World Englishes debate

This is a challenging lesson that can be a fantastic springboard for discussion with more able students. How do we decide whether regional, non-standard English is acceptable or not, and what role does context play?


  • Explore some of the issues surrounding World Englishes
  • Summarise some key arguments in the discussion of World Englishes
  • Create new arguments related to the debate around World Englishes
  • Conduct an active debate between two teams on the subject of World Englishes
  • Critically consider World Englishes in relation to variation in English in Great Britain

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will stage a debate about World Englishes. You may wish to offer a brief introduction to World Englishes, or you may prefer to just begin with the debate itself. For an introduction, share this short documentary video from the British Council about World Englishes.

Then, present the slide show in the Activity page. The Activity page appears under the menu entitled This Unit in the upper right corner of the screen. 

Slide 1 is an introduction to the context of the topic.

Slide 2 explains the two sides of the debate. Download and print the excerpts from Prof. Quirk's and Prof. Kachru's published arguments. Team 1 should receive the excerpt from Quirk, and Team 2 should receive the excerpt from Kachru. 

Ask your students to do the following:

  • Summarize what your excerpt says. Make notes of your summary.
  • Expand on what your excerpt says. Include your own arguments, evidence, ideas and reflections. Make a series of notes on this too.
  • Decide which points in the argument should be presented first and which are most important.
  • Decide who will speak first, and which team members will argue which points.

Give the students plenty of time to prepare their arguments, and sit down with each teach separately to coach them through their interpretation of the texts.

Now, begin the debate. Allow each team an opening statement, with a time limit if you wish. Then, allow rebuttals and responses. Encourage and guide the conversation.

Finally, work through the additional questions and the follow-up in the last slides of the Activity page.

Teacher's Notes

The excerpts from English Today are advanced texts. In particular, students may need support in interpreting Kachru's arguments. Take a look at the texts and explore ways of coaching students towards an understanding of each. Kachru's text describes an instance of cultural misunderstanding, when a man in India remarks that Americans must be very poor, because they have no water buffalo. Kachru's aim here is to show that because cultures of the world are so different, our language needs are different as well. It would be silly if all English speakers worldwide were required to measure wealth in terms of pounds sterling (rather than, say, water buffalo). Similarly, argues Kachru, it is silly to expect all English speakers worldwide to use and value the same words and grammatical structures in the same way. As Kachru says, how can we argue that millions of English speakers worldwide should speak as though they were at a British university? How would that be useful for an English speaker in a village in India speaking with other English speakers? Try to help your students grasp this argument, and to relate it to the way that they speak English in relation to, for example, the standards set by the newspapers or the BBC.


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