Fourth Annual Lecture on Language and Human
Rights, University of Essex, 16.11.05
a lingua franca
or an Anglo-American Frankenstein?
Robert Phillipson
Faculty of Languages, Communication,
and Cultural Studies,
Copenhagen Business School
The search for ’English’
Whose English?
Whose norms?
Who decides?
Who is in control?
David Crystal
English as a global language
• English was in the right place at the right time.
• The English language has already grown to be
independent of any form of social control.
Global English a myth, a normative project,
spoken by an elite imagined community
Language policy challenges (1)
how to devise and implement proactive language
policies to ensure that all languages remain viable,
which entails ensuring that English is appropriated in
ways that are compatible with a balanced ecology of
in Europe, how to clarify and elaborate criteria to
promote democratic principles and equality in
communication in EU institutions and activities,
which implies policies for multilingualism in
transnational networks and for the strengthening of a
European public sphere,
Language policy challenges (2)
• how to strengthen the language rights of
speakers of all groups, including
minorities, in education, public and
professional domains, and EU activities,
for which visionary and realistic policies
for multilingualism in education are
These presuppose open constructive
dialogue between grassroots constituencies,
policy-makers, and ‘experts’ on language
LPP pioneer: Lo Bianco
Unhappily for those who have sought to devise a “science” of
LPP there are no protocols for doing or designing LPP that can
be induced from practice, abstracted, tested and refined into
procedures and then transferred across contexts and applied in
diverse settings. (…) The context-specificity of LPP makes
language a problematic object of policy. (…) The historicized
settings of culture, legal and political environment, ethnic
relations, socio-legal parameters of policy-making and memory
influence not only what is possible in any specific setting but also
serve to shape its content. (…) What I think is relatively
portable, at least from my own experience, are processes for the
formulation of policy, i.e., collaborative negotiated and discursive
arrangements for formulating inter-subjective agreements
among parties in contest with each other. (…) the field is too
dependent on the descriptive traditions of linguistics from which
it derives, and insufficiently in communication with policy
analysis sciences, with political science, with sociology and with
critical schools of thought.
Discourses uncritically
promoting English
• in politics: ‘English is the world’s lingua franca’ Lord
Renton, House of Lords
• in academia (political science): English is
‘the lingua franca of the European Union’, de Swaan;
’the language of the proto-European state’, Laitin and
• in academia (language policy and planning), ‘The
ascendancy of English is merely the outcome of the
coincidence of accidental forces’, Kaplan
• in international cultural diplomacy: ‘English no longer
belongs to the English-speaking nations but to
everyone’, the British Council
The Guardian Weekly, November 11-17 2005
Opportunities in Saudi Arabia
• British Council Saudi Arabia is managing a
Global Opportunities Fund project. This fund is
the Foreign and Commwealth Office’s principal
programme budget and its purpose is to promote
global action on issues of strategic importance to
the UK.
• The BC is the UK’s ’international organisation
for educational opportunites and cultural
relations. We are registered in England as a
A British global mission
What the World needs most is about 1000 more dead
languages – and one more alive,
C.K. Ogden, Cambridge semanticist and inventor of Basic
Teaching the world English may appear not unlike an
extension of the task which America faced in
establishing English as a common national language
among its own immigrant population.
Annual Report of the British Council 1960-61,
cited in Phillipson, Linguistic imperialism, OUP, 1992
David Rothkopf, Foreign policy, 1997
It is in the economic and political interest of the United States
to ensure that if the world is moving toward a common
language, it be English; that if the world is moving toward
common telecommunications, safety, and quality standards,
they be American; and that if common values are being
developed, they be values with which Americans are
comfortable. These are not idle aspirations. English is linking
the world… Americans should not deny the fact that of all
the nations in the history of the world, theirs is the most just,
the most tolerant, the most willing to constantly reassess and
improve itself, and the best model for the future.
From the article In praise of cultural imperialism
Les Anglo-Saxons? Whose English?
The British and Americans are divided by a
common language.
George Bernard Shaw
… the British Empire and the United States who,
fortunately for the progress of mankind, happen
to speak the same language and very largely
think the same thoughts…
Winston Churchill, 24 August 1941, after signing
The Atlantic Charter with President Roosevelt
The Atlantic Charter, 1941 (extracts)
… the USA and the UK…
• seek no aggrandisement, territorial or other,
• desire to see no territorial changes that do not
accord with the freely expressed wishes of the
people concerned,
• respect the right of all peoples to choose the form
of government under which they will live…
• all states to have equal access to trade and raw
materials …
• abandonment of the use of force … disarmament
A model for Newspeak in George Orwell’s ’1984’?
British global English
A new career service is needed, for gentlemen teachers of
English with equivalent status to ‘the Civil Service,
Army, Bar, or Church’, an ‘army of linguistic
missionaries’ generated by a ‘training centre for postgraduate studies and research’, and a ‘central office in
London, from which teachers radiate all over the world’.
The new service must ‘lay the foundations of a worldlanguage and culture based on our own’.
R.V. Routh, 1941, The diffusion of British culture outside
England. A problem of post-war reconstruction,
Cambridge University Press
PARSNIPS code, Heinemann, 1995
Politics, Pork,
Alcohol, AIDS, Anarchy,
Racism, Rape, Religion,
Sensitivity to other cultures,
Names, Narcotics, Nudes,
Sex, Sexism, Science such as genetic engineering,
Stereotypes,Terrorism, Violence, the police,
military, weapons, capital punishment
lingua franca in dictionaries
• New Oxford Shorter: from Italian (+++), any language
serving as a medium between different nations etc whose
own languages are not the same; a system of
communication providing mutual understanding.
a language or mixture of languages used for
communication by people who speak different first
MEDITERRANEAN in ports until 18th century, Italian
plus elements of French, Spanish, Italian, Greek,
lingua franca: a fuzzy polysemic term
• Mackey: Franks in France from 5th century
• Barotchi: 1. Arabic , lisan alfiranj, Crusades
2. trading language in Mediterranean ports
3. a language of a group in El Djezair, Alger
pidgins? Esperanto?
’auxiliary’ language excludes Arabic, Swahili, English
• UNESCO and academia, 1950s: non-European dominant
• Media discourse: e.g. Interpol, Eurovision song contest,
natural sciences
• Seidlhofer: non-native interaction
Juliane House 2003:
English as a lingua franca
• not restricted or for
special purposes
• bereft of collective
cultural capital
• diversity worldwide,
Kachru’s outer circle
• non-identificational
• non-native ownership
• diglossia: ’pockets of
• English is invariably
the High language
• here English = power
but no codification
• cosmopolitanism
• question for analyst
A language for communication v.
a language for identification
• ‘The foreigner is learning English to express
ideas rather than emotion; for his (sic)
emotional expression he has the mother-tongue.
English is a rather unemotional language…’.
(West 1953, x)…. House 2003
• ’…a metapragmatic dichotomisation that
allocates specific indexicalities to particular
speech varieties. (…) matters are considerably
more complex’ (Blommaert 2003, FN 3)… A
functionalist-referential ideology + ideological
perception results in uses of language being
seen as ’instrumental’.
English a ’lingua franca’ ?
• lingua economica?
corporate neoliberalism = americanisation
• lingua emotiva? Hollywood, music
• lingua cultura? a subject in general education
• lingua bellica? Afghanistan, Iraq, arms trade
• lingua academica? publications, conferences,
medium for content learning
• lingua tyrannosaura? subtractive in specific
lingua tyrannosaura
the ’civilising’ mission of European Canada
The use of English in preference to the Indian
dialect must be insisted upon… So long as he
keeps his native tongue, so long will he remain a
community apart… The superstitions of the
savage must be replaced by ’European culture –
its ontology, theology, and values’.
A national crime. The Canadian government and
the residential school system 1879 to 1986.
John S. Milloy, University of Manitoba Press,
1999 (initially for the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples)
revitalising critically endangered languages
• Amos Key, of the Six Nations of the Grand River,
• Towards a New Beginning. A foundational report
for a strategy to revitalize First Nation, Inuit and
Métis languages and cultures
Tove’s handout:
Education through the medium of the mother
lingua tyrannosaura
• John Swales, some languages of scholarship on
the way to extinction
• Louis-Jean Calvet, glottophagie
• Braj Kachru, Ann Pakir, killer languages
• Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, killer languages, language
murder, linguicide
• RP, English, a cuckoo in the European higher
education nest of languages? (European Journal
of English Studies)
EU policies for ‘Europe 2010:
A partnership for European renewal’
a Europe of freedom
Knowledge economy
European education and research area
European public space
European Justice Space
Europe as polysemic: toponym, politonym,
ethnonym, econonym, or linguonym?
Europe not a meaningful concept for the young
Equally opaque: freedom, education, research
The Bologna process, the
internationalisation of higher education
45 member states, Australia and the USA as observers,
EU Commission as participant and funder
• Bologna 1999 … objectives - within the framework of
our institutional competences and taking full respect of
the diversity of cultures, languages, national education
systems and of University autonomy - to consolidate a
European Higher Education Area at the latest by 2010
• Bergen 19-20 May 2005: structural uniformity, quality,
mobility, recognition, joint degrees, attractiveness,
nothing on bilingual degrees or multilingualism
internationalisation = English-medium education?
President, London Metropolitan University
CAM Cambridge Alumni Magazine, Easter 2005
”As a result of the Bologna process, 45 European
countries have agreed to implement a
Bachelor/Masters degree structure. The concept
of the bi-lingual university is already being
widely discussed in eastern Europe;
you can now do a medical degree in English in
Hungary , for example.
And that’s a trend that is going to continue.”
• The emergence of English as the international
language of higher education has had an
enormous impact, agrees Liping Zhou …
who warns against an excessive focus on English.
The view from central Europe,
Miklós Kontra
• The concept of bilingual universities is NOT
widely discussed (conference last autumn), and
none exist (e.g. for linguistic minorities in
Carpathian basin).
• The medical degree in English in Hungary predates the fall of the iron curtain. Target
population is foreigners, mainly Third World,
now broader, since the quality is good, and
cheaper than in western Europe. Membership of
the EU may change all this.
• Teaching through English (and German) is pure
European Association for International Education,
Occasional paper 17, July 2005. Michael Woolf, President,
Foundation for International Education, London
I gotta use words when I talk to you:
English and international education.
internationalisation does not need to entail learning or operating
in a foreign language, i.e. English alone is enough,
privatisation and the law of the market are desirable, i.e. higher
education should no longer be seen as a common good,
English can be detached from its cultural origins and studied
merely as a tool, i.e. the language is promoted as though it is
culturally neutral and detached from the globalising,
internationalising forces that impel the language forward,
alternative views are based on ‘worn and tired assumptions’ that
contribute to ‘atrophy, irrelevance and stagnation’. Us lot?
Christensen, Nicolette deVille 2005. The role of English language in
international education: an American perspective
• “The citizens of the world have positioned English
language as a common bond not just for Anglo nations,
but for the entire world, so allow English to be the
language in which we can cultivate global literacy.”
• Reciprocity in collaborative ventures involving a US
sending university and a European receiving university
entails “to strive for academic excellence as defined by
the sending institution.”
• Cuckoos are parasitical, their fledglings the sole
survivors in the nests they occupy. But are they
environmentally sustainable?
The role of the university?
the corporate takeover of universities (…) of science
teaching (…) teaching materials appear subtly
designed to influence the ways in which the student
sees the world. Business now stands as a guard dog
at the gates of perception. George Monbiot 2000
Humanities departments – the engine rooms of ideas
and criticism -are close to moribund…
The task of liberal realists is to ensure that western
imperialism is interpreted as crisis management,
rather than the cause of the crisis and its escalation.
By never recognising western state terrorism, their
complicity is assured. John Pilger, 2003
UK economy at risk, warns British Council,
if it doesn’t invest in
international education
• The UK economy benefits by £11 billion p.a.
directly, and a further £12 billion indirectly,
from international education.
• The goal is 8 per cent annual growth across the
sector, and to double the present number of
35,000 research graduates contributing to the
UK’s knowledge economy by 2020.
• 500,000+ attend language learning courses p.a.
Linguistic imperialism
a variant of linguicism
structural: resources, infrastructure
ideological: beliefs, attitudes, imagery
interlocks with culture, education, media
inequality, hierarchy, exploitation
legitimated as normal and ’natural’
serves to consolidate some languages at the
expense of others, i.e. subtractive
• gives speakers of some languages more rights
than others.
Argentine government policy
analysed by (Varela and) Rainer Enrique Hamel
Government policy: English is the language of international
communication which unites a universal community in
brotherhood with no geographic or political frontiers.
English has become the natural lingua franca and has
thus gained distance from its cultural roots.
Hamel: This is a good example of the ideology of “many
Englishes”, of a de-territorialised and neutralised
language that belongs to nobody and therefore to
everybody; as if English were not backed any longer by
the world’s most powerful army and navy. Varela rightly
criticises this inappropriate (and technically wrong) use
of the term lingua franca for English.
The myth of the cultural neutrality of ’global’ English.
Martin Kayman, in Textual practice, 18/1, 2004
• English being disembedded from national
cultures can never mean that it floats culturefree (… or) is culturally neutral. The point may
be simple, but it is often elided; and this elision
constitutes a politics of English as a global
language which precisely conceals the cultural
work which that model of language is in fact
• The advocacy of English as a global language is
comparable to the occupation by Europeans of
other continents that were falsely seen as terra
nullius. Contemporary linguists who proclaim
the neutrality of English treat the language as a
cultural terra nullius.
The myth of the cultural neutrality of ’global’ English.
Martin Kayman 2004
with reference to Seidlhofer (non-native
’English as a Lingua Franca’) & House:
… without a critical analysis of the
cultural, rather than the communicative,
contexts of the material in the corpus,
this model, resting on the apparently
neutral, not to say purportedly natural,
authority of empirical data, will reinforce
the myth of global English’s escape from
the cultural politics of language.
lingua franca :
pernicious, misleading, false
• A pernicious, invidious term if the language in
question is a first language for some people but for
others a foreign language.
• A misleading term if the language is supposed to be
neutral and disconnected from culture.
• A false term for a language that is taught as a
subject in general education.
Historical continuity: term for the language of
1) the Crusaders, Franks (from Arabic)
2) the crusade of global corporatisation, marketed as
freedom, democracy (& human rights?).
Europe is multilingual
English, in fact, is not and will not be the
“language of Europe”.
Etienne Balibar, We, the people of Europe, Reflections on
transnational citizenship,
Princeton University Press, 2004, 177
Translation is the “idiom of Europe”
Steiner, Eco, Balibar, Bauman
Translation as globalisation
Michael Cronin, Routledge, 2003
EU Commission
Promoting language learning
and linguistic diversity: An Action Plan 2004-2006,
24 July 2003
• learning one lingua franca alone is not
• English alone is not enough
• In non-anglophone countries recent
trends to provide teaching in English may
have unforeseen consequences on the
vitality of the national language.
Council of Europe, Guide for the development of
language education policies, 2002
lingua franca
• more for non-native/non-native communication
• new varieties of English are appearing
• not directly associated with a country where it is
spoken by native speakers ... no need …. to teach
about a country where the language is spoken.
English taught as a lingua franca does not have
the function of introducing learners to other
cultures… should be taught as a basic skill from
the beginning of schooling… also as a medium of
instruction … provided education is for
Language rights of Nordic residents
• to learn the language of society as a whole
• comprehension of Scandinavian languages
• languages of international utility, like English,
Spanish, French etc.
• maintaining and developing the mother tongue
goals – comprehension – parallel competence –
multi- and plurilingualism – the Nordic region
as a language model
EU Commission
Promoting language learning
and linguistic diversity: An Action Plan 2004-2006,
24 July 2003
The range of languages for learning:
• the smaller languages as well as the larger ones
• regional, minority and migrant languages as
well as those with ’national’ status, and
• the languages of our major trading partners
throughout the world.
Fluidity in language policy in Europe
• unresolved tension between linguistic nationalism
(monolingualism), EU institutional multilingualism, and
English becoming dominant in the EU
• competing agendas at the European, state (national),
and sub-statal levels
• increasing grassroots and elite bi- and multilingualism,
except in the UK and among the older generation in
demographically large EU countries,
• largely uncritical adoption of englishisation, lingua
• rhetoric of language rights, some national and
supranational implementation, and advocacy of
linguistic diversity.
The right to identify with the mother tongue(s) and
to have this identification accepted and respected
by others (Skutnabb-Kangas, late 1960s-2000)
• Nowhere does human nature appear less
admirable than in the relationships which exist
between peoples.
• I put my trust in the theory of what the
relationships between men and states ought to be
according to the principle of right… a universal
federal state… a permanent universal peace by
means of a so-called European balance of power is
a pure illusion.
• rule of law, rule of international law
Immanuel Kant, Theory and practice, 1792
Paradox : the rhetoric of diversity is pitted
against the unfree market
EU rhetoric proclaims support for
multilingualism, and cultural and linguistic
BUT in practice there is
• laissez faire in the linguistic market (the draft
EU Constitution is weak on language rights)
• political paralysis in language policy analysis
and formation at the supranational level
• formal equality between 20 official languages,
but French was earlier primus inter pares and
English is the current linguistic cuckoo.
Multilingualism = more English
The Union shall respect cultural, religious and
linguistic diversity. (Article 22, The Charter of
Fundamental Rights of the European Union )
Abram de Swaan: The European Union: the more
languages, the more English
Robert Chaudenson: personne là non plus est dupé
des déclarations enflammées de certains en
faveur du plurilinguisme qui n’est qu’un
contre-feu face à la généralisation de l’anglais.
European auto-colonisation
The contemporary dominance of English was
initially due to the way Britain and the USA
promoted the language. But currently it is the
non-English-speaking nations which are
consolidating this state of dependence
(exemplified by English-medium textbooks in
higher education) vis-à-vis the Anglo-American
language, and as a result, their dependence on
the Anglo-Saxon world. Dependence in science,
then culture, then economic, then political! It is
self-imposed servitude and not the result of any
objective fact that cannot be changed.
Charles Durand
German passivity
• It is hard to find another European society in
which so many people are ready and even
eager to give up their national identity (…)
it is the cultural status and the role of
German for expressing human ideals,
insights and aspirations which is at stake (…)
a self-inflicted tragedy. Hans Joachim Meyer
• Present policies signify an end to German as
an international language. Ulrich Ammon
• Gawlitta, Kurt 2004. Der verkaufte Mund.
Paderborn: IBF Verlag.
Promoting linguistic apartheid?
Should everyone speak English?
The Great English divide. In Europe, speaking the
lingua franca separates the haves
from the have-nots.
Business Week (European edition)
13 August 2001
English unites global and European elites and
divides them off from the rest of the population
Building European (linguistic) unity:
lingua frankensteinia
English should be the sole official
language of the European Union.
Director, British Council, Germany, in
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
26 February 2002
Political cheerleaders of global English
One Europe? One language?
Spanish Foreign Secretary, Ana Palacio, El País,
16 December 2002
“The motto ‘One Europe’, solely in English, requires a
reflection. Even though Copenhagen did not face the
question of languages, this is one of the pending
subjects that sooner rather than later must be debated
for the very survival and viability of this project of
Europe with a world vocation. Within it, Spanish, one
of the official UN languages, spoken by more than 400
million people in more than 20 countries, must take on
the place it is entitled to.”
Addressing language policy issues?
• French MEPs: Un sujet qui peut être qualifié
d’explosif en Europe.
• The Convention on the Future of Europe
ignored proposals by several NGOs for
strengthening language policy and reforming
institutional procedures.
• Social scientists analysing European integration
generally neglect language policy - Sue Wright,
2000: ’a conspiracy of silence’ -although issues
of deliberative democracy and trans-European
civil society and public sphere are central.
• Journalistic coverage of language issues tends
to be ill-informed.
Factors accounting for paralysis
in language policy formation (1)
• different cosmologies in national linguistic cultures
• confusions of terminology (e.g. lingua franca,
multilingualism, working language) in discourse
(politics, media, business etc) and in distinct academic
• linguistic human rights a recent development in
international law, do not constrain ’international’
languages, and entail limited L2 rights and duties
• criteria for guiding equitable supranational language
policy are under-explored
• fragile processes for dialogue between scholars, interest
groups, and policy-makers
Factors accounting for paralysis in language
policy formation (2)
• EU institutions are inconsistent in living up to
ideals of multilingual equality (website,
communications with member states)
• overall responsibility for language policy in the
EU is fragmented (Council of Ministers, DGs
for Education & Culture, Translation, …), and
ultimately (inter-) governmental
• alternatives to market forces (the comparative
advantage of English in the European linguistic
market) and linguistic nationalism (e.g.
Esperanto) are unexplored
• power politics, linguistic nationalism, economics
Political ethics
… in the field of linguistic rights, like
in other fields of human rights, there
is no right but only … politics.
Yves Marek, counsellor to
Jacques Toubon, Minister of Culture and
Francophonie, and later of Justice, 1996
The role of the intellectual,
Edward Said, 1994
… to raise embarrassing questions, to confront
orthodoxy and dogma (rather than to produce
them), to be someone who cannot easily be coopted by governments or corporations...
someone whose whole being is staked on a
critical sense, a sense of being unwilling to
accept easy formulas, or ready-made clichés, or
the smooth, ever-so-accommodating
confirmations of what the powerful or
conventional have to say, and what they do.
Misuse of ideologies of cultural difference
• Few things have done more harm than the belief
on the part of individuals and groups (or tribes or
states or nations or churches) that he or she or
they are in sole possession of the truth… It is a
terrible and dangerous arrogance to believe that
you alone are right.
• …’through an ocean of blood to the Kingdom of
Love’ (Robespierre, Hitler, Stalin, religious wars)
Isaiah Berlin, Liberty, (1981) 2002
The invading cuckoo: domain loss
• Domains: commerce (corporate language), research publication
(monolingualism), higher education (medium of instruction),
media (Hollywood McDonaldisation), EU affairs, …
• pilot studies of the Nordic languages: Höglin, R. (2002) Engelska
språket som hot och tillgång i Norden. Copenhagen: Nordiska
• Domain loss: a seemingly innocuous term, deceptive, like
‘language spread’, implying a natural, agent-less process.
• (Linguistic) capital accumulation by dispossession, (Harvey, The
new imperialism, 2005, chapter 4). As in the commercial world in
its global pursuit of markets and profit, some combination of
internal motivation and external pressure contributes to this
• The extent of domain loss/dispossession is unknown.
Neglected EU language policy needs
• zero think tanks
• ambivalence about an Academy
• little activity in international language policy at
the national level
• no effort to clarify language rights of L2 users
• Action Plan accountability minimal (eurocrats ?)
• Esperanto idealism but zero funding for research
on Esperanto in education and/or on the potential
of Esperanto as a bridge language
• zero funding for language policy formation of an
analytical or visionary kind
45 recommendations
• national and supranational language policy
EU institutions
language teaching and learning
Robert Phillipson, English-only Europe?
Challenging language policy Routledge, 2003
English neither a pernicious, misleading, false
lingua franca,
nor an Anglo-American Frankenstein
English in a multilingual world: living
with cuckoos without being cuckolded

Linguistic imperialism