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The internet goes EFL (English as a Foreign Language)

Rose, Richard (2011) The internet goes EFL (English as a Foreign Language). Issues in Technology Innovation (5).

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Abstract

Communication is central to the exercise of international influence and talking to foreigners is better than fighting them. Communication across national boundaries first of all requires a technology that can span great distances. The Internet and related forms of telecommunication make global conversations far easier, quicker and cheaper than ever before. Secondly, the spread of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) meets the need for a common language and makes it possible for Americans to use their home language when travelling abroad, because others will work in a foreign language in their home country. The third requirement—mutual understanding—is more difficult to achieve. In learning English, people also learn about America, but Americans have fewer incentives and opportunities to understand where foreigners are coming from. Foreigners have not learned EFL to advance America's interests, but to advance their own personal or national interests. If different national interests coincide, then all sides can benefit. But when differences arise, those with a better understanding of others they deal with are better placed to get what they want. The result of this asymmetry is that the international spread of English is increasing the soft power of foreigners who know what they want from Washington—and weakens America's influence with friends as well as potential enemies.