All in a day’s work ... or, ELF in a day’s work: meeting the changing needs of learners and users of English in Higher Education
English as a lingua franca (ELF) has been described as “… the fastest-growing and at the same time the least recognised function of English in the world.” (Mauranen 2009). As a shared language used between speakers who do not have the same lingua cultural backgrounds, English has been the global language of business for some time (Charles 2008) and is increasingly used in academia, not only as the lingua franca of research, but also for teaching and administrative work. As a field of research, ELF focuses on language use in context, notably showing how flexible users of ELF are in negotiating meaning and achieving understanding, despite differences in cultural and linguistic backgrounds (Firth 1996, 2008). Yet, using English as a lingua franca can present challenges, and the research findings have implications not only for users of English in a range of contexts, but also for teachers and learners of English.
The focus of this article is on the effect of change with regard to English on curriculum development and syllabus design at the University of Zurich and Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) Language Center. Drawing on Richards (2001), curriculum development refers here to an overall process of educational planning and implementation, comprising needs analysis, situation analysis, setting of aims and learning outcomes, course design, delivery and assessment. These elements are seen as a “network of interacting systems.” (Richards 2001:41). Syllabus design, on the other hand, deals with the specific content covered in a given course.