Published in the Age 15 February. 2013
Monash University’s English as an International Language program examines how English has changed according to the cultures in the countries in which it is used.
A degree for those learning English?
No. “We do not teach English,” explains Farzad Sharifian, founder and convenor of Monash’s English as an International Language (EIL) program. “This is not an ESL [English as a Second Language] course. This is an academic program requiring the same level of English as any other subject.”
OK, so what is EIL?
EIL is a recent concept, says Professor Sharifian, adding that Monash is the only university in the world offering a focused EIL program. He explains that, as more and more people around the globe communicate in English, the language has diversified and we can now speak of world Englishes, where people in India and China, for example, have developed their own versions of English often reflecting these countries’ cultural norms. “English has changed,” says Professor Sharifian. “The concept of EIL recognises that more than 80 per cent of English communication is now between non-native speakers. Control of English is now outside the inner circle countries.”
Got it. But what will I learn on the degree?
“We focus on advanced intercultural and international communication skills,” explains Professor Sharifian. Students study how English has changed, including through online communication, about world Englishes, as well as learning crucial intercultural communication skills. “It’s very much at the cutting edge,” says Professor Sharifian, who has first-hand experience of world Englishes. “What I realised, when I came here to Australia, was that my training and years of teaching English in university in Iran, did not really prepare me for successful communication with English speakers in Australia,” says the bilingual Persian English speaker. “I had trouble with Australian English, but also with Aboriginal English and Chinese English.” It was this that led Professor Sharifian to research EIL.
Cool story. Who signs up?
According to Professor Sharifian, about 300 students are currently studying an EIL unit at Monash’s Clayton and Caulfield campuses, and about 25 students major annually. Students, says Professor Sharifian, are a mix of native and non-native speakers. “The majority are probably international students,” he says, “but the cohort of native speakers is growing fast.” He adds that students often combine EIL with business and economics, or with other arts subjects, including foreign languages, linguistics and English literature. In 2012, students wanting to study for a three-year BA at Monash’s Clayton campus needed a clearly-in ATAR of 85, with 80.05 needed for Caulfield.
With companies increasingly international, Professor Sharifian believes students’ skills will be in demand in business, as well as in diplomacy, while other students might teach English overseas.
What will it cost?
In 2013, BA students with a Commonwealth Supported Place can expect to pay on average $5868 for the year.
What do students have to say?
Indonesian student Ayu Mulyadewi, 24, recently graduated with a minor in EIL. “I live in Melbourne which is very multicultural,” she explains. “Each culture has a different way to make friends and communicate. This course has taught me to use different types of English.”