Language Education Policy Studies
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English as a global Lingua Franca (ELF)

All roads led to Rome, but Latin died along the way (old saying). Perhaps English could become like Latin and only written for academia. Spanish or Chinese could overtake English. The current economic globalization ties languages to the global political economy and creates a language hierarchy. It still positions the west hegemonically as a global communication metanarrative that policymakers treat as a “lingua nullius” or a language that belongs to no one and therefore culturally neutral-(this is the) genocidal logic of “terra nullius”- (Phillipson, 2012, in press). English is for the privileged, but not culturally neutral.


Many assumptions about language go unchallenged. English is currently upheld or believed to be the global lingua franca, yet the history of the spread of English shows its ties to corporate and political interests of Great Britain and the United States. (See Linguistic Imperialism). English (like Education) is often a big business as the “language of neoliberal market/new imperialism” (Harvey 2005 in Phillipson 2009).


Then global English language learning is tied to schooling and language in education policies. Despite the possibility that most of the world does not speak English, English is called a ‘basic skill’ and linked to educational rankings. For the elites it is becoming the medium of instruction at an ever earlier age rather than only a school subject (Phillipson, 2012, in press), and it is increasingly used as a medium of instruction and in higher education. (See Language Education Policy, Linguistic Hegemony in Schools, and Higher Education).


English is often appropriated by local variations into World Englishes. The different language domains cause code mixing and appropriation or choice. Here is where English becomes ‘glocalized’ and the local variations may come into play (See Language Variations, Language Status). A flexible language in education policy could be successful. In fact, scholars across many disciplines, however, have shown how multilingual schooling can teach a lingua franca while maintaining cultural and linguistic diversity (Skutnabb-Kangas et al 2009), and teachers can mediate policies in the absence of systemic change. (See Variations.)


Yet even “English is destined to die, as any other language, over time, because communication is an ever-changing phenomenon” (Tochon, 2009). See English Language Teaching



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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. (2013). English as Lingua Franca. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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