English as a Lingua Franca in the academic world: Trends and dilemmas


Abstract – The recent phenomenon of globalisation has strongly favoured English, which has become the preferred medium for international com­munication in many contexts. This spread of English as a lingua franca has had relevant implications in the field of English used for specific purposes (ESP), where the need for a common language is particularly felt for the development of specialised communication at a global level. This paper investigates the present globalising trends in a specific field of ESP, i.e. in the academic world, focusing in particular on their main implications for language research and education, highlighting both its recent trends but also the main dilemmas that this great development has aroused. The first part of the paper explores the globalising effects of the use of English as a lingua franca in the world of academia and the complex nature of its linguistic realisations, underscoring both homogenising and localising trends. Indeed, in spite of the homogenising trends deriving from the process of globalisation, academic discourse is not at all uniform but varies according to a host of factors, such as language competence, disciplinary field, community membership, professional expertise and generic conventions, as well as some factors which clearly reflect aspects of the local tradition and culture. The second part of the paper is devoted to the analysis of another phenomenon which is quite topical in the academic context at a global level, i.e. the use of English as a medium of instruction in higher education in many non-English-speaking countries. The implementation of these ‘international’ courses has opened up new opportunities for learning the English discourses relating to the specialised disciplines taught, but has also aroused dilemmas connected with language proficiency and the level of content competence acquired.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v24p47

Keywords: English as a lingua franca; Academic discourse; Globalisation; English as a medium of instruction; English for research purposes


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