English, no longer a foreign language in Europe?

(To appear in Handbook of English Language Teaching - Ed. J. Cummins and C. Davison/Kluwer Academic Publishers)


Contemporary Europe is no exception to the worldwide trend of English being used and learned more widely. Europe is undergoing an intensive process of integration. Language, education and culture are no longer the exclusive prerogative of each state but are also policy concerns of the European Union (EU), which is constantly expanding its range of activities. In addition the enlargement process is bringing many more states into closer union, a total of 25 since May 2004. English figures prominently in these processes both within countries and as the dominant international language. In each country, English is intruding into domains in which other European languages have been unchallenged hitherto. There is a major challenge in the analysis of language policy in Europe to tease out the links between Englishisation, Europeanisation, globalisation, and Americanisation. The centrality of English learning in facilitating and constituting these ongoing processes requires language pedagogy and language policy to be situated within wider political, social and cultural contexts.


Why is there a problem if continental Europeans are able to function in English?

English is increasingly prominent in continental Europe in such key domains as business, education, and the media. Its privileged position has evolved quite differently from the way the primacy of English was established in Europeanised states to which English was transplanted in North America and Australasia (countries inaccurately referred to as ‘English-speaking’ when the United States, for instance is ‘one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse countries in the world’, McCarty 2004, 74). Nor has the consolidation of English in Europe followed the same route as in former colonies of the US and the UK, such as the Philippines, India, or Nigeria, in which the language of colonisation was retained for elite formation and high-prestige functions internally and externally. In continental Europe, English has thus not been imposed through settlement by native speakers or through colonial dominance. Until recently English was a foreign language. Its increasing use in public, professional and private life, and in education means that for some it fulfils more the role of a second language.

           In Europe, many languages have been consolidated as the key state language over the past two centuries. All domestic functions have been carried out in the key ‘national’ language, Danish, Estonian, French, Greek, etc. Foreign languages were learned for external communication purposes and familiarity with the cultural heritage associated with ‘great’ powers. Since 1945, and more intensively in recent years, there has been a gradual shift towards English becoming by far the most widely learned foreign language on the continent of Europe, taking over space, both in western and eastern Europe, occupied earlier by other foreign languages, French, German and Russian in particular.

           There is massive exposure to Hollywood throughout Europe: ‘70-80% of all TV fiction shown on European TV is American… American movies, American TV and the American lifestyle for the populations of the world and Europe at large have become the lingua franca of globalization, the closest we get to a visual world culture’ (Bondebjerg 2003, 79, 81). These US products are transmitted with the original soundtrack in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands, which strengthens the learning of English, and are generally dubbed elsewhere. By contrast in the USA the market share of films of foreign origin is 1%.

           The position of English is also strengthened by a proficiency requirement in many countries for access to higher education and for many kinds of employment. The triumphalist marketing of English is characteristically flagged on the cover page of Business Week (European edition) of 13 August 2001, which portrays twin executives, one communicating successfully, the English speaker, the other mouthless, speechless. The accompanying text ‘Should everyone speak English?’ flags the article ‘The great English divide. In Europe, speaking the lingua franca separates the haves from the have-nots’. It deals with two symbiotically unified topics, English as a professional skill, and the mushrooming of English language schools. Such language schools, largely staffed by native speakers, are mostly a feature of countries in southern Europe in which the learning of English in state education tends to be less successful. In Scandinavia all university students are expected to be able to read texts in English; in Italy only 1 % are able to do so (information from Renato Corsetti, University of Rome).

           English is increasingly the primary corporate language of transnational enterprises wherever they are based geographically. Top European executives tend to be multilingual, unless they come from the UK or the US (and it is arguable that monolingualism may in future be a liability, Graddol 1998, Nuffield Languages Inquiry 2000, Grin 2001).

           Academics and researchers in virtually all fields are expected to publish in English, either exclusively or as well as in the local language, depending on disciplinary pressures and the discourse communities that scholars contribute to (Petersen & Shaw 2002). They are also increasingly required to teach through the medium of English in higher education, since universities seek to recruit more foreign students. This development is a key feature of the ‘internationalisation’ of higher education, and is obliging continental universities to address how best to function ‘multilingually’, which generally means in the national language and English. Conferences are being held to exchange experience (Wilkinson 2004) and university administrators are being encouraged to address the language policy implications (for instance in policy statements in 2004 on internationalisation from the ‘Danish Rectors’ Conference’, which is what the assembly of university Vice-Chancellors in Denmark call themselves, in a literal translation from Danish into words that are manifestly a sample of ‘European English’).

           In ‘English-speaking’ countries, there is currently a boom market in foreign students, one that universities in many countries seek to benefit from. The British Council is worried about competition from other countries, and warned in 2004 that the UK economy is at risk if it doesn’t invest more in international education. The UK economy benefits by £11 billion p.a. directly, and a further £12 billion indirectly, from international education. The goal is 8 per cent annual growth across the sector, and to double the present number of 35,000 research graduates contributing to the UK’s knowledge economy by 2020. In addition over 500,000 attend language learning courses each year (www.britishcouncil.org/mediacentre/apr04/vision_2020_press_notice.doc). Expansion has been so rapid (and commercially driven) that some language schools and universities that offer pre-sessional language proficiency courses appreciate that they are ill equipped to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate teaching for students from Asia, primarily China.

           However what is at stake is not merely the local question of whether Chinese students are getting good value for money when opting for English-medium higher education, whether in the UK or a continental European country. An article in the British The Guardian Weekly, 13-19 August 2004, 9 (citing The Observer) claims that the ‘Scramble for lucrative foreign students is corrupting universities’ by dropping academic standards. This is perhaps not surprising if the content of teaching and its delivery have remained unchanged, even if students have a radically different cultural and linguistic starting-point. What is at stake globally is the role of the English as a Second/Foreign Language business and its practitioners, and higher education in general, as an integral dimension of the global economy. English learning and use are preconditions for the functioning and legitimating of the global system. They are not merely an epiphenomenon that can be evaluated on its own terms, divorced from its indispensable role in servicing the global economy, the financial circuit supporting it, and the educational institutions that validate credentials.

           In authorising and imprinting particular norms of use and discourse, English teachers function as professional midwives to the ‘legitimate and illegitimate offspring of English’, to use Mufwene’s vivid image (1997) when characterising those forms of English that are considered authentic: maximal legitimacy for British English, despite its creole origins, and for English transported by native speakers to Europeanised states in America and Australasia; dubious status for ‘new’ English that only has local validity (Singapore, Malaysia, Nigeria), and complete illegitimacy for creoles which are beyond the linguistic pale (in the Caribbean or West Africa). Discourses, pedagogical practices and institutions maintain norms. As Alexander puts it (2003), ‘policing the language of the world goes hand in hand with policing the world’. ‘Global’ English is a normative project, not a reality but a vision that powerful forces are keen to bring about.

           There are major risks in considering that as English now functions outside many of its original sites, it is detached from social forces:          

English being disembedded from national cultures can never mean that it floats culture-free (… or) is culturally neutral. The point may be simple, but it is often elided; and this elision constitutes a politics of English as a global language which precisely conceals the cultural work which that model of language is in fact performing. (Kayman 2004, 17)

Kayman also makes the intriguing point that the prophets and proponents of English as a global language can be compared to the occupation by Europeans of other continents that were falsely seen as terra nullius. Contemporary linguists who proclaim the neutrality of English treat the language as a cultural terra nullius (ibid., 18)

           This is an influential tradition in writings on Global English. Crystal (1997, 137, see Phillipson 1999), despite identifying many factors in the past that account for English being widely used, sees the language as ‘independent of any form of social control’. Yet he foresees global diglossia, World Standard Spoken English functioning alongside national English dialects. Presumably such a ‘standard’ language will have guardians. Is it likely that a globally valid form of spoken English will be anything other than some sort of CNN/BBC hybrid?

           Similarly Brutt-Griffler (2002, reviewed in Phillipson 2004a) sees World English as doing away with hierarchy among speech communities, non-Western nations taking equal part in the creation of the world econocultural system and its linguistic expression. At the same time she acknowledges that the US and UK dominate the world market and that World English is the dominant socio-political language form. Her attempt to explain the growth of English worldwide is therefore internally inconsistent and based on argumentation that ignores the reality of the market forces that strengthen some languages at the expense of others locally and globally. It ignores the political, economic and military forces behind English in the current neo-imperial, US-dominated world ‘order’ (Phillipson 2004b).

           What is unclear in continental Europe is whether the learning and use of English remains an additive process, one that increases the repertoire of language competence of individuals and the society, or whether English threatens the viability of other languages through processes of domain loss and linguistic hierarchisation. In theory there ought to be no problem, because of the strong position of national languages such as German, Italian and Polish, and because of the declared policies of the EU. Article 22 of The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which forms part of the constitutional treaty endorsed in 2004, and which represents principles that all member states are omitted to, states: ‘The Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity’. In reality there are fundamental paradoxes:

* The first is that although the EU is essentially a Franco-German project, since France and Germany were founding member states and continue to occupy the political high ground in shaping the integration of Europe, English is expanding, and the French and German languages are on the defensive both at home and abroad. English is increasingly the dominant language both in EU affairs and in many societal domains in continental European countries.

* The second paradox is that EU rhetoric proclaims support for multilingualism and cultural and linguistic diversity in official texts, and the equality of all official and working languages in the EU, but in practice there is laissez faire in the linguistic marketplace (Phillipson 2003). At the supranational level of EU institutions (the European Parliament, Commission, and Council), multilingualism is managed by the world’s largest translation and interpretation services, but there is paralysis on broader language policy issues. The rhetoric of diversity and linguistic equality is pitted against the unfree market and the forces that strengthen English.

* The third paradox is that in the view of some scholars, multilingualism is synonymous with more English. Chaudenson (2003) from France concludes that ‘No-one is fooled by fiery declarations in favour of multilingualism, which is nothing but a smoke screen for the spread of English.’ In somewhat similar vein, de Swaan (2001) from the Netherlands asserts that in the European Union ‘the more languages, the more English’, which he is all in favour of, but his analysis of language policy is excessively selective (Phillipson 2004a).

* The fourth paradox is that though we all live in a multilingual world, the monolingually-oriented English as a Second Language (ESL) profession thrives. However, the widespread faith in native-speaker teachers of English, and in expertise, teaching materials, postgraduate degrees, and theories of language learning deriving from the Anglo-American world, and in the mythology of ‘Global’ English is not widely influential in education systems in Europe. Here foreign language teaching presupposes deep familiarity with the linguistic and cultural background of the learners, and has never embraced a monolingual approach.

           Many of the competing and conflicting trends in the analysis of English in the modern world, and norms for teaching the language, are brought together in two paradigms, a Global English paradigm and a World Englishes paradigm. The variables range from macro-level dimensions of economic and cultural globalisation and language ecology to micro-level matters of equitable communication and target norms for language learners. The juxtaposition of a substantial number variables serves to highlight the complexity of the tasks facing analysts of language policy and theorists of language pedagogy. Many of the dimensions are explored in the ongoing European context in the rest of this article.





 celebrates and supports diversity

 monolingual orientation

 multilingual, multi-dialectal

 ‘international’ English assumes US/UK norms

 ‘international’ a cross-national linguistic common core

 World Standard Spoken English

 English as a Lingua Franca

 Anglo-American linguistic norms

 local linguistic norms, regional and national

 exonormative English

 endonormative Englishes

 post-national, neo-imperial expansionist globalisation

 local appropriation, and resistance to linguistic imperialism

 apparently laissez faire language policy strengthens market forces, hence English

 proactive language policies serve to strengthen a variety of languages

 English monopolizes prestige domains

local languages have high prestige

linguicist favouring of English

 balanced language ecology

ideology stresses individual ‘choice’

 addresses the reality of linguistic hierarchies

 no concern for languages other than English

 a linguistic human rights approach

 subtractive English learning

 additive English learning

 uni-directional intercultural communication

 equitable bi-directional intercultural communication

 standard language orientation

 learning multiple forms of competence

 target norm the ‘native speaker’

 target norm the good ESL user

 reproductive curriculum

 learner-created knowledge

 external syllabus

 learner-centred activities and discourses

 teachers can be monolingual

 bilingual and bicultural teachers

 dovetails with the
Diffusion of English paradigm
(Tsuda 1994, Skutnabb-Kangas 2000)

 dovetails with the
Ecology of Languages paradigm
(Tsuda 1994, Skutnabb-Kangas 2000)


The evolving hybridity of ‘English’

The intensification of contacts between the citizens of EU states involves an ongoing process of ‘building’ and ‘imagining’ Europe, of strengthening European identity as a complement to national identity. This unification was impelled by two agendas, one European and one American. The visionary European founding fathers of the 1940s and 50s wished to create forms of economic integration that would make the blood-letting of the past an impossibility, a goal which has been largely achieved at least within the EU, even if Northern Ireland and the Basque territory provide tragic exceptions (which incidentally confirm the principle that linguistic unification through an imposed language does not guarantee peace or justice). The twin agenda has been the determination of the US to impose its vision of society and economy on the world. Funds under the Marshall plan were made conditional on the integration of European economies. The most significant achievements of the EU, the common market and the common currency, represent the implementation of plans formed by the European Round Table of Industrialists, which is intimately linked with the Transatlantic Business Dialogue, which aims at a Transatlantic Economic Partnership that would make the Americas and Europe a single market (Monbiot 2000).

           Condoleezza Rice is continuing a century-old tradition when proclaiming that ‘The rest of the world is best served by the USA pursuing its own interests because American values are universal’ (see www.newamericancentury.org). Language, and the cultural universe and ways of thought it embodies, is a key dimension to this global mission. David Rothkopf, director of the Kissinger Institute, wrote in the establishment journal Foreign Policy in 1997: ‘It is in the economic and political interest of the United States to ensure that if the world is moving toward a common language, it be English’. Englishisation is manifestly a dimension of both Americanisation and globalisation. Americanisation gradually gathered speed over the twentieth century, and has been marketed in recent years as globalisation, from which it is indistinguishable (Bourdieu 2001). Globalisation is, however, not a uniform, uni-directional process: there are many supply and demand, push and pull factors. Cultural and linguistic products and processes undergo local transformation processes wherever they become embedded. Many factors, structural and ideological, contribute to the strengthening of English in Europe and to language policy paralysis (see chapter 3, ‘Global trends impacting on European language policy’, of Phillipson 2003).

           In a recent article on ‘The globalization of language. How the media contribute to the spread of English and the emergence of medialects’, a Danish researcher invents the term medialect, by logical extension from dialect and sociolect, to refer to new variants of language and cultural form that generally originate in the Anglo-American world - computer games, email and internet interaction, SMSs, television programmes (whether transmitted in the original language or the local one), advertising for the younger generation, etc – and are creatively adapted in continental European contexts and languages. In addition to English being the language in which these media products were evolved and marketed, ‘English is the linguistic vehicle for meta-communication about mediated communication’. The medialects consolidate the position of English, while excluding other international languages, and open up for ‘linguistic differentiation and innovation’ in the way language is used (Hjarvad 2003, 92). Englisisation affects the form and content of other languages.

           University degrees in ‘English’ at continental European universities typically include American Studies and British Studies. The teaching of English in schools has traditionally been connected to familiarisation with the culture of Britain and other ‘English-speaking’ countries. The study of literature is still strong in many parts of Europe, just as a degree in ‘English’ at most British universities means a degree in English literature. The need of continental universities to cover the language, literature and cultures of the ‘English-speaking world’ has led to the addition of Postcolonial Studies, World Englishes, and a wide range of topics (see the electronic Annotated Bibliography of English Studies, ABES, and the website of the European Society for the Study of English, ESSE, www.essenglish.org).

           In some countries English can be seen as a second rather than a foreign language because of its functions locally and the meshing of the use of English by second language speakers with the globalising of commerce, finance, politics, military affairs, scholarship, education, and many grassroots networks. Some networks, particularly among the young, represent bottom-up sub-cultural influences that mesh with the more formal learning of English top-down in state education (Preisler 1999). The teaching of English should be adjusting to the changing nature of English use outside the classroom.

           Referring to English as a ‘second’ language is perhaps terminologically unfortunate, because the position of ESL users and learners in continental Europe is radically different from that of learners of ESL in the US or the UK, just as it also significantly differs from English in postcolonial countries such as Singapore or Kenya, where the same label is sometimes used.

           The fact that English is used for a wide range of intercultural communication that is unconnected to a British or US context may lead to English being seen as a lingua franca. However, this should not mislead one into believing that English is disconnected from the many ‘special purposes’ it serves in key societal domains, and where it might be more accurately described as a lingua economica (in business and advertising), a lingua academica (in research and higher education), or a lingua cultura (in entertainment and formal education). The ubiquitous function of English as a lingua americana is due to the massive economic and cultural impact of the USA, and English as a lingua bellica and empire is increasingly visible. There are clear ideological dangers in labelling English as a lingua franca if this is understood as a culturally neutral medium that puts everyone on an equal footing.

           The risk in English teaching is that ‘The dissemination of “global” communicative norms and genres, like the dissemination of international languages, involves a one-way flow of expert knowledge from dominant to subaltern cultures’ (Cameron 2002, 70). In addition, ‘[M]uch intercultural communication itself is typical of a certain Anglo-Saxon culture, discourse and worldview …. the concept of intercultural communication as it is currently used can be easily highjacked by a global ideology of “effective communication” Anglo-Saxon style, which speaks an English discourse even as it expresses itself in many different languages’. (Kramsch 2002, 283-4).

           Being at the receiving end of cultural forces and under the influence of Anglo-American norms, linguistic and pedagogic, is vividly expressed by Vassiliki Dendrinos of Greece, who bewails the monolingualism of British English Language Teaching (ELT) discourse (1999):        

There is a systematic construction of reality whereby, by not knowing English, one is excluded from anything of social importance… Greek ELT practitioners persistently evaluate their proficiency in English against the English of the native speaker… This underlying contradiction of a ‘culturally neutral’ language used in a ‘culturally appropriate way’… the claim that the native speaker is the ideal ELT practitioner construes Greek ELT practitioners as ‘knowledge deficient’.

Comparable worries are expressed in the post-communist world, by Miklós Kontra of Hungary (1997):

Until 1989 there was little serious danger of English-American cultural and linguistic imperialism in Hungary but today there are unmistakable signs of such penetration and voices of concern are heard from a growing number of Hungarians... Most ELT materials produced in and exported from the United Kingdom and the United States disregard the learners' L1, and in this respect we might question their professionalism... business interests override a fundamental professional interest, or: business shapes our profession in ways that we know are unprofessional. This puts us, both native and nonnative teachers of English into quite a schizophrenic position. The challenge that we are faced with is to keep the professionalism and get rid of the embarrassment.

Others (e.g. House 2003, drawing on some provisional empirical results in Germany) do not see the advance of English as problematical, but as merely the addition of a culturally neutral tool that has no impact on the German language, even if competence in English is spreading. Others from Germany stress the marginalisation of German speakers in the scientific community (Ammon 2000), and are seeking to persuade German policy-makers to be more proactive in strengthening German nationally and in the EU (Gawlitta and Vilmar 2002).

           At present there are many symptoms of diglossia. The rise of English has been of concern to many European states, leading to legislation to curb English in several. The effects of a switch to English in specific domains are generally considered to be more threatening than the borrowing of lexical items. Widespread or exclusive use of English may mean that expertise in the natural sciences, technology or medicine is no longer transmitted in the local language. Swedish research suggests that being obliged to operate extensively in a diglossic division of labour can lead to less efficiency and appropriacy in thought, expression, and communication; to dehumanisation, and cold rationality, when operating in Anglo-American discourse norms; a loss of intertextuality when the local language is no longer used for certain purposes (e.g. fiction cannot draw on domains that operate in English); and ultimately to a loss of prestige for the local language (Melander 2001). There is anecdotal evidence from several countries (Denmark, Greece, Serbia) that individual scholars who have used English successfully for decades experience a feeling of liberation when they shift to writing in the mother tongue.

           The governments of the Nordic countries have commissioned research to assess whether domain loss is taking place, and whether Nordic languages run the risk of being downgraded into second-class languages (Höglin 2002, which contains a 15-page summary in English of the Nordic findings). The studies are far from comprehensive, but they do indicate that there is a strong possibility of domain loss in technology and the natural sciences. There is definitely a need for language policy formation to counteract this. The Swedish government has gone a long way in undertaking a systematic analysis of the language policy issues, and consulting all relevant stake-holders. In government policy documents produced in Sweden in 2002 (and replicated on a much more modest scale in Denmark in 2003) on how to strengthen the national language in view of the increasing importance of English, the declared goal is to cultivate ‘parallel’ linguistic competence. This would mean that Swedes and Danes active in business, politics, higher education, science and the media should be able to function equally well in the national language and in English. This might mean that domain loss and linguistic hierarchisation are counteracted, through ensuring resource allocation to the language that now risks marginalisation, and through fostering awareness of the need to provide conditions for all languages to thrive as well as English. Whether an increased use of English will serve as a catalyst for biculturalism or monoculturalism is a completely open question. But at least the question is being asked today.


Some ongoing research and advocacy

Research that could represent a major contribution towards realizing a change of paradigm in English teaching includes analysis of the phonology of English as an International Language (Jenkins 2000). Work has also begun on clarifying the distinctive lexical and grammatical features of English when used by L2 speakers (Seidlhofer 2004 and this volume), in a project which labels this communication as English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), a term that is unfortunately open to many interpretations (see above), and is also often used to refer to communication between people speaking English as an L1 and as an L2. Quite apart from the potential of this research to make teaching more appropriate, it might, when combined with critical discourse analysis, help to unmask some of the spurious advocacy of English as a neutral ‘lingua franca’ for the whole of Europe. It is impossible to reconcile the argument that English now belongs to everyone (a constant refrain from British government figures and British Council staff and which also occurs in writers like David Crystal and Tom McArthur, editor of English Today) with the major significance of the ELT business to the British economy, as stressed by the British establishment from the Prime Minister downwards. No British government has ever doubted that the privileged position of English also brought with it political and cultural influence. On the duplicity of some of the professional advocacy for ELT, see Pegrum 2004, and on the falsity of some scholarly marketing of ‘global English’, see Phillipson 1999 and 2004b.

           A pioneer study of Englishisation such as House (2003) presents some empirical studies and reflections on the nature of English as a ‘lingua franca’ (ELF) in Europe. I have major reservations about the validity of the three types of empirical ELF data presented in the study (see Phillipson forthcoming for details) and about the features that are seen as characteristic of this variant of English. In the table below I list the characteristics she attributes to ELF, alongside which are my reservations about each trait, which, in my view, demonstrates how difficult it is to make theoretical headway in this field.


 House 2003 characteristics of ELF


 functional flexibility, openness to integration of forms from other languages

 it is false to claim that such traits are specific to ELF

 not restricted or for special purposes

 this conflicts with House referring to diglossic ‘pockets of expertise’

 negotiable norms

 it is use of the code rather than the code itself that is negotiable

 bereft of collective cultural capital

 the global utility of English, often diglossically High, is significant linguistic capital

 similar to English diversity in postcolonial countries

 here English equals power, and there is no codification of local forms


 English = cosmopolitanism, and House states that English in Germany has positive connotations of liberation from Nazi past

 non-native ownership

 a concern of the analyst, not the user


When House argues that English is a language for communication rather than a language for identification, the binary pair is tempting, as a way of separating English as a national language from English as an instrument for international communication that is less culturally shaped. The distinction is seen by Blommaert (2003, 620), commenting on House’s use of the terms, as ‘a metapragmatic dichotomisation that allocates specific indexicalities to particular speech varieties. (…) matters are considerably more complex’. He sees them as deriving from a functionalist-referential ideology and an ideological perception that results in uses of language being seen as ‘instrumental’.

      Hüllen was earlier an advocate of the binary distinction in a far from simplistic way, his initial analysis addressing the social functions of English, the risk of a monoculture, and acknowledging that competence in foreign languages can lead to identification with them (1992, 313-5). Hüllen has explored some of these tensions in more recent work (2002), and to some extent distances himself from the dichotomy. He admits that seeing English as neutral, with ‘nothing to do with the cultural identity of speakers’, is problematical, since we are in an age

with the United States as a kind of new empire. This makes it difficult to believe in the hypothesis that English as a national language and English as an international language are two separate systems, the latter being equidistant to all other languages and cultures. (Hüllen 2003, 121)

The advance of English in continental Europe is associated with particular functions of the language, in specific domains, some of them informal, others informal. This is why the language can be seen as a second, rather than a foreign language. Many of its uses can therefore not be detached from societal functioning. Indeed the widespread attraction of English as a learning goal, referred to by Kachru (1986) as its alchemy, the magic of which continues to enthral, is to a large extent explicable because of the significant linguistic and cultural capital that competence in English entails. The global system, that is seen by some as empire that transcends states and is dominated by corporate interests that create subjectivities as well as products (Hardt and Negri 2000). It functions through communication networks that can and do strengthen a lot of languages, but English most of all.

           The recognition of English as a threat to the languages and cultures of EU member states is beginning to influence the formulation and synchronisation of language policy at the supranational level. The Commission document Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity: An Action Plan 2004-2006, of July 2003 (COM(2003) 449), is designed to curb an excessive focus on English in continental education systems and the wider society. It states (pp. 4 and 8): ‘learning one lingua franca alone is not enough… English alone is not enough… In non-anglophone countries recent trends to provide teaching in English may have unforeseen consequences on the vitality of the national language.’ The policy statement advocates life-long foreign language learning, including two foreign languages in the primary school. It strives to bring language policy higher up on national agendas, and to raise awareness of linguistic diversity. It endorses the notion of an inclusive ‘language-friendly environment’, and states that this openness should include minority languages, those of both local regions and recent immigrants. Representatives of member states attend meetings in Brussels every three months, and are required to respond to questions on the implementation of the Action Plan and obstacles to it. Such activity takes place in the secrecy of the EU bureaucratic system, and may or may not influence national policy formation, but the very existence of international pressure of this kind can serve to force states to address language policy issues that they would prefer to ignore. The EU’s position is in many respects similar to what the Council of Europe, which brings together nearly twice as many European states, has been advocating for decades. It has undertaken a great deal of activity to promote language learning (see the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, and related documents, www.coe.int). The Council of Europe has also taken the lead in attempting to ensure respect for the rights of national minorities (see for instance the contributions of Duncan Wilson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas on educational rights in Council of Europe 2004).

           All these measures may have little impact when the reasons for young people to become competent in English, and perhaps ignore other languages, are so manifest in the present-day world, and when governments that may have reservations about English expanding are simultaneously attempting to ensure through the education system that their citizens are competent in English. English is such a chameleon in the modern world that it can serve countless purposes and be learned in countless ways. At the same time the interlocking of Englishisation with globalisation and europeanisation processes makes it possible in many contexts to specify what particular purposes an increased use of English is serving. There is a manifest need for more energetic language policy formulation both in European states and in the EU (Phillipson 2003). If the advance of English is to strengthen and enrich the ecology of language in Europe, many of the dimensions of the Global English paradigm need to be challenged and resisted. When much of the use and learning of English no longer serves foreign language purposes, language pedagogy can advance in new dynamic ways, and language policy can strive to ensure that all languages thrive.

Robert Phillipson


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