Whose English is right ?


We may, in due course, all need to be in control of two standard Englishes—the one which gives us our national and local identity, and the other which puts us in touch with the rest of the human race. In effect, we may all need to become bilingual in our own language. — David Crystal, The English Language, 1988


Bold statement…?


Merci Mercedes Viola for the photo ! (IATEFL 2011)


Dr. Crystal’s prediction is now over 20 years old.

Does it ring more true/false today ?

To be fair, I think it is a prediction that is still evolving, whereas this one…



… um… yea… :)



Two interesting quantitative things to keep in mind :


1) David Graddol produced a report for the British Council demonstrating that 75% of exchanges in English take place between non-natives.

2) Most figures you’ll find show around 350 million native speakers and close to 2 billion non-native speakers.  A 1 to 5 ratio that many would say is growing further apart every day.


One qualitative thing to keep in mind:


1000s of diverse accents from all around the world

(click on the globe to hear them thanks to George Mason University)



Whose english is right ?



No one’s, however, the person who can successfully understand and communicate with diverse populations is probably the best example to follow or to teach.



Here’s that shocking moment in my blog where I… yes… I share another etymology ;-)


comes from the Latin verb, commūnicāre, itself arising from the adjective, communis which means “common, shared”… and communis comes from com- (“with”) and munus or “exchange”.  From the latin root munus we’ve inherited renumeration (munus again = reward) and immunity (no exchange).


Another word that commes from communis is communism, the political philosophy that all of society’s goods should be common/shared.  In the end we have no choice but to share language and the quote that will follow demonstrates that more perfectly than I’ve ever seen before.

The word in language is half someone else’s. It becomes “one’s own” only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention… Expropriating it, forcing it to submit to one’s own intentions and accents, is a difficult and complicated process.” (Bakhtin, 1981, pp. 293-294)

Thanks to Willy Cardoso 4 introducing it to me here !


So what’s the takeaway ?

For learners and native speakers of english alike, English can become yours and you can have your own or multiple versions of it, just as David Crystal said 20 years ago.   To communicate effectively, it helps to be flexible while enjoying the beautiful diversity of all that’s out there.


For teachers of English, a question:  Are you preparing your students for international communication (assuming that is their need) ?  To what extent is the English they’re learning every day diverse, and how could you better serve them to this end ?


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  • Marianne


    Great! It is really motivating for students, specially the adult learners! Congrats!!!
    Marianne,  from http://www.englishatwork.com.br

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Thanks Marianne.  Glad you enjoyed it

  • Sirja

    Hi Brad,
    I find the difference in numbers between native and non-native speakers amusing and amazing. I always give these facts to my students, and it definitely makes me as a teacher feel more comfortable (I’m a non-native speaker myself)
    Your final questions are thought-provoking…maybe even too much so (I mean I thought I’ll have a nice forget-it-all-about-work Friday evening and here I am trying hard to answer these questions ;-)

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Hi Sirja,

    Thanks for stopping by and it was a pleasure to read your comment. I hope the thinking is fruitful for you, and that you can also forget it soon and enjoy the weekend ! ;-) Cheers, Brad

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Hi Sirja,

    Thanks for stopping by and it was a pleasure to read your comment. I hope the thinking is fruitful for you, and that you can also forget it soon and enjoy the weekend ! ;-) Cheers, Brad

  • Anonymous

    Love the accent map!

  • http://twitter.com/seburnt Tyson Seburn

    Wow, I love the comparison of accents on the atlas site!  I have to admit that when I listened to some of them, I wondered whether they’d chosen people to read it who were fluent in English or intermediate readers.

    In the end, you’re absolutely right in suggesting that no English is 100% right or wrong.  It is the ability to communicate effectively given a certain context that is key.  Where that line between being able to get your message across and doing it appropriately given a certain context is what we as teachers need to also keep in mind.

    PS – I’ve always used the word, “remuneration” not “renumeration”, which according to its root, makes more sense.

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    I was often surprised while browsing the accents.  For example, of the french accents, only one is the typical french accent.  The others have an irish ring (guy lived in Ireland for a year) and even a hebrew/yiddish ring (worth listening to: http://accent.gmu.edu/browse_language.php?function=detail&speakerid=404 ).   

    I’m not sure how they picked folks, so I just wrote an email to the professor running the archive.  We’ll see ;-) Getting your message across appropriately is an interesting point as there’s a language component, but also a very strong cultural component.  International English” or “Globish” authors have even encouraged speakers to avoid humor, clichés and colloquial expressions when in international contexts.PS yes, that does make sense… ;-)

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    me too ;-)

  • http://help4ielts.com/ Help 4 IELTS

    Here’s another voice map. It’s from the British Library’s Evolving English: One language, many voices collection … loads of people reading from Mr. Tickle (1 of the voices is mine). http://www.bl.uk/evolvingenglish/mapabout.html

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Love the name.  Checked it out and equally impressed.  Thanks 4 the share !

  • http://twitter.com/DavidWarr Language Garden

    Love the accent map too! Thanks for putting that up for us.

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Glad u like it, dude ! 

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