Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Citizens, Denizens, Commuters and Tourists

What's the difference between the above-mentioned groups of people? Think about London on a busy day: Let's say somewhere just off Leicester Square or something. A native Londoner might scoot through confidently, knowing his or her own way, more or less on autopilot. A denizen might behave in a similar way, or avoid certain roads, streets, alleys, and paths; A Commuter will confidently negotiate their way to work, but put them just one street along and suddenly they're lost. A Tourist, however, wanders around, gawping, taking photos, and paying attention to the things that are pointed out to them.
OK, let's talk about World Englishes.
It's now very late in the evening, and I may come back to edit this post or write it bigger and better later, so I'm going to keep this brief. As starters, I'll point you to this short but decent overview of World Englishes on Wikipedia. The one particular model of the different types of world English I'll point out is Kachru's Model of Circles of English. Basically, he says you have an 'Inner circle' of English - that is, the 'original model', followed by the second and third circles. Can you see the problem with this? Yes, totally elitist, isn't it? It raises the uncomfortable assumption that the 'Inner Circle' is the 'purest', 'best' form of English.
Unfortunately, other models of World Englishes that have been proposed don't particularly help matters - they still tend to imply that British or American English are somehow the best, most proper types of the language. Certainly, language learners can feel extremely anxious about their language knowledge when interacting with someone they consider to have a 'better' kind of English than they do, even if they have passed exam after exam in the language.
So, here's my model of World Englishes, or indeed, any language: The Language City Model
The key point of a Language City is that there are four basic ways that people interact with it. They are:
  • Language Citizens
  • Language Denizens
  • Language Commuters
  • Language Tourists
Let me explain in brief (possibly to be expanded in a later edit), using English in this context:
Citizens are people for whom English is either their L1 or one they use commonly and, importantly, comfortably. An Indian who uses Indian English is a Citizen, because they use this form of English with ease and communicate effectively. However, the Citizens of English do not always necessarily understand each other - just as a person who lives in one part of a city may be entirely comfortable in his or her local area, but somewhat uncomfortable in a street on theother side of town. They're still citizens of the same place, but they don't always recognise all the features of the place they live in.
Let me skip over Denizens for a moment.
Commuters are people who use English for professional purposes - they 'enter' the city, and work within it, but withdraw from it once the task they are employed  in has been completed. A typical Commuter could be a student working towards a Cambridge exam, or someone who needs to use academic English, What is comsidered to be a typical EFL student could be seen as a commuter.
Tourists are those people who have only a passing interest in or need of English. A schoolchild might be a tourist, especially if they're learning Englsih in a large class with poor resources. It could be someone who decides to study English for a term or two at a language school, but doesn't pursue it further. It could be the seller of tourist souvenirs who needs only a few phrases.
Denizens are the most interesting group. These are the people who, for one reason or another, have to use English because they are required to function within it. This could be immigrants living in the UK, for example, or a student who has to study in English ( notice that a commuter can become a denizen - there is some degree of flexibility in these descriptions). Whatever, these language users have some kind of compunction - they are not citizens of the Language City, even though they might have been using it for a long, long, time: They are still an outsider in many ways.
I'm going to write more about this later, but I hope I've got my main idea across. It's far too late to write down everything yet.

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