Psychological reality of teaching Lingua Franca Core


Michał Remiszewski (Vienna)



The rapidly changing status of English, functioning worldwide primarily as a lingua franca, has motivated a number of researchers to propose a new model of the language for learners of English as an international language (henceforth EIL). In the area of phonology, Jennifer Jenkins proposed the so-called Lingua Franca Core (henceforth LFC) – a set of element of English phonology necessary to ensure mutual intelligibility in the EIL context. Features present in the native model of English, which remain outside the LFC, are not recommended as elements of instruction because they are regarded as unteachable and useless from the point of view of communicative needs of the learner of EIL. In this way the role of the native speaker and their pronunciation norms is eradicated from the model.


Paradoxically, although proponents of LFC to a large extent justify their standpoint on psychological grounds, it is the psychological aspect of the model which is one of its major weaknesses. It will be argued that the argumentation in favor of LFC is deficient at at least three levels of its psychological reality.


At the first level, the issue of the “market demand” for the model will be discussed. Although the advocates of the LFC speak of the urgent need for changing the existing model of English as a foreign language, little if any relevant supporting data follow these claims. As a result, while LFC proposes far-reaching concrete measures to be employed in concrete educational contexts, there is hardly any reference made to “market data” which would show whether learners of EIL really need the new “product.”

As for the second level of the psychological reality of LFC, affective mechanisms present during the actual learning process will be reviewed. It will be argued that in an attempt to provide a psychological justification for the model, advocates of the LFC have selected an extremely narrow type of the learner, leaving aside the vast diversity of motivations varying according to the learner’s age and cultural background.


At the third level the discussion will concern possible socio-psychological side effects, should the new model find a wide implementation. One of the main problems in this department comes from the fact that by focusing on efficiency of communication as the only function of EIL, supporters of LFC dismiss socio-psychological aspects inherent in most types of language use, also in the EIL context. This point is closely connected with the feasibility of introducing LFC as a means to deliver learners of EIL from the feeling of anxiety. According to the supporters of LFC, the model promises to alleviate the stress and the sense of inferiority generated in the learner of EIL by the feeling of failure in meeting native-like standards of English pronunciation. It is claimed that while LFC may help fight this sort of anxiety, it will cause the problem of stress to pop up elsewhere, and to more detriment to the learners. Consequently, in the long run, the measure is likely to prove counterproductive.