Sunday, November 12, 2017

Engish as a World Language

Raquel Cunha
(Blog Post written as a final assignment for the course Writing for Teachers)

Because of globalization, the English language has become part of our everyday lives (we see it in labels, TV commercials, jobs, studies, internet, outdoors etc.). English has no longer been defined by the number of people who speak it, but how powerful and influential it is in the world. This is due, mostly, to the power that the countries that speak it have, not only economically and academically, but also in the entertainment business and culture. Now, some questions that we may ask ourselves are: “Who does the English language belong to?”  “Is there a right way to pronounce it?”, “Does every country have their own English?”, “How does Brazil fall in the world of English?”
Before we go any further, it is important to know what process took place in order for the language to become what it is today. Taking into consideration that a language is a living thing, which is born, grows, evolves and may even die, we should also understand that it influences a person’s personality, and a culture may also influence its language.

The English language came to be around the V century, developed by the Anglo –Saxons. Along its history, it incorporated elements from other languages, including Latin. Though it is a very influential language today, it wasn’t always so. For a very long time, English was restricted only to the British territory and French was the lingua franca used for trade and diplomatic deals. However, with the expansion of the British territory, English was imposed on people who lived in their colonies (HOWATT, 2004).
Today, English is considered a world language or a lingua franca, which means that it is the language of common communication between different nations. It is the language that is used on the Internet, in movies, in music, on businesses, for diplomacy, for international politics, and it is the key to a successful trade.  It has become that most taught language outside its country of origin.

Although you may say that the English language belongs to the countries that have it as their mother tongue, this statement is not entirely true. It can also be seen as a successful resource for speakers of other languages to communicate with each other. So, the English language today belongs to the world. Gimenez (2006) states that it is necessary to make a disconnection between English and specific countries because speaking and being like a native is not something necessary. There are a variety of Englishnes in the world.

The influence that the language has in some countries is so great that a study conducted by EF EPI in 2016 has shown that their people have ranked very highly in fluency. However, they have added their own accent, which can be recognized easily. Thus, it is important to remember that there is not a right accent of English. Many are accepted and people should not be embarrassed or afraid of it.

We, Brazilians, can also see the influence of the mother language in our intonation when speaking English. It influences rhythmically, musically, and also in the jokes and cultural aspects. It is something that we, Brazilians, should not worry about and, instead, we should embrace it as our trademark and a positive influence upon a language.

However, a study conducted by EF EPI shows that Brazil still ranks way behind in the fluency of English. Out of 72 countries, we rank number 40 in fluency, falling behind Argentina, which ranks number 20 (the best in all Latin America). This means that we are still not very influential and this also may restrict our economic and business relations with the rest of the world.

This low rank may be due to many factors, one of them being the precarious public school system. A high level of functional illiteracy in the country may also limit the learning of a new language. The study also showed that women in Brazil are slightly ahead of men when it comes to dedication and fluency. On the other hand, the same research showed that Brazil has started to make small and recent changes to improve this situation.

Now, here are some questions that we can reflect upon on the subject, “World English”: What are some of the patterns that you have noticed in the spoken English of the Brazilian speaker? Have you noticed the influence in any other nation’s accents (that does not have English as their official language) in entertainment, in culture or even in business? How important is it for a nation to be fluent in the international language in order to grow economically?


EF Education First: June 21, 2017.
Howatt, Anthony Philip Reid, and Henry George Widdowso (2004). A history of ELT. Oxford University Press.
Gimenes, Telma (2006). English in a New World Language Order. Londrina UEL

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Why we should teach the five-paragraph essay

Maurício Peixoto
(Essay written for the course Writing for Teachers)

In the course Writing for Teachers, students asked to work on writing for exams. To make this a type of meta-assignment, they were given references in favor and against the five-paragraph essay and had to to write a five-paragraph essay expressing their point of view on the topic.  Here is Maurício Peixoto's essay, which he chose as his best piece for the course. 

Why does the five-paragraph essay cause so much discussion among some teachers? In fact, it is used in most standardized exams such as the TOEFL and the CPE, so students must be well prepared to take them. On the other hand, there are educators who think that this kind of essay is not effective. The point is that teachers are supposed to prepare students to succeed in writing every sort of genres, the five-paragraph essay included.

Students have to be able to take proficiency tests properly. They also need to learn how to write a 5-PE because it is a well-organized way to structure their ideas. In addition, they follow a pattern of writing without spoiling their creativity, once students are allowed and encouraged to expose their ideas about a topic. Writing this kind of essay enables students to learn the conventions of writing, which will lead them to get ready for producing other genres as well.

In contrast, students are exposed to situations that require a different approach. They will probably be asked to write a report at work or a letter of complaint to some company, for example, and a 5-PE will not be effective. Focusing on the format and structure of a 5-PE, the students might not be able to write different genres and they may have their creativity blocked. Having that in mind, teachers need to have genre awareness and provide students with it too.

It is clear that learning how to organize and structure the ideas is fundamental; however, it is also important to be able to deal with the several writing demands. Teachers should continue teaching how to write a 5-PE so students can be able to take standardized exams and succeed in them. They also have to learn how to write different genres. There is no reason to exclude the 5-PE, nor teaching this genre only. It is a matter of balance. 

In conclusion, there are arguments in favor and against teaching the 5-PE. Students must be genre aware and the five-paragraph essay is one of them. It is also a good starting point to learn the other ones. The discussion about whether to teach it or not leads to nowhere. It has to be taught due to its importance on international exams, and also because it confines students’ ideas and focuses them on the structure of writing. On the other hand, other genres have to be present in writing courses so students can succeed in all real-life situations they face.