Some eye-openers….

In 2003 an estimated 1500 Master’s programmes were offered in English in countries where English is not the first language.

In 2005 about 20,000 American schoolchildren were receiving e-tutoring support from India.

More than 60% of transnational companies see China as the most attractive location for R&D

A study in 2000 found that over 300 languages were being spoken in the schools of London.

74% of interactions in English do not involve a native speaker of English.

More of a report than a book, Graddol manages to cover an incredible breadth and scope of  research and uses it to provide pithy and well-considered analysis. If only more academics could be so concise….

The mobility of people, money and information has been increasing since the nineteenth century. Are we reaching a point at which English becomes ubiquitous, and it’s teaching unnecessary?

Several basic assumptions are challenged as Graddol tries to make sense of the state of the world now and in the past, in order to posit his predictions. One is the accepted history of English as a hero, battling the French and coming out triumphant (history filtered through the lens of the nineteenth century empire builders). Another is the modernist idea of history as constant change – he suggests that we are in a transitional period, a shift, which started with the industrial revolution and is still underway. These ways of looking at globalisation, as both a cause and effect of international English, help us to see where we are going. This is a debate which needs the heat slapped out of it with the cold hand of reason.

In the next section, Graddol focuses on the past and present of English teaching. The EFL tradition, he informs us, is designed to produce failure; pedagogically in it’s unrealistic aims of native-like pronunciation and grammatical accuracy, and socially and politically as a gate-keeping device to keep people ‘outside’. ESL, ESOL, CLIL, and especially ELF, all get more favourable feedback in the acronym soup race.

For teachers, Graddol’s policy implications are sobering, terrifying, exciting and / or liberating. But they are perfectly believable. Native speakers are a hindrance to the growth of English. By 2050 there may be very few English learners at all, besides the very young or those with special needs. Bilinguals will not be at an advantage; Rather, monolinguals of ANY language will pay the penalty.

The conclusion is this – this is a time of great opportunity, which could just as easily be buggered up by those shaping decisions. The time is certainly done for old fashioned quibbles about which variety of English we should be teaching. That ship has sailed, mate!

Don’t take my word for it. Two great things this book has going for it before you crack it’s metaphorical spine. First off, it’s short. But better than that, it’s free to download. Go and read it now and come back and comment when you are done.

(Update – 26/4/2010: Comments disabled due to huge spammage! Please email if you have anything to add!)

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24 Thoughts on “books you should read part one – english next by david graddol

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention the lives of teachers » Blog Archive » books you should read part one – english next by david graddol --

  2. I am the only one who feels that THREE comments like those above litters up the site more than a little. Is there no escape from the incessant Twitter chatter??

  3. darren on January 4, 2010 at 10:41 pm said:

    For you Alex, I took two out.

    Now, what do you think about the book?

  4. Indeed, I read the booklet a while ago and saw David give his presentation live last year at a conference. Fascinating projections regarding the changes in the demand for languages. And the possibility that EFL teaching becoming unnecessary is a very interesting one.

    Have you seen Globish which tries to capture communicating in English using only 1500 words? Personally I don’t think any kind of pared down simplistic communication is fit for any purpose!

    I think the demand for English as a Lingua Franca will ironically result in a multitude of mish-mash languages/dialects/jargons that are used within specific contexts or speech communities or subcultures which will be almost mutually unintelligible rather than universal. (An idea I touch upon in this post: )

    Food for thought indeed.

  5. darren on January 5, 2010 at 11:15 pm said:

    Thanks Tony – a great post of yours, too.

    Don’t fancy Globish much, either. Sounds too much like Esperanto, and language is a living, breathing animal which resists all efforts at being tied down. Don’t we already HAVE a multitude of mish-mash blah blah blah…? ELF accepts this, rather than attempting to create it.

    Love to know how the French deal with this. I wonder how the Academy is getting on….

  6. I’ve just downloaded it and will write a more meaningful comment after reading it, er, obviously. Thanks for dropping by my place, by the way.

  7. darren on January 6, 2010 at 9:36 pm said:

    Looking forward to it Adam. I like what you are doing over there…. you should do more of it ; P

  8. That was my reaction to the book, or at least the ideas in it and seeing David Graddol once many years ago. Futurology (of any kind) interests me so little that see Twitter comments completely wipes the subject from my mind. Then again, the environment also interests me not at all as a topic (One Planet is about the only BBC Radio 4 download I can’t bear), so I’m not suggesting anyone else copies me…

  9. darren on January 6, 2010 at 10:02 pm said:

    If futurology of any kind is so uninteresting, where did this and this come from, Alex?

    ; P

  10. Hi darren , i came here through Vickis blog.
    Thnx for the post i’ve downloaded but not read it yet.
    An interesting thought though – with global warming problem and imminent planetary destruction a possibility will we actually get to 2050 to see all this change?

  11. Great post about this book. I think it is really a book that changed the wider perception of language teaching partly because 1) it was sponsored by and then circulated through the British Council and 2) the two reasons you mention above (short and free). I got it at IATEFL when it came out and read it on the plane on the way back. I reread again a few days later and completely changed some sessions I was going to do on a Diploma course I was tutoring. It also influenced my thinking deeply for my new coursebook. So at least for me it has had profound effects.
    If you ever get a chance to see Graddol talk about this stuff, it’s great. Fantastic slides full of data. I wonder what his next step will be?

  12. darren on January 10, 2010 at 9:46 am said:

    Chris – thanks for coming by. Not a very cheerful thought, but not totally unrealistic…..

    Lindsay – Global certainly looks like its author has read this book. I picked it up at the IATEFL conference too, and I went to see him at JALT a couple of years ago. I really like the approach he takes in the debate – his starting point leaves little room for the naysayers who can’t face reality.

  13. Angela Buckingham on January 10, 2010 at 8:59 pm said:

    Great post about this book Darren. Teaching here in the UK I come across a fair few teachers who bemoan the demise of British English and its diminishing role in the global context. As you say, that ship sailed long ago..! This book is extremely thought-provoking and each time I come back to it it makes me think again. Really good stuff.
    Really enjoying the blog- any more recommendations for us to read?
    All the best for 2010!!

  14. Purely from a selfish economic point of view, I like Tony’s idea that the world will succumb to a kind of Babelish. Interestingly, in the light of Graddol’s assertion that all native speakers will be tossed aside as the culmination of this process of globalization, the last word supposedly heard before God condemned humanity to a multiplicity of languages was ‘sack’, perhaps as in ‘we can get down to business now the native speaker has been given the sack’.

  15. Angela, glad you agree… although as Sputnik says it doesn’t feel nice to be redundant (metaphorically or literally!). What with the demographic time bomb ticking under the Japanese university system, and my increasingly irrelevant English, I’d better brush up my other skills. Now, what were they again?

    I have plenty of other recommendations for you, but guest posts are more than welcome. Anything YOU would like to recommend?

  16. Angela Buckingham on January 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm said:

    I’ve been reading up on L1 use in the ELT classroom recently- this is really a response to my current class of pre-entry (ie beginner level) learners, some of whom are asylum seekers and who really need the support of other speakers of their languages in class, if only to cope with the classroom environment (let alone learning English). There’s a very interesting article by Auerbach (1993) in the TESOL quarterly 27/1 called Reexamining English only in the ESL classroom. This is a pretty old article then, but it’s so interesting and political (following in the steps of Phillipson’s Linguistic Imperialism, etc)- if you haven’t seen it I think it’s worth seeking out. I am starting to re-examine all my beliefs about teaching at the moment. Partly I guess this is because I’ve started to teach literacy to ESOL learners, so it’s lots of new things to learn.

    Yes, know what you mean though about needing to brush up on other skills. Um…..?

  17. darren on January 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm said:

    I’ll go and have a look in the library…..

  18. It is always amazing to see intelligent people making pronouncements on something they have obviously never looked into. I suggest these commentors on Globish, who feel it is too limited for them to say anything useful, read the new book Globish The World Over, which is written totally in Globish. Or if time is short, read the two free chapters. Perhaps then they can say something useful.

  19. I read it a couple of years ago (I have a signed copy, by the way), and I thought it was mostly bollocks then. My opinion hasn’t changed – DG ain’t much good at crystal-ball gazing, even with the help of powerpoint (I attended one of his ‘lectures’) and fancy graphics.

    Why do so many people lap up this sort of crap? Can’t they think for themselves? I guess they think it’s cool to jump on the ‘angst-ridden liberal’ bandwagon and claim that evil ol’ English, the lingo of imperialists and nasty right-wingers, is bound for the bin!

  20. darren on January 13, 2010 at 1:26 pm said:

    David – Intelligent yet ignorant? It’s a fair cop, I suppose. Can you send a link to the two free chapters? Still, it’s not the idea of Globish I object too – it sounds like an attempt to do good by bringing people together. What I see as the problem is the wriggly nature of language. The fact that we have different languages in the first place stems from the changes that naturally occur over time as separated groups use language for everyday communication. Never mind teaching standard English, be it a native variety, ELF, or Globish. Is it even possible to standardize language?

    Sandy – There is an element of liberal angst in this area of study, I can’t deny it. And I am the sort of Gurdian reading pseudo-intellectual who generally goes for a bit of guilty hand-wringing. But I think this book is more rationally constructed than that. Having a quick scout around to find stories from my own context I found plenty of evidence that the native speaker was being re-defined, and the ways in which English is being used is inextricably entwined with globalisation without native speaker input. You want English teachers brought in from the Philipines? How about Indian workers taking over Japan’s IT industry? Or calls for an East Asian Community to compete with the E.U.?

    All these stories will have an impact on the directions of English. It’s not a bandwagon, it’s a steamroller… and native speakers (liberal or otherwise) aren’t driving it.

  21. I always liked the story about how in some drive-in fast food places in the US you’re actually speaking to someone in India when you ask for your burger and fries, who then relays the request back to the window where you pick up your “food”. It still sounds too bizarre to be actually true and I’ve never yet found any further confirmation of this story.

    Like Lindsay I also got my copy at the launch event at IATEFL, which I suspect was also the evening when I actually met Mr Global (Globish?) Clandfield himself.

  22. Globish reminds me of a project called “Basic English” Unfortunately this failed, because native English speakers could not remember which words not to use 🙂

    So it’s time to move forward and adopt a neutral non-national language, taught universally in schools worldwide,in all nations.

    As a native English speaker, I would prefer Esperanto

    Your readers may be interested in the following video at Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

    A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at

  23. darren on January 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm said:

    Yeah, that one struck me as funny too Andy. I can’t imagine he made it up though.

    Brian, thanks – but no thanks……

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