Language Identity and Culture through English as a Lingua Franca in Asia : Notes from the Field.

| January 7, 2014

Special Edition, September 2009,
Language, Culture and Identity in Asia.

| September 2009 home | PDF version |

Language, Culture and Identity through English as a Lingua Franca in Asia: Notes from the Field

Will Baker
University of Southampton, UK

He currently teaches Applied Linguistics/ELT at the University of Southampton. He completed a PhD in Applied Linguistics at Southampton on the subject of intercultural awareness and intercultural communication through English in Asia. Before coming to Southampton in 2005, he taught at Silpakorn University in Thailand. He has worked as an English language teacher for over 10 years in both the UK and Thailand. His research interests include: intercultural awareness, intercultural communication, English as a Lingua Franca, English language teaching, and second language learning.


This article will discuss what the concepts of language, culture and identity mean in relation to English used as a lingua franca (ELF) in Asia. It will be argued that English functions as a language of communication in Asia that should be viewed as separate from the traditional ‘native speaker’ norms. To support this, the discussion will draw on data from an ethnographic study of seven users of English in Thailand. The data suggests that English in this context is used to articulate and enact cultures and identities which are fluid, liminal and emerge in situ. This challenges existing categorisations of languages, cultures and identities; in particular, the supposedly inexorable links between a target language and target culture. Furthermore, such dynamic and emergent notions of cultures, languages and identities expressed through English have important implications for the teaching of English in Asia and other lingua franca contexts.

Key words: English as a lingua franca, culture, language, identity, Asia, English language teaching

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Category: 2009