It is time to wake up some dogs: shifting the culture of language in elt

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It is time to wake up some dogs:

shifting the culture of language in ELT

Current Principles and practice in English language teaching remain predominantly underpinned by strong adherence to a norm-centred pedagogy. Initial teacher preparation and in-service teacher development continue to foster an approach to language that is monolithic, that construes competence in terms of a learner’s ‘mastery’ of standard (NS) linguistic forms, and which is thus in conflict with the sociolinguistic realities of most English language learning, teaching and using contexts.

Research has provided us with detailed accounts of the many transcient properties of ELF, highlighting, in particular, the adaptive moves and pragmatic strategies lingua franca speakers engage in. In short, we have come to understand that ELF interaction involves a very different kind of English than that described in most ELT materials and teaching manuals. The continued attachment to NS norms, however, allows the status quo to be maintained. The most durable perception regarding approaches to language in the profession seems to be “we should not wake up any dogs” (see Pitzl 2009). In other words, we have always taught language in relation to a NS target: this has worked throughout the history of language teaching, so why unsettle matters now by implementing change?

Research into teachers’ beliefs about and responses to ELF suggests that uptake of ELF in pedagogy has so far been minimal. First, it represents a significant challenge to the abiding culture of language and communication currently enshrined in practice; second, the ideology upholding this practice makes it difficult for teachers to imagine an alternative view. Critically addressing the NS-based normative approach to language in the classroom thus requires considerable intervention. In this paper, I explore how ELF can be introduced in teacher education, reporting on an ongoing project aimed at refocusing the concerns of teachers by exploring the advantages of moving beyond a traditional norm-focused orientation. My discussion will draw on findings gathered from studies carried out with teachers actively involved in programmes of teacher development. I discuss, in particular, how teachers can be shown both the limitations of English when conceived as a fixed set of language forms, and by contrast, the rich communicative potential of the language when it is untethered from these constraints and is approached from an ELF perspective.


Pitzl, M.-L. (2009). "We Should not wake up any dogs": idiom and metaphor in

ELF. In A. Mauranen & E. Ranta (eds.) English as a Lingua Franca Studies and Findings. Newcastle on Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 298-322.


Martin Dewey is based at King’s College London, where he teaches Sociolinguistics, World Englishes, Teacher Education, and provides PhD supervision in areas related to the globalization of English and English language teaching. His primary research focus is English as a lingua franca (ELF), especially exploring the implications of ELF for pedagogy, and reconsidering contemporary conceptions of knowledge and expertise in teacher education. He has written and presented extensively on his empirical research, and is co-author with Alessia Cogo of Analyzing English as a Lingua Franca: A corpus-driven investigation (Continuum, 2012).

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