What Is English in the Light of Its Global Use? Exploring Students’ Concepts of English


  • Carolin Zehne Universität Bielefeld




Global Englishes, English as a lingua franca, English language teaching, language ontologies, constructivist grounded theory


Today, English can be called a truly global language, as it is used in diverse sociocultural contexts. With research paradigms such as World Englishes and English as a lingua franca which investigate these uses, the concept of English has changed from a monolithic understanding with target norms and target culture mainly related to anglophone references to views in which English becomes multiple and more complex. Changing conceptions of what English is in the light of its global uses raise the question of what exactly should be taught and how. The question of what constitutes English ultimately is an ontological one: It underlines the importance of becoming aware of what English means to different people in different contexts, particularly in educational settings. In this contribution, I firstly elaborate on the changing meanings of English in connection with its global uses. For this, I focus on World Englishes and English as a lingua franca as vital research paradigms and their conceptions of English. I then outline these conceptions within an ontological framework which accounts for different senses of language and English. In a next step, I relate the changing senses of English to implications for English language teaching. In the second part of the contribution, I provide insights into my own research related to student conceptions of English: With the help of a constructivist grounded theory framework, I explored how they view English and what constitutes English for them. My results revealed that for students, using and encountering English inside the classroom was different from how they conceptualized English outside the classroom. This difference in student perceptions raises the question of to what extent English is appropriately represented in the school setting – and, thus, in the current canon of language teaching. Based on my results, I provide some practical suggestions for the classroom to bridge the gap by using conceptions of English from the paradigms World Englishes and English as a lingua franca.


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Zehne, C. (2023). What Is English in the Light of Its Global Use? Exploring Students’ Concepts of English. PFLB – PraxisForschungLehrer*innenBildung, 5(3), 174–192. https://doi.org/10.11576/pflb-6306