English in the World Today

The most epoch-making development in the field of language in the last 50 years was the rapid rise of English as a de facto ‘world language’, spoken all over the world by more non-native than native speakers. China (including Hong Kong) alone can now boast more speakers of English than the U.S. itself. The world in the 21st century will need to come to terms with these new realities—where English belongs to the entire world rather than to just a few countries, and where many ‘new varieties’ of English are emerging alongside the old varieties.


The course aims to help students acquire a timely new perspective on the English language as it evolves and adapts itself to communities all over the world where it is widely spoken (such as Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China), in what Edgar Schneider calls ‘a sequence of identity rewritings and associated linguistic changes’. The dynamic expansion and evolution of English raises linguistic as well as social, political, cultural and educational issues which a world citizen will need to grapple with today, issues which bridge linguistic and cultural studies, identity theories, language pedagogy, as well as communication and media studies. One practical benefit of the course is that students will develop into more sophisticated and versatile users of the English language, be better able to understand different varieties of English as spoken by people around the world and be more sensitive to the cultural backgrounds and assumptions of different speakers.


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