Making English their own: The use of ELF among students of English at the Free University of Berlin

Erling, Elizabeth J. and Bartlett, Tom (2006). Making English their own: The use of ELF among students of English at the Free University of Berlin. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 5(2) pp. 9–40.



This paper analyses the attitudes and motives of students studying English at the Freie Universitat Berlin (FUB) and suggests that changing opinions on national (US and UK) standards and the emergence of the 'New Europe' represent mutually reinforcing conditions of possibility for the deliberate adoption of a Europeanised English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). We present results from a sociolinguistic profile of students at the FUB which include a statistical analysis of questionnaires distributed to 101 students of English in July 2001; excerpts from student essays that reflect on the role of English in students' lives; and in-depth interviews with five of these students (see further Erling 2004). Through statistical analysis, it became clear that there were certain clusters among students: a US-friendly cluster (54%), a pro-British cluster (13%) and a lingua franca cluster (34%). In this paper, the lingua franca cluster is considered in depth with an analysis of their descriptions of the challenges of making English 'their own [...] forcing it to submit to their own intentions and accents' (Bakhtin 1981: 294). We also describe specific linguistic features of these students' Englishes and compare them to other varieties of world Englishes. These findings suggest that these users are appropriating the language for their own purposes, asserting their identities through English and empowering themselves as owners of the language. With this in mind, pedagogical implications for teaching ELF at the university level are considered in the final section of the paper.

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