English as a Lingua Franca: Lessons for language and mobility

  • Joseph Sung-Yul Park National University of Singapore
  • Lionel Wee National University of Singapore
Keywords: English as a lingua franca, mobility, language as bounded entity, inequality


Greater mobility of people in the globalising world foregrounds the inherent problems
of an ideology of language as a bounded entity and the unequal relations of power
that shape experiences of mobility. In this paper, we consider how these problems can
be interrelated in research on language and mobility through a critical evaluation of
current research on English as a lingua franca (ELF), particularly what we refer to as
the ‘ELF research project’, exemplified by the work of Jenkins and Seidlhofer. The
ELF project aims at a non-hegemonic alternative to English language teaching by
identifying a core set of linguistic variables that can facilitate communication between
speakers of different linguistic backgrounds. We provide a critical examination of
the project by problematising its narrow conceptualisation of communication as
information transfer and its inability to address the prejudices that speakers may still
encounter because they speak the language ‘differently’. In our discussion, we argue
that investigation of language in the context of mobility requires serious rethinking
on the level of both theory and political stancetaking: a theory of language that does
not take account of the fluid, dynamic, and practice-based nature of language will
have considerable difficulty in proposing a cogent critique of social inequalities that
permeate the lives of people on the move.

How to Cite
Park, J., & Wee, L. (2018). English as a Lingua Franca: Lessons for language and mobility. Multilingual Margins: A Journal of Multilingualism from the Periphery, 1(1), 40. https://doi.org/10.14426/mm.v1i1.21