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Review of  English as a Lingua Franca in the International University

Reviewer: Sofia Rüdiger
Book Title: English as a Lingua Franca in the International University
Book Author: Jennifer Jenkins
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 25.4568

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Review's Editors: Malgorzata Cavar and Sara Couture


This monograph explores the issue of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) in international universities around the world. To this end Jenkins employed a multi-method approach (i.e. website study of university homepages, questionnaire study with academic staff and interviews with international students). The book contains seven chapters, an afterword and four appendices and is as such aimed at postgraduate students and researchers.

The first chapter of the book, “English, the Lingua Franca of the Global Academy”, sets the author’s agenda and provides an overview of the following chapters. Jenkins presents the overarching goal and motivation for conducting her research and writing the present book as finding out “what globalization means for English language use and users in Higher Education settings around the world” (p. 1). The focus thereby lies mainly on international students who are non-native speakers of English, but the perspective of English native and non-native speaker staff at academic institutions is also included in the research. Research sites (accessed virtually as well as through questionnaires and face-to-face interviews) are Anglophone universities, branch universities of Anglophone institutions (e.g. Nottingham-Ningbo University in China) and universities offering at least some English medium instruction. As Jenkins points out, a lot has changed in the politics of higher education; ‘internationalization’ as well as ‘globalization’ have become buzzwords that few universities can do without. As an introduction to the topic, Jenkins succinctly presents facts about the growing international student population, universities’ different orientation towards internationalization (e.g. Foskett’s (2010) fivefold categorization) and the diverse cultural and linguistic makeup of campuses around the world. The main point of her introduction is to highlight the fact that even though non-native English speakers (NNES) outnumber native English speakers (NES) in most academic institutions and although universities emphasize their global and international status, NNES students are still expected to conform to NES norms in English proficiency tests, student assessments and English for Academic Purposes courses. Her literature review further explicates that previous research on internationalization and globalization has neglected linguistic issues and that many people still insist on traditional thinking about English which disregards the changes which have occurred regarding the users and uses of the language as well as the implications this has for higher education.

Chapter 2 (“The Spread of English as a Lingua Franca”) provides a concise introduction to the field of ELF, including historical perspectives, problems in defining ELF, demarcation of ELF versus English as a foreign language (EFL) and English in the World Englishes paradigm. Jenkins furthermore gives a short overview of previously identified features of ELF on the levels of phonology, lexicogrammar, morphology, pragmatics and idiomaticity (p. 31-35). Special attention is paid to a dichotomy which is also central to the theme of the book and a controversial issue in the ELF and World Englishes paradigm, especially when it comes to issues of language teaching: native and non-native speakers of English. Regarding an ELF perspective, Jenkins argues that, “nativeness loses both its relevance and its traditional positive connotations” (p. 38), since there are no native speakers of ELF and the ultimate goal of ELF is not close adherence to native speaker norms but rather successful intercultural communication.

The next chapter delves one step further into the ELF paradigm and introduces the topic of English as an academic lingua franca (ELFA). Due to the prevalence of more traditional views and a certain uneasiness “about the relatively more open, flexible, variable, hybrid, accommodative, diverse, and thus less constrained, or ‘standard’, kinds of English that typify ELFA use”, NNES have often been ignored in literature on academic English except as problems (p. 43). Furthermore, the literature review reveals that, even though a variety of approaches towards the subject exist, the focus has so far been on written rather than spoken language (except some corpus studies which mainly used spoken data). Jenkins introduces a wide range of approaches to English for Academic Purposes (EAP), including Tribble (2009), Hyland (2009), Benesch (2001), Lea & Street (1998, 2006), Street (2004) and Lillis (2001) and subsequently classifies them into conforming, challenging and paradigm-shifting approaches. In addition, she includes a description of two EAP course books as examples for EAP material which are commonly used in university courses for NNES (p. 55-57). Concluding the chapter is a short introduction to the Corpus of English as a Lingua Franca in Academic Settings (compiled at the University of Helsinki) and three studies based on the corpus are introduced in more detail (Ranta 2006 on the extended use of the progressive aspect, Metsä-Ketelä 2006 on the innovative use of ‘more or less’ and Mauranen 2009 on discourse management via chunking).

Chapter 4, “Researching English Language Policies and Practices in International Universities,” serves as introduction to the research-based chapters 5, 6 and 7 and as such is relatively short. Before explicating the research questions, Jenkins states that the aims of her research are to examine the English language policies of academic institutions worldwide, find out what staff and students (independent of mother tongue) think about the English language practice and policy of their institution, and make recommendations for universities regarding English language practice and policy. In order to reach her goals and illuminate the research questions, Jenkins chose a multimethod approach using three different qualitative methods (i.e. website study, questionnaires and interviews).

The website survey is based on 60 university homepages around the world and the results are presented in Chapter 5. Using a discourse analysis approach, Jenkins was particularly interested in institutions’ explicit and implicit orientation towards internationalization and globalization, English-medium instruction and information on EAP courses. The presentation of results is split into different geographical regions: East Asia (with a special focus on Chinese universities), Mainland Europe, Latin America, and Anglophone as well as Anglophone branch universities. The overall result of the website study is that Englishization in higher education is mainly equated with native Englishization, with a heavy reliance on English native speaker norms and only little “shift towards acceptance of the current sociolinguistic reality of English use” (p.119). As one of the consequences of these results, Jenkins formulates the need to develop more appropriate tests of linguistic suitability for academic study for both native and non-native speakers of English.

Having examined how universities represent themselves as internationalized to the outside via their websites, Jenkins continues in Chapter 6 with the perspective of staff members on English language and policy issues in higher education. To this end, she used an open-ended questionnaire and, despite problems with the return rate, the analysis in the chapter is based on 166 completed questionnaires. Using qualitative content analysis, Jenkins depicts university staff attitudes towards written and spoken academic English (p. 133-141), the perceived effects of the university’s language policy on both NES and NNES (p. 141 -146), opinions on responsibility for successful intercultural communication (p. 146-153) and perceived implications of universities drive for internationalization (p. 153-156). Jenkins also provides a short albeit insightful analysis of answers to the final question (common to many questionnaires) prompting respondents to comment on the questionnaire and the topic of the questionnaire itself. The results of the questionnaire study are synthesized into a model of ‘University-English Ideology Continuum’ (p. 162).

The final research-based chapter, “Conversations with International Students,” presents the views of 34 international postgraduate students pursuing either an MA (14 participants) or PhD degree (20 participants) in the UK. The 60-90 minute long interviews were completely unstructured, which is the reason for Jenkins to refer to this part of research as a ‘conversation study’ rather than an interview study. Jenkins offers her own opinions profusely in the conversations which often led students to reposition (see e.g. p. 189). Drawing on the speech functions analysis framework by Eggins and Slade (2006) and positioning theory by Harré and Van Langenhove (1991), Jenkins analyzes the participants’ contributions and identifies areas which need change in higher education language policy.

The book is concluded by a short afterword which presents two possible scenarios regarding ELFA. One of them is a negative anecdote whereas the other one presents a more positive outlook on English language issues in higher education and Jenkins leaves the reader with the decision about choosing the right path for the future of ELF issues in universities around the world.


This monograph is not only relevant for linguists working in the fields of ELF and EAP, but will also be interesting for everybody employed at a university using English-medium instruction, lecturers as well as higher education policy makers. Due to the multimethod approach employed by Jenkins, the insights provided are manifold and not only limited to one particular perspective. Even though one side of the picture is, as Jenkins also admits , missing, home students and staff of the respective universities might have offered additional valuable insights (p. 205). The reason for this omission is quite obvious though, since it would not have been practical to include even more data in the present monograph, which is already extraordinarily rich in the use and presentation of various kinds of data. Therefore, further research on the views of home students and staff regarding language issues and ELF use is called for.

One other omission with regard to contents has to be mentioned as well. Jenkins stresses the global character of her study multiple times and states that she wants to “examine English language policies in HE [higher education] around the world” (p. 70) and discover “whether particular discourses are dominant across the (global) board” (p. 82). Looking at the included regions though (i.e. East Asia, Mainland Europe, Latin America, Anglophone and Anglophone branch universities in China, South Korea and Japan), it is quite surprising and a bit disappointing that no African universities were included in the study. Even though Jenkins might have well had reasons for excluding African universities, providing a short explanation of this decision might have been helpful for the readers.

Even though some small editorial problems also showed up during reading , reading flow is generally not impaired by them. No list of abbreviations was included in the monograph, which does not present a problem per se, since most of the abbreviations are listed in the index. Unfortunately, some abbreviations introduced in the text cannot be found there, for example WE (standing for World Englishes, first occurrence p. 27) and HP (standing for homepage, first occurrence p. 87).

What is outstanding in this monograph is its comprehensive and absolutely enriching use of examples from Jenkins’ diverse data sources. Instead of simply attaching them loosely to one another, each example serves a specific illustrative purpose, enabling the reader to better understand staff and students’ perspectives on issues of the English language in higher education policies. Furthermore, instead of just theorizing about the issues she discovered in her data, Jenkins develops concrete suggestions for future implementation in higher education. Moreover, she also describes how she deals with some of the language issues in her own work as lecturer and student supervisor. For example, she explains how she deals with variation in written academic English of her own supervisees (p. 70). This adds an even further dimension of practical usability to this monograph.

It can be concluded that Jenkins’ investigation presents a valuable addition to previous research on ELFA (e.g. Björkman 2013 on form and communicative effectiveness of spoken ELFA in a Swedish context) and offers valuable insights into NNES student and staff perspectives on ELFA issues, as well as universities conceptualization of ‘internationality’ and ‘globalization’.


Benesch, S. 2001. Critical English for Academic Purposes. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Björkman, B. 2013. English as an Academic Lingua Franca: An investigation of form and communicative effectiveness. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.

Eggins, S. and D. Slade. 2006. Analysing Casual Conversation. London: Equinox.

Foskett, N. 2010. “Global markets, national challenges, local strategies: the strategic challenge of internationalization.” Maringe, F. and N. Foskett, eds. Globalization and Internationalization in Higher Education. London: Continuum.

Harré, R. and L. Van Langenhove. 1991. Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hyland, K. 2009. Academic Discourse: English in a Global Context. London: Continuum.

Lea, M. and B. Street. 1998. “Student writing in higher education: an academic literacies approach.” Studies in Higher Education 23 (2): 157-172.

-----. 2006. “The ‘Academic Literacies’ model: theory and applications.” Theory into Practice 45 (4): 368-377.

Lillis, T. 2001. Student Writing: Access, regulation, desire. London: Routledge.

Mauranen, A. 2009. “Chunking in ELF: Expressions for managing interaction.” Intercultural Pragmatics 6 (2): 217-233.

Metsä-Ketelä, M. 2006. “Words are more or less superfluous.” Nordic Journal of English Studies 5 (2): 117-143.

Ranta, E. 2006. “The ‘attractive’ progressive -- why use the --ing form in English as a Lingua Franca?” Nordic Journal of English Studies 5 (2): 95-116.

Street, B. 2004. “Academic literacies and the new orders: implication for research and practice in student writing in higher education.” Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences 1 (1): 9-20.
Tribble, C. 2009. “Writing academic English – a survey review of current published resources.” ELT Journal 63 (4): 400-417.
Sofia Rüdiger obtained her M.A. in Intercultural Anglophone Studies from the University of Bayreuth in Germany, where she is also currently employed as a research assistant at the English Linguistics department. At the moment she is working on a PhD project on ELF use by Korean speakers. Her research interests include varieties of English, ELF, corpus linguistics and computer-mediated communication.

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Pages: 248
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