Upper intermediate to advanced

Aim/s of the Lesson

Developing awareness of ELF, World Englishes, and the way English is used worldwide

Class Time (in minutes)

90 minutes to 2 hours, plus homework research time if using the project activity

Resources Needed

Whiteboard and markers

Computer and projector (if using the power point file - you can download the slides here)

Introductory Blurb

This activity was originally used as an end-of-term project with learners conducting research in order to prepare and deliver short presentations in the last class of the term. It may be possible to adapt these tasks for use in a workshop-type class.


ELF and World Englishes Project

1. Show the students a World Map which clearly shows the following:

  • areas that use English as a native language or mother tongue,
  • those which use it as a second language,
  • and the rest of the world (where English is a foreign language). Explain what is meant by the terms native language and mother tongue, second language and foreign language.

For example:

You can download the above map from here. Another example map can be found here.

2. Show the following three images and explain them in turn:

Native Speaker Communication

In native speaker communication between (e.g.) a person from the UK and a Canadian, problems are unlikely, though different accents and colloquialisms (slang) may occasionally affect understanding. Countries where English is likely to be used in this way are sometimes referred to as ‘inner circle’ countries.

Foreign Language Communication

In foreign language communication, such as the above, either the British person or the Taiwanese person will need to know the language of the other person in order to successfully communicate – the British person will need to know and use Mandarin Chinese or Taiwanese, or the Taiwanese person will need to know and use English.

Lingua Franca Communication

In situations such as this, the Taiwanese person does not understand Spanish, while the Peruvian does not understand Mandarin Chinese or Taiwanese, and so they cannot use their native languages to communicate in any meaningful way. However, if they both know English, they can use it as a lingua franca to communicate.

3. Divide the whole class into three groups (A, B and C). Explain the following tasks, which learners will complete as a homework project:

Task One

GROUP A: You will look at the pronunciation of English in ‘inner circle’ countries where English is the native language or mother tongue. Examples include the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, St. Kitts and Nevis.

GROUP B: You will look at the pronunciation of English in countries where English is a second language. Examples: Malaysia, The Philippines, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Kenya.

GROUP C: You will look at the pronunciation of English in ‘expanding circle’ countries where English is a foreign language. Examples: Vietnam, Brazil, Russia, Iran, Tunisia.

(Each member of the group should look at a different country – so for example, if there are four members in group A, one of them may conduct research into the UK, another might look at Ireland, another finds out about Australia and the fourth member of the group looks at how English is used in the USA)

Task Two

Find an example of someone from your chosen country speaking English. This could be from a TV show, radio broadcast, podcast, TED talk, news report, or other recorded media. Don’t use subtitles. Answer the following questions:

  • Do you have any difficulties understanding what this person is saying?
  • Can you understand the overall meaning of what this person is saying?

Task Three

Search online for information that can help to answer these questions:

  • How easy or difficult will it be for someone to understand a person from this part of the world when they speak in English?
  • Are there many different accents of English within this country?
  • Does this part of the world have its own variety of English (e.g. Singlish, Chinglish)?
  • Do people in this part of the world consider the English language to be important?

Task Three

Consider how you may need to adapt your use of English when working in different parts of the world. Be prepared to complete this sentence:

  • If we go to live or work in this country after we graduate, we will need to…

Learners will present their findings in short presentations (two to three minutes) in the next class. Group A will present first, then B, then C. They may use visual aids if they wish.

About Martin Cooke:

I'm an English Language Educator based in southern Taiwan. I'm originally from the UK, and became a teacher in 2010 after working in financial services in the UK for several years. I have a CELTA and the International House Certificate in Advanced Methodology, as well as various other teaching qualifications. I also have a Masters degree in Business Studies. I'm interested in teacher development, teacher identity, learner autonomy, Business English and English as a lingua franca (ELF). You can find me via my blog or on LinkedIn.

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