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Review of  Using English as a Lingua Franca in Education in Europe

Reviewer: Guyanne Wilson
Book Title: Using English as a Lingua Franca in Education in Europe
Book Author: Zoi Tatsioka Barbara Seidlhofer Nicos Sifakis Gibson Ferguson
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Language Family(ies): Germanic
Issue Number: 30.1212

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Tatsioka, Seidlhofer, Sifakis and Ferguson’s new edited volume, Using English as a Lingua Franca in Education in Europe, is a very welcome addition to the literature on ELF. While earlier works such as those by Edwards on the Netherlands (2016) and Kautzsch on Germany (2014) have addressed the changing role of English in Western Europe, this comprehensive volume has a number of papers which focus on ELF in Eastern Europe, and the role of ELF in education at all levels.


The book is divided into three sections: Section One is largely theoretical, while the later sections have a more empirical focus. Section Two looks at language attitudes, particularly in Eastern Europe, and Section Three at ELF in specific higher education contexts across Europe.

In the introduction by the editors, the place of both EFL and ELF in Europe is interrogated. Sikafis' article (ELF as an opportunity for foreign language use, learning and instruction in Greece and beyond) looks at the potential for ELF in Greece, and delves not only into the superficial differences between ELF and EFL/ ESOL approaches, but especially highlights the fact that learners of English are also users of English, and that, while learners' proficiencies are below the levels expected in standardised testing instruments, adolescent learners engage in English use in many non-academic, often digital and virtual, contexts (19). This can have pedagogical implications, and Sifakis argues that English Language teaching should marry more traditional approaches with the “radical realities” (23) of English language use. In the second theoretical article (European language policy and English as a lingua franca: a critique of Van Parijs’s ‘linguistic justice’), Ferguson assesses Van Parijs’s ‘linguistic justice’, focussing largely on the impracticality of applying Van Parijs’s suggestions for reparation.

The attitudes section comprises three papers looking at attitudes to ELF in educational settings in Croatia (Margić and Vodopija-Krstanović ), Bulgaria (Slavova) and the Czech Republic (Dontcheva-Navratilova). The studies here employ mixed methods approaches to look at language attitudes, and this is particularly commendable. Margić and Vodopija-Krstanović (English language education in Croatia: Elitist purism or paradigmatic shift?) use both questionnaires and supplementary interviews in the study on English language education in Croatia, and Slavova (Attitudes to English as a lingua franca and language teaching in a Bulgarian academic context) mixes direct and indirect methods skilfully, using an adapted verbal guise study and a reflective essay. In the latter case, however, there are some slight problems in the selection of materials used for the verbal guise. Some of the speakers are well-known popular culture figures, e.g. Jamie Oliver, while others are less well-known. The stimuli are also not well controlled for topic, which may affect language attitudes, or for gender, and so there are a number of variables which may well affect language attitudes which have not been considered. Nevertheless, the use of a questionnaire and essay is quite innovative as it allows not just generalisations on language attitudes but also insights into these attitudes.

Dontcheva-Navratilova (English language teacher education in the Czech Republic: attitudes to ELF) uses a questionnaire with open and closed questions and, most interestingly, compares the views of language learners and language teachers. This comparison, too, is rather useful, since it takes the largest groups of stakeholders in the ELF enterprise and it allows us to see their divergent views. She further uses a corpus approach to look at the degree of formulaicity in Croatian students’ writing, using this as a marker of students’ attainment of the target variety.

Overall, the attitudinal studies show that there is a high awareness of ELF in Eastern Europe, but awareness should not be taken for understanding. Margić and Vodopija-Krstanović’s study shows that while some are aware of ELF as a concept, understanding of what it actually is is quite poor (60). Moreover, awareness need not be synonymous with acceptance. The studies yield a crucial finding that language attitudes in Eastern Europe still overwhelmingly favour inner circle varieties. Croatian teachers wish for their students to acquire native-like pronunciation and, despite thinking it important that their students be exposed to ELF, they retain mixed to negative attitudes towards ELF usage. In Bulgaria, students exhibit similarly positive attitudes to native speaker varieties of English, although they have little contact with such varieties. Similarly, in the Czech Republic, learners are interested in acquiring native-like Englishes, even though they expect tolerance towards non-native Englishes. In this way, these findings mirror many of the attitudinal findings for English in postcolonial settings, and it would be interesting to see how Buschfeld and Kautszch's (2016) adaptation of Schneider's Dynamic Model could be applied to these settings.

In Part Three, the application of ELF in various higher education contexts is examined. Luzón (English as a lingua franca in academic blogs: its co-existence and interaction with other languages) looks at language use in blogs, and finds that there is a diversity of ways in which ELF is used in academic blogs, particularly alongside other languages, depending on factors such as audience and topic. Further work in this vein should consider examining how code switching in blogs compares with more traditional studies of codeswitching (e.g. Blom and Gumperz 1972), since the situational and relational constraints that are active in traditional codeswitching settings are also relevant in the creation of blogs, even if they are operating differently.

Komori-Glatz’ paper (Multilingual ELF interaction in multicultural student teamwork at Europe’s largest business university) on ELF usage among business school students in Austria was particularly insightful. The discourse analytic approach to group work interactions among multilingual students highlights the importance of considering ELF in the context of the other languages with which it comes into contact; the paper considers the linguistic repertoires of ELF users, how they expand in interaction with other speakers, and how, even in the European context, they may not be limited to European languages. In “Is everything clear so far?” Lecturing in English as a lingua franca, Tzoannopoulou addresses the use of questions in lectures held in ELF in Greece and looks at actual ELF use within the classroom itself. While the findings, particularly with regard to students’ perception of lectures with a greater quantity of questions as more understandable than those with fewer questions, a good control of this would have been to check the students’ comprehension by, perhaps, administering a short quiz on the content. Nevertheless, the study has important pedagogical implications, as the author notes (195).

Given the hegemony of English in academic communication, Pérez-Llantada’s analysis (ELF and linguistic diversity in EAP writing pedagogy: academic biliteracy in doctoral education) of a course in comparative ENL, EFL, and SNL (Spanish national language) for doctoral students in Spain is timely and important. It shows how making users explicitly aware of features of the forms and functions of English, and particularly EFL, can foster confidence in the use of EFL. The study also illustrates how early concepts central to applied linguistics, such as task based instruction (Skehan 1998), can be revamped and applied to contemporary needs.

The final paper in this particularly strong section of the book is Orna-Montesinos’ research on attitudes to ELF in military training (Perceptions towards intercultural communication: military students in a higher education context). It highlights the often taken-for-granted fact that ELF use is necessarily an intercultural communicative context by focussing on ELF use in a context where miscommunication can have quite deadly effects. Thus, the author’s findings are somewhat disappointing--most of the cadets adhere to prescriptive norms in the name of intelligibility, with ELF and non-native norms being judged inferior.


Though several of the studies, particularly in Section 2, contain slight methodological hiccoughs, as a whole the publication lends enormous insight into the range of methods that could be applied in ELF studies, and the rich findings that emerge as a result. The strength of this publication lies in the breadth of the studies undertaken, not only geographically, but also in terms of the settings examined, particularly in Part Three. It thus provides a holistic view of ELF use in Eastern Europe, and thus is especially useful for language policy makers, particularly in education, as well as those interested in the changing role of English in expanding circle contexts.


Blom, J. P., & Gumperz J. (1972). Social meaing in linguistic structure: Code-switching in Norway. In J. Gumperz, & D. Hymes (Eds.), Directions in sociolinguistics. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Buschfeld, S. and Kautzsch, A. (2017), Towards an integrated approach to postcolonial and non‐postcolonial Englishes. World Englishes, 36: 104-126. doi:10.1111/weng.12203

Edwards, A. (2016).English in the Netherlands: Functions, forms and attitudes. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Kautzsch, Alexander. 2014. ''English in Germany. Spreading bilingualism, retreating exonormative orientation and incipient nativization?'' In Buschfeld, Hoffmann, Huber and Kautzsch (eds.) The Evolution of Englishes. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 2014: 203-227.

Skehan, P. (1998). Task-Based Instruction. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 18, 268-286. doi:10.1017/S0267190500003585
Guyanne Wilson is a post-doctoral research associate at the Ruhr University. Her main research interests are language variation, particularly in English, language use in performance, language attitudes, language use among refugees, and research methods. She is the principal investigator in the DFG-funded New Englishes, New Methods research Network (with Michael Westphal). Guyanne Wilson is currently working on a monograph comparing agreement in six varieties of English in Africa and the Caribbean.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781501511097
Pages: 257
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