Crossing Borders and building Bridges with Global English

The presidential keynote address by Dr. Yilin Sun at the TESOL convention held at Metro Convention Center,Toronto, Canada from 25 March to 27 March 2015 was a clarion call to the English language professionals of the world to work with a missionary zeal to promote and propagate English language for peace, prosperity and harmony in our changing global society. It is the English language that enables us to cross the geographical, political, social, ethnic and linguistic borders and paves the foundation of everlasting cultural, social, emotional and linguistic bridges that unite us as the equal partners of a global society.
Based on her cross-cultural teaching, learning, and research experience in China, Canada, and the United States, Dr. Sun shared her journey as a TESOLer and discussed the roles and responsibilities of TESOL professionals in our changing global society.
Listening to her keynote address strengthened my conviction that English is not merely a language, it is a way of looking at things from a global perspective, it is an indicator of our global identity. Ignoring English means ignoring the globalized horizons, depriving our children of the resources of this language is nothing but depriving them of the benefits of their right as digital natives. The prophetic vision and the emphatic assertion of Tagore, the Nobel laureate flashed before my mind’s eye when I was listening to Dr. Sun talking about building bridges. In the poem “The Indian Pilgrimage” (Bharat Tirtha) Tagore said, “ All shall give and take, mingle and be mingled in, none shall depart dejected.” (Dibe ar nibe, milabe, milibe, jabena phire). The philosophy of ‘give and take’, ‘mingle and be mingled’ can be translated into action globally if we teach English as a global language, a language that represents the hopes and aspirations of the digital natives of the 21st century.
A few days prior to the TESOL 2015 convention at Toronto, I had the privilege of listening to Rod Bolitho at the Teacher Educator Conference organized by the British Council and EFL University at Hyderabad, India from 27 February to 1 March 2015. In an interview during the Conference (available on U Tube ), Rod Bolitho pointed out the importance of teaching English for international communication. He maintained that English learners of the 21st century are digital natives and they look beyond the confines of their own towns or cities. Therefore, there should be a paradigm shift in our approach to ELT in a global context. English should not be taught as a mere school subject.
If we are to build bridges, we have to teach English for international communication. We have to remember that the 21st century learners have access to a great deal of language beyond the classroom, and English teachers and the English textbooks are no longer the sole sources for learning English.
As English learners can get enough ‘comprehensible input’ from the digital environment, the traditional notion of English teachers as the providers of English language inputs has become obsolete in the digital world. Are English teachers ready for a facilitative role in the changing ELT world?
PS. Crossing borders and building bridges with the help of English as a global language should not be at the cost of our individual, social, cultural and national identities. Our collective identity as global citizens is not incompatible with our distinct identities. When I think of the global English, I think of the color and beauty of the mosaic. The digital world is not a melting pot, it is a world that respects and preserves diversity. How can English connect us if we don’t preserve our distinct identities and diversities? The global English is indeed the symbol of our global unity in diversity

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