This post is inspired by the Telegraph’s article which, based on linguists’ predictions, prepares the readers for the extinction of the ‘th’ sound from English by 2066. Such predictions very often attract people’s attention irrespective of their interest in or familiarity with the field of linguistics. And while reading about something that may or may not happen in the future is intriguing, it is at the same time a safe topic exactly because it refers to the future, and people, especially linguists and educators, are not confronted with the need to decipher what it may mean for their current decision-making in terms of using, teaching and researching language.
Language change, however, happens every day, especially nowadays when English is mostly used by and among people for whom it is not the first language. English is thus used as an international language, or a Lingua Franca. In short, English is now used as a means to communicate effectively and not as a means to demonstrate knowledge of and adherence to the norms of Standard English. In Seidlhofer’s words, English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) refers to ‘‘any use of English among speakers of different first languages for whom English is the communicative medium of choice, and often the only option’’ (Seidlhofer, 2011, p.7).
Since English is now used for different reasons, by different people, of different backgrounds it only makes sense that the teaching practice of English teachers and the design of teaching materials around the world have to be reconsidered. Not only that, attention also needs to be drawn to what should and should not be considered as a mistake when assessing students’ English. To this end, ELF researchers propose certain changes which unlike the article’s prediction are very relevant to current teaching practices and require educators and linguists to promptly take a stand.
ELF researchers suggest that educators should focus on enhancing the students’ communication and should therefore use activities and materials which focus on promoting the learners’ intelligibility. Teachers are thus encouraged not to correct English learners when they drop the third person (-s) in the present tense, when they struggle between who and which, he and she, or when they agonize over definite and indefinite articles, to name a few (Seidlholfer, 2004). ELF is still emerging but it has already ignited a heated debate around teaching and research practices. In lieu of codifying ELF, researchers have created the corpus VOICE (Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English) which accrues examples of spoken English used by learners in various sites with the sole aim to communicate with one another. Educators and linguists are thus left to decide whether or not to follow these proposed changes. Is this the direction towards which English learning is headed, or is ELF just another trend?
 Knapton, S. (29 September 2016). ‘Th’ sound to vanish from English language by 2066 because of multiculturalism, say linguists. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/09/28/th-sound-to-vanish-from-english-language-by-2066-because-of-mult/
 Seidlhofer, B. (2011). Understanding English as a lingua franca. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 Seidlhofer, B. (2004). Research perspectives on teaching English as a lingua franca. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24, 209-239.