Why might one regard “Japanese English” “Korean English” and “China English” as varieties rather than interlanguages? What are the educational implications?

  • 1
    Never heard of this terminology... What is meant by "Japanese English"? English spoken by a non-fluent Japanese? An English that speaks some anglicized Japanese?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 13:56
  • Have you at least read this? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engrish
    – Alex B.
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 15:46
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    I'm afraid I fail to see why Japanese/Chinese etc. English could be seen as varieties rather than interlanguages. 1. There are no native speakers of these interlanguages (?), unlike in India or Singapore. 2. They are too localised and not used as a lingua franca.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 15:50
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    Interlanguage is a fluid term; it was intended to be. It's essentially personal. Variety, on the other hand, implies a speech community with some cohesion and tradition, so that's social, not personal. As Alex B. has pointed out, the existence and nature of the speech community is what has to be demonstrated, and vague terms like “Japanese English” or Chinglish don't do that. Social phenomena require more evidence than slogans provide.
    – jlawler
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 16:06
  • You might be interested in certain educational movements and their implications in Asian countries where English is spoken, such as SGEM - Official: goodenglish.org.sg and Wikipedia:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speak_Good_English_Movement Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 17:07

1 Answer 1


Is the term Japanese English used by anybody?

Several comments to this question indicated doubts that terms such as Japanese English are appropriate or used by anybody. In fact, in research on English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) (and on postcolonial varieties of English) such terms are used frequently. A quick search on Google scholar turns up several instances, such as studies on intonation, language contact and bilingual families.

Educational implications

Sometimes terms such as Japanese English are used as synonyms of English as spoken by learners whose first language is Japanese. Then their use has no educational implications.

Other researchers might consciously opt for Japanese English etc. to underscore their commitment to teaching English as a second/foreign language without positing native speaker norms as a realistic goal or even ideal that learners should strive for. Instead, they should aim for international intelligibility, such as Jennifer Jenkins' Lingua Franca Core.

This philosophy is based on the recognition that

  1. the number of native speakers of English is far outstripped by the number of speakers of English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL)
  2. most ESL/EFL speakers interact more with other ESL/EFL speakers than with native speakers, and many ESL speakers hardly ever interact with native speakers of English

Consequently, native speaker norms are argued to be relatively unimportant to their needs. What should be the aim is teaching a variety of English that is internationally intelligible.

Are there native speakers of Japanese English?

Alex B. argued in the comments to the OP that Japanese English is not an appropriate term because there are no native speakers of this variety of English. However, there are also very few native speakers of Indian English, the vast majority of speakers of Indian English acquire it when entering school or later, and yet the term is relatively accepted.

Research into postcolonial varieties of English has largely come to the conclusion that the existence of native speakers is irrelevant to the emergence of a separate variety of English. What is important is a community of speakers, (relatively) separated from other communities, that transmits their variety to future generations. There is a large body of research providing evidence for these claims, and Schneider's Postcolonial English is probably the most important theoretical contribution to the debate.

P.S.: Who is a native speaker, anyway?

Actually, the concept of the native speaker is hard to apply to multilingual societies such as India and Nigeria where English is widely used as a second language. When people acquire two languages from birth, and a third language in school, and finally end up being more proficient in many areas in the third language (chronologically speaking), what is their native language?

The concept of the native speaker is based on the 18th/19th/20th c. Western idea that one nation has one language. This works pretty well for most people in most Western countries (minus recent immigrants), but it didn't in Renaissance, medieval or earlier Europe, where educated people or traders from any country were supposed to be proficient in several languages - Latin, French, Italian, a local dialect, a local standard language.

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