What is ELF pronunciation?

Imagine the following scenes:

  • the receptionist in a Mexican hotel helps some Japanese tourists check in to their room
  • a team of French engineers holds a meeting with their Turkish and Chinese collaborators about an upcoming project
  • a German student attends a seminar as part of a degree course in fashion design, with Italian, Russian, Korean, Czech, American and Argentinean classmates

What is the language of communication in these scenarios?  Almost without a doubt: English.

In such situations, English may not be the first language of anyone in the interaction, and the participants may not share a first language.  So English is the communicative medium of choice, and often the only option.*

In other words, the speakers in these scenarios are using English as a lingua franca.

This way of using English is the most prevalent in the world today.  The vast majority of English speakers today did not learn it as their first language, and the majority of interactions in English are taking place between such speakers.  In such a context, ‘native’ speakers of English are unlikely to be present, and their linguistic and cultural expectations are probably largely irrelevant.

This presents a number of questions that are not well-answered by traditional, native-speaker-oriented approaches to teaching English as a second language, such as:

  • What do learners of English want/need to sound like?
  • Is it necessary/appropriate/desirable/helpful to pronounce English the way some ‘native’ speakers do, such as BBC newsreaders?
  • What features of pronunciation are likely to help or hinder speakers of ELF (English as a lingua franca) to understand each other?

We created this blog to help teachers and learners of the English language address such issues.

There is plenty of existing literature and teaching resources for those who wish to sound like and/or interact with ‘native’ speakers of English.  This blog is designed to help those who don’t.

A blog like this is a dynamic, growing, evolving, frequently-updated project, and over time there will be many posts on many subjects.  If this is your first visit, we suggest you start by taking a look at the following posts, which explain some of the background and basics of ELF pronunciation:


* Definition from Seidlhofer, B. (2011). Understanding English as a Lingua Franca. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pg. 7

10 thoughts on “What is ELF pronunciation?

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  5. Brilliant! So glad i’ve stumbled across this, It addresses so much I’ve already been pondering. Really looking forward to using all the resources and reading more, thank you!

    • Thanks Jessica, glad you found it useful! If you’ll be at the IATEFL Conference next week, look out for me (Laura) – I’d be happy to chat to you more about ELF and pronunciation.

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