Some of you might think that the title of this article is erroneous. Perhaps, you would say that English has no plural form. I understand if some people would think that way because not all Filipinos are cognizant of the concept of World Englishes (WE). Even in the English Language Teaching (ELT) field in the Philippines, many teachers are still incognizant of this paradigm. Now, the question is what are the differences between English and Englishes? Many of you would say that English is the language of America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Additionally, you might say that English is in the singular form, whereas Englishes is in plural form grammatically speaking. You might be right if you think that the former is singular while the latter is plural. Indeed, the term English, from a traditional perspective, is monolithic. This monolithic view of language only recognizes native English speaking countries – e.g., USA and UK, as the owner of the English language. On the other hand, Englishes, in a progressive view, is more pluralistic in perspective that recognizes the varieties of English being spoken all over the world in the post-colonial era.
Braj Kachru, a famous linguist and the former President of the American Association of Applied Linguistics (1984), spread and defined the field of World Englishes. Moreover, he introduced Kachru’s Concentric Circles of English– i.e, inner circle, outer circle, and expanding circle. The inner-circle comprises the native English speaking countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. On the other hand, the outer circle is composed of former colonies of America and Great Britain that adopted English as their Second Language (ESL) such as The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Lastly, the expanding circle consists of countries that use English as a Foreign Language (EFL) like Japan, Korea, China, Russia, Germany, France, and other nations that do not use English in everyday life.
In the modern era, there are still many people that subscribe to the notion that American and British English should be the standard in ELT, and they believe that the countries belonging to the inner circle owns English. However, many scholars and linguists such as Kachru, Cystal, and Smith argue that English no longer belongs to the inner circle. They believe that English belongs to every person and every country that uses it. Indeed, according to them, there are more ESL and EFL speakers than native English speakers. This goes to show that the monolithic view of English is no longer relevant in today’s world.
Nevertheless, countries in expanding circles like Korea still prefer hiring native English speakers even though they don’t have a license and qualifications to teach. In the Philippines, this issue is not a problem. However, there are still many teachers, the traditional ones, who believe that we should follow the American Standard in teaching English. There’s nothing wrong with that. I understand if they think that way. Probably, they haven’t encountered this concept yet. To be all honest, I only discovered this concept when I took my master’s degree. Nonetheless, as a teacher, we must update ourselves about the innovations in ELT. Hence, I wrote this article to educate not just language teachers, but also the people in general, so that they will have an idea about World Englishes. In this regard, they will embrace and celebrate the diversity of the English language.
Persieus Balog is an instructor at the Far Eastern University. He finished his MA in Language Studies (cum laude) at the University of Santo Tomas.