Issue on Native Speakers' Culture in EIL

by: wawan cahyadin
As it is an international language, the use of English is no longer
Connected to the culture of Inner Circle countries (McKay, 2002:12)
Sandra Lee McKay,
Professor Emeritus at San Fransico University
THERE has been a strong conviction in English learners and teachers particularly those in Expanding circle countries that English as international language (EIL) is totally associated to culture of native speakers or those in Inner Circle countries. In addition, there is an assumption within these people that to be a proficient user of English, someone needs to be native-like.  In other words, they believe that English language learning and teaching should be directed to attain competence in single model of English, that is that of native speakers such as American and British English at least. These people, however, seem to overlook the fact that in today context of English as international language, it does not simply belong to those in Inner Circle countries but also to have been part of those in both Outer Circle and Expanding Circle countries. Shortly, as international language it has been owned not only by native speakers but also non-native speakers. 
Therefore in this paper I would argue against such “old-fashioned” conviction and “traditional” assumption and maintain McKay’s revision of Smith’s notion that as international language, the use of English is no longer connected to the culture of Inner Circle countries (McKay, 2002:12).  Finally I would discuss this McKay’s revision for English language pedagogical implication. 

Clouet (2006 as cited in Ziaei 2012:2) declared that it is true that language and culture are integral parts, but English has become "de-nationalized, and there is no longer any particular culture associated with the language in general”. Moreover, Hayati (2009) quoted Savignon and Sysoyev (2002) as cited in Ziaei (2012:2) that English is a global language and a specific culture should not be highlighted.  This means that the use of English can not anymore simply be seen as a language owned by particular group of people of certain countries which is exposed to us and as a consequence we have to be familiar with culture of how it is used and be part of it as well.  Rather it has to be seen as globalized language and owned by everyone who uses it and their own culture may be embedded to the language.  In other word, any user of the language may incorporate the norms or value acceptable to their own community in using the language to express their ideas and culture.
Kachru's Model of EIL Users
My experience as a senior high school students may portray this.  My English teacher used to begin the class by expressing gratitude to the god in English which is akin to the way a moslem starting a speech in front of audience, in family or publicly. I myself sometimes did the same in English class when giving presentation although now I never do it anymore since my awareness of native speakers culture. What my teacher did was such a kind of habit which is inherent to Indonesian people whom are Moslem and it influences their way of speaking English. This experience exemplifies how non-native speakers use English to show or express the culture of its user and according to Widdowson this man owns the language.  Kilickaya (2009) provides an example how Indian people incorporate their culture on grammatical rules of “standard” English in using modal auxiliary “may”: “these mistakes may please be corrected”. The use of “may” here in Indian context is to express obligation politely while in standard English should be “must” instead which seems not to be polite to Indian people.  
Given those above notions, English learning and teaching in Expanding circle countries which is simply directed on one single model of native speaker in Inner Circle countries should be modified.  It means that English language teaching needs to accomodate the culture of Outer and Expanding Circle countries. McKay (2002) in Yi-Shin argued that some of the cultural contents in teaching English (teaching target culture) may be irrelevant to students’ concerns; sometimes they may even present cultural conflicts. Seeing the case of India in the use of modals “may” is apparent that McKay’s notion occurs. Therefore, the content of English language teaching should reflect the global diversity of the language and prepare the learners with the skills they need for successful communication in multiple context.  Non-native speakers in using English do not have to totally conform to Inner Circle countries in favour of their culture or habit but it is also necessary to take Outer and Expanding Circle countries into account as Graddol (2004 as cited in O’Neill 2007:12) mentions that people do not have to sound like native speakers to be understood and that speakers of global English can still keep their identities.  
In conclusion, since English a global language or international language in which its use has been diversed, it is not identical anymore with the culture of Inner Circle countries and therefore the focus of ELT should not be on a single model.  This implies that the content of ELT course should extend beyond L1 dominated countries and should stress expertise in using English as medium of communication and not on acquiring a specific language model.

Author: Wawan Cahyadin

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