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ENGLISH AS AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE IN ASIA: HOW SHOULD WE TEACH IT?

IAN WALKINSHAW

In the 21st century English is an international language: A worldwide mode of communication used by both native- and non-native speakers (Modiano 1999). And non-native speakers are now the majority: Of the estimated 1.5 billion users of English worldwide (Graddol 2006), more than half learned to use it as a second/foreign language.

In South East Asia English is spoken by some native speakers and many non-native speakers. It is employed across the region for scholarship, business, commerce, defence and diplomacy. It is the working language of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This raises questions about how English should best be taught to learners in South East Asia, who need to be aware of how the language is used locally and how they can best communicate with other English users in the region.

My presentation therefore explores a range of practical methods for supplementing existing British or American models of English with a localised ‘English as an international language’ model that reflects how English is used in South East Asia. These include: How to use speakers of international English as a model in listening activities; how to modify textbooks and other materials to include examples of international English; the value of knowing about and being able to talk about the local culture; and the features of English varieties spoken in South East Asia which help speakers from that region understand one another.