International Symposium on Pluricentric languages and foreign language teaching, 30.09.-01.10.2020, University of Bremen

September 30, 2020 - October 1, 20209:00 am - 4:30 pm

The aim of this symposium is to map out the pedagogical implications of the global spread and diversity of pluricentric languages, to exchange existing approaches to the teaching of such languages, and to discuss innovative approaches that take account of their linguistic diversity and variability. The following central questions will be addressed:

  • How can future foreign language teachers be prepared for the pedagogical implications of the variability of pluricentric languages?
  • How can the diversity of pluricentric languages be adequately addressed in language teaching with a view to existing curricula?

In the course of decolonisation in the 20th century, and as a result of globalisation and technologisation in the 21st century, English has established itself as the global lingua franca, and is experiencing both an increasing worldwide diversification and the emergence of supra-regional standards of use beyond standard British and American English. This poses some important questions and challenges for English language education and its goals in the 21st century, but also for the training of English teachers. Global Englishes Language Teaching (GELT, Rose & Galloway 2019) and the closely related approach English as an International Language (EIL, Matsuda 2017) are the most visible manifestations of a current trend towards a paradigm shift that questions some of the long-standing principles of foreign language teaching, such as the adherence to idealised standard British or American English and the associated cultural conventions as the only target varieties in the teaching of English.

Similar issues have been discussed in and for other pluricentric languages, for example Spanish (Leitzke-Ungerer & Claudia Polzin-Haumann 2017), French (Frings & Schöpp 2011), Portuguese (Koch & Reimann 2019) and German as a Foreign Language (Hägi 2006, 2007). Like GELT/EIL, these more recent discussions address the implications of the global dissemination and use of pluricentric languages for teaching, with the aim of integrating various key elements into the existing curricula. Most importantly, these are the integration of linguistic diversity and variation (e.g. in curricula, textbooks and through sufficient input in teaching), the consideration of multilingualism and the raising and promotion of multi-cultural and intercultural awareness.

However, in the course of these renewal processes, some of which have already been initiated, a number of barriers must also be overcome. These include above all 1) the predominantly normative orientation towards (monolingual) mother-tongue reference varieties in foreign language teaching, 2) the respective educational standards and educational plans, which often provide only inaccurate information on aspects of linguistic variation, 3) the lack of suitable teaching and learning materials, 4) a lack of knowledge of the extent of linguistic variation among in-service teachers, and 5) a lack of empirical research on the impact of curricular innovation in teacher training (Rose & Galloway 2019).