The simple things

Observant, Maastricht

What is it that binds people all around the world? Is it some shared value? A global sense of humanity? Or even Chomsky’s universal grammar?

Clearly not. The answer is tea.

We all have our different ways of drinking it. Different flavours, different things we put in it, different things we drink it out of. But at the end of the cup, it’s all tea.

Even the way the English drink it, at a stretch. Growing up in England – or far from it, but with English parents, as I did – white tea is the most normal thing in the world. Being, of course, black tea with milk. Until I was 20 I figured everyone drank it that way. Since then I’ve lived abroad, and come to understand how odd that is to everyone else.

“How would you like it?”, a Turkish flight attendant asked me last week, somewhere between Schiphol and Istanbul. “Some sugar, perhaps?”

“Milk, please”, I said.

“Tea and milk”, she said, eyebrows raised. “You’re thirsty.” She plucked a second cup from her trolley and started to pour me a cup of milk as well.

In the tea”, I said.

There was an awkward pause.

In the tea?”

In the tea.”

Thus stumped her. She mimed pouring milk into my teacup, the look on her face somewhere between incredulity and disgust.

“Oh, miss”, she sighed. “You’re different.”

I like to inform my husband periodically that I’m a simple girl; all it takes is a steaming cup of tea on a cold day to make me happy. “That,” he agrees, “and for everything else in your life to be otherwise perfect.” This he says as I snuggle under a blanket in front of the 7 pm news, watching the refugees struggling their way into Europe or polar bears starving to death as the ice caps melt. Contemplating my utterly pampered and selfish existence, I think, I hate myself.

In that state, there’s only one thing for it. “Schatje?” I call out to Rutger-Jan in the kitchen. “You’d better put the kettle on!”


Expanding Circle Englishes + Istanbul is lovely, I’m sure

Just back from the annual conference of the International Association of World Englishes (IAWE) in Istanbul. I would like to say I saw something of Istanbul. I did not. But I saw a lot of the truly lovely Boğaziçi University campus. My paper was part of a colloquium dedicated to English in the Expanding Circle organised by Prof. Suzanne Hilgendorf, together with Sarah Buschfeld, Sofia Ruediger and Bouchra Kachoub.

Agency and resistance in the Expanding Circle

English in the Netherlands

This contribution addresses the implications of recent research on English in the Netherlands. It shows that the existing models and assumptions in World Englishes studies do not do justice to the agency of English users in the Expanding Circle.

First, I show that a categorical approach seeking to distinguish neatly between English as a second-language (ESL) or learner (EFL) variety is insufficient. Findings indicate that functionally, English serves as a second language in Dutch society, yet ‘Dutch English’ is not seen as a target model. This makes it difficult to unequivocally label English in the Netherlands as either EFL or ESL.

Next, I consider a developmental, cyclical model: Schneider’s (2003, 2007) Dynamic Model of the Evolution of Postcolonial Englishes. Although the historical foundations of English in the Netherlands were different, parallels with the developmental trajectory of postcolonial Englishes can be found in sociolinguistic aspects, such as the emergence of an English-knowing identity.

These identity restructurings and other sociolinguistic developments therefore seem to be a common factor in the dynamics across the Outer Circle and certain Expanding Circle settings. And these developments can be trigged by postcolonial processes, but also by other processes, specifically the forces of globalisation.

In the Netherlands, this is resulting in a situation where speakers at times opt consciously for ‘Dutch’ pronunciation of English so as not to sound ‘affected’, insist on nonstandard usages that they feel better suit the local setting, and actively resist interventions by English-language gatekeepers.

This signals an emerging pattern of linguistic disruption; a way of reasserting the user’s own linguistic power and identity and subverting the dominance of English. It seems that in the Expanding Circle, too, people are willing to agentively adapt English to suit their own voices and context.