An impressive primer to a complicated subject

Image of World Englishes: Implications for International Communication and English Language Teaching (Applied Linguistics Non Series)
Author: Andy Kirkpatrick
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (2007)
Binding: Paperback, 267 pages

Do the English in England speak the same English as the Americans, the Jamacians, the South Africans, the Australians, the Irish, and the Indians? Should they? What does it mean if a majority of English speakers are actually English as a second language speakers? Can we actually assert that one version of English is more correct, formal, or proper than other forms?

Linguist Andy Kirkpatrick raises these and many other provocative questions in his exceptionally documented book "World Englishes: Implications for International Communication and English Language Teaching" published by Cambridge. The enclosed audio CD might be the best, brief introduction to the subject as you hear a wide diversity of voices and accents tell stories and read poems in .... English? Or is it Englishes? As a native of the United States, I had little problem with the women from Charlotte, North Carolina describe her childhood picking cotton or Downeast Maine woman who switches accents and vocabulary depending on her audience. Yet I struggled - and struggled is the right word - to comprehend Africans, Caribbeans Islanders, and Irish on this CD. If the goal is international communication, than many folks on the CD fail to communicate with English as an International language standard.
Yet Kirkpatrick argues that English is spoken in particular contexts to specific audiences. What is proper, Kirkpatrick, argues depends more on circumstances and purposes than absolute standards. As a result, he is far less comfortable than most ESL or English language teachers in asserting the "correctness" of pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling, and even grammatical functions.

This provocative book makes a powerful case for a politically correct, and increasingly influential, perspective. English language teachers, immigration activists, linguistics, and standardized test creators will find the 257-page book fascinating. This critically acclaimed book also deserves to be read by language policy experts.
Was I persuaded that World Englishes is a healthier concept than International English? No, not really. But I'm very glad that I had the chance to read this scholarly work.


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