventura
After writing down my thoughts on what is ``Global English?” (The Korea Times, 11/11/2010), I could only imagine some grammarians of English frowning upon this ``Global English” phenomenon. However, my efforts remain incomplete if the relevance of ``Global English” is not further explained.
In the last five years, I have been blessed with the opportunities to participate in international conferences that brought me to Europe and Asia. These academic gatherings were attended by around 150 participants from all over the world. The conferees presented scholarly papers, discussed vigorously, chatted eagerly and made friends using ``Global English.”
Being a speech teacher, one of my impulses is to listen intently to people’s voice and diction. During the breakout sessions, I would sometimes be pleasantly entertained to hear different tones, accents, and pronunciation. The grammar and syntax rules were mostly overlooked but the speaker successfully came across with his message. Judging from the lively discourse, I would like to believe that most of the listeners understood the discussion due to the use of one global language, ``Global English”.
English, a language that originated from England, is the official or semi-official language in over 60 countries. It is the most widely taught and understood language in the world. According to rough estimates, more than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest is trying to. The World Factbook estimated second language speakers of English to vary from 150 million to 1.5 billion.
Robert Claiborne was quoted in his book that English is a remarkable language with the widest geographic spread and the second largest community (next to Mandarin Chinese). When I looked up the continent of Antarctica to verify the fact, English is listed as the dominant language.
With the current popularity of the World Wide Web as a resource for communication, ``Global English” is predicted to gain headway in a speed never imagined before.
At Woosong University where I am a visiting professor, there is an entire edifice fondly called Eohak (Language) Center. This is where they teach English and conduct English tests. The university employs approximately 96 native English teachers from various countries.
In my interviews with Korean students, they almost always frivolously mention that knowing how to speak English will get them a highly paid job. But when confronted with the English lessons in class, some would get easily frustrated over their chances of being adept at speaking the language. As one of the believers of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, I try to understand their difficulties as they struggle with their linguistic aptitude. Consequently, I conduct the lessons in many different ways using exercises and activities to sustain their interest to learn.
Just recently, using an article from The Korea Times’ Nov. 7 issue, we read ``Korea ranked 16th in business environment ranking.” The main objective for the day was to point out the importance of a language as tool in communication. The main points derived were: The World Bank just ranked South Korea as 16th in the business environment index; Korea has just surpassed Japan as third place in Asia; common among the top 10 countries is that they all speak one global language of trade; and the article itself identified the language as English.
For better or for worse, English has become the most global of languages, the lingua franca of the postmodern era. It has metamorphosed from English to ``Global English” and it has enabled more people all over the world to reach out to one another and articulate their views and concerns.
For a country like Korea that has a vision to be in the center stage of global development, its citizens’ proficiency in English as a global language is a major factor, but the learning has to begin in the classroom. The basic standard of grammar and structure will never become irrelevant but the more compelling concern is to show Korean students the relevance of what they are mandated to study in school. Just before dismissal, I asked: ``Is it clearer now why you are in my class?” Some of them smiled, while some stared … in deep thought.
The writer is a University of the Philippines associate professor of speech communication on special detail as a visiting professor at Woosong University (2009 - 2011). For any comments, please write to her at email@example.com. This is the second of a two-part article.