A recent study at the University of Stockholm concludes that having English as the universal language of education creates an environment in which speaking and being understood are more important than speaking properly.

Increasing numbers of colleges have adopted English as the teaching language, and most universities in Europe use English as their "lingua franca," which was the 17th Century term for the French language. In that era, people attempted to adopt French as the international diplomatic, trade and intellectual language. English has long since replaced the "franca," although the archaic Gallic reference remains in the expression.

In Sweden, higher education has become international and linguistically diverse. In his dissertation at the Department of English, University of Stockholm, Beyza Björkman studied the form and pragmatics in oral use of English as a "lingua franca" in Swedish higher engineering education.

"Questions have a central role in the communicative effectiveness and should be used more frequently both in lectures and group work," believes Björkman.

The results of his study indicate that communication occurs in English without interference, although participants in the study devised different strategies to negotiate and clarify what they meant. Thereby, successful communication was determined more by pragmatic abilities than by linguistic proficiency.

Björkman reports that some study subject spoke fluent and correct English, and therefore thought it was unnecessary to worry about being understood by those listening. "Even a person who is fluent needs to pay attention to the communicative process," says Björkman. He also emphasizes that even experienced educators need to acquire practical abilities in using English as a teaching language.

Resource: www.english.su.se/