September 2008
Volume 12, Number 2

Contents  |   TESL-EJ Top


World Englishes: Implications for International
Communication and English Language Teaching

Author: Andy Kirkpatrick (2007)
Publisher: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Pp. x + 257 + CD-Audio 978-0-521-61687-4 (paper) £25.75

Varieties of English is a topic which has motivated much research and many publications, all investigating the relation between language and culture, language and identity, language and status.

There are already numerous compendia which enumerate varieties of English found in today's world and contain thorough descriptions and meticulous analyses of characteristic features of each variety. Examples include the 2388-page Handbook of Varieties of English (Kortmann & Schneider, 2005), the 2000-page, four volume Varieties of English. An Interactive Textbook (2008), The Oxford Guide to World English (McArthur, 2003), and The Handbook of World Englishes (Kachru, Kachru & Nelson, 2006).

Typically commenting on sociolinguistic aspects of English's proliferating variety, most of these monumental publications (Kachru et al., 2008 being an exception) do not devote much attention to pedagogical issues. In this context Andy Kirkpatrick's World Englishes, one of whose main objectives is "to be both relevant and useful to so-called non-native speaker teachers" (p. 1), is an important addition for students and teachers of applied linguistics worldwide, though its reach is broader than that.

The book has three parts: Part A: The Framework, Part B: Variation and Variety, and Part C: Implications. The first part gives a general overview of the development of world Englishes and introduces basic issues in sociolinguistics such as the concept of lingua franca, native vs. nativised varieties, pidgins and creoles, contextual motivation for shifts in a speaker's using different varieties. It also covers the topics of linguistic evaluation and prejudice. As a framework for the rest of the book and the ongoing discussion among commentators, Kirkpatrick provides the reader with rather basic but relevant grammar-oriented linguistic terminology and includes critical comments on concepts such as English as a native language (ENL), English as a second language (ESL), English as a foreign language (EFL): the last later contrasted with English as an international language and English as a global language, the author's clear sympathy being for the latter. To my mind Kirkpatrick embraces global English because it champions variety, each variety being determined by the culture in which it is embedded, whereas international English suggests a "correct" version designed for here, there and everywhere. There is also a critical discussion of the developmental cycles of new varieties of English (with special reference to models suggested by Kachru, Moag, and Schneider), and comments on Widdowson's well-known claims on English "spread" and "distribution."

Part A ends with a discussion of the identity-communication continuum model, used as a link to the selected varieties of English Kirkpatrick chooses to focus on in Part B. His analyses include features found at different linguistic levels, phonological, lexical, syntactic, and also cover discourse and pragmatic elements. Typically, for each variety there is an account of its historical development and present status; for example, while discussing British English, the author emphasises its internal variation and "impurity." as well as regional differences. Next to arguably the two most well-known varieties, British and American English, there are examples of Australian Englishes; less familiar, "younger" Indian Sub-Continent English; African and South-Asian Englishes; and still newer Englishes of Hong Kong and China. The second part closes with comments on and evaluation of English as a lingua franca (ELF) within the European Union.

Part C is made up of two chapters: "Summary of the key themes" (pp. 171f.) and 'Implications for English language teaching' (pp. 184f.). The second chapter reveals the author's point of view on World Englishes' pedagogy. Here Kirkpatrick explicitly expresses his commitments and reiterates some of the issues mentioned in his Introduction, often quoting both advantages and disadvantages of a certain position. In short, he observes that linguistic variation is a natural phenomenon and, consequently, ELT professionals should develop tolerance towards language being in a constant state of flux. He also (contentiously) claims that differences between native and nativised varieties are of the same nature, that prejudice is likely to occur, but must be treated "just as prejudice."

Kirkpatrick's conviction that English is characterised by variety and variation prompts him to favour the concept of global English over the concept of English as an international language (pp. 36-37). He emphasises a teacher's importance in determining learners' needs after a careful analysis of the local context, a pragmatic consideration that he devotes much space and attention to. Only then can a teacher responsibly choose a variety of English for that particular classroom. His key example is the variety selected for East Asian countries, where "the appropriateness of native speaker models and the cultures associated with them needs to be questioned" (p. 3) and a more accurate local and regional culture model, an endonormative one, may be more relevant. In general he suggests that teachers planning to work in outer- and expanding-circle countries need to be both multicultural and multilingual and understand the local linguistic and cultural situation. The decisions that teachers make are related to the above-mentioned identity-communication continuum model (perhaps over-referenced, as it appears in the same diagram form on pages 12, 82, and 173), where the 'identity' end can be associated with the mathetic, creativity-oriented function characteristic of, for example, Malaysian culture, and the "communication" end with a pragmatic, interactive (ELF) use typical of European contexts. Mathetic in this context might be defined as creating/marking/performing identity through language.

Kirkpatrick's World Englishes truly presents, as the text suggests, "key themes," "key concepts," and "key examples," and is a succinct, reliable and well-prepared book, a good resource for basic study. Including many references and citations from the related literature, it can serve as a good guide to further reading in the subject, while its author and subject indexes orient the reader and navigate her through the text. The author's positive attitude, felt throughout the book, and his evident deep experience in linguistic-variety theory and pedagogical practice result in creating a friendly image of English as a lingua franca far from Phillipson's frightening lingua frankensteinia (2008).

All the discussion is accessible and supplemented with user-friendly maps and tables. An additional gem is the audio-CD, which presents samples of the discussed World Englishes. The recordings are supplemented with transcripts.

Kirkpatrick's World Englishes can be seen as complementary to handbooks such as Teaching English as an International Language by Sara Lee McKay (2002) and World Englishes: A Resource Book for Students by Jennifer Jenkins (2003). Although critical of the concept of English as an international language (EIL) in teaching practice, Kirkpatrick seems to share many ideological commitments expressed by McKay (2002), for example, the conviction that non-native teachers of varieties of English should not be considered disadvantaged and her focus on cultural differences.

In short, this student- and teacher-friendly book enters a scene crowded by many related titles; however, without pretending to be all-inclusive, it is a timely publication able to offer a reliable selection of relevant material. It clearly presents selected world Englishes with informative sociolinguistic background.


Jenkins, J. (2003). World Englishes: A resource book for students. London & New York: Routledge.

Kachru, B. B., Kachru, Y., & Nelson, C.L. (Eds.). (2006). The handbook of world Englishes. Oxford: Blackwell.

Kortmann, B. & Schneider, E.W. (Eds.). (2005). A handbook of varieties of English: A multi-media reference tool. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.

McArthur, T. (2003). The Oxford guide to world Englishes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McKay, S. L. (2002). Teaching English as an international language: Rethinking goals and approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Phillipson, R. (2008). Lingua franca or lingua frankensteinia? English in European integration and globalisation. World Englishes, 27, 250-267.

Varieties of English. An interactive textbook. (2008). (Vols. 1-4). Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Iwona Witczak-Plisiecka
University of Lodz, Poland

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