English is a Lingua Franca: Business English and its Implications for Language Testing in an Age of Mobility

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It is frequently contended that a) most interactions in English now take place without native speakers being present, and b) a lingua franca perspective involves focusing on these non-native uses of English. However, the deeper implications of this perspective are frequently neglected. In this presentation I will argue that the lingua franca perspective destabilises a number of largely unquestioned assumptions and boundaries – including, ironically, those between ‘lingua franca’ and ‘non-lingua franca’ communication. English is not merely used as a lingua franca, it is a lingua franca for all of its users. I illustrate this claim by using data from a corpus of online newspaper comments on the subject of lingua franca communication in the business world. The data invites us to consider, among other things, that communication between ‘same-language’ or ‘native’ speakers can be as problematic as between ‘non-native’ speakers, that some of the most important factors affecting workplace communication have little to do with ‘language’ per se, and that communicating across linguistic and cultural boundaries may be one of the most crucial and yet neglected skills. I conclude by considering some current practices in the testing of spoken language, referring to another type of ‘comment’ in the form of examiner commentaries on candidates’ performance in international English tests.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018
Event40th Language Testing Research Colloquium - The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 2 Jul 20183 Jul 2018


Conference40th Language Testing Research Colloquium
Abbreviated titleLTRC 2018
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
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