We expect the gossip columns to be filled with celebrity split-ups, but who’d have thought the ELT columns would be full of the same thing? No jilted supermodels in our case, of course. It’s the native-speaker model we’re ditching for a slimmer, sexier substitute. And her name is lingua franca.
When non-native speakers meet in chatrooms or boardrooms (or bedrooms?) it’s a stripped down version of English that they want, not the wrinkly old original. And when it comes to getting down to business, for many the native-speaker model is simply impenetrable.
Or so the story goes. But is it really true? Seen in the proper light, the smooth simplicity of native-speaker business English can be truly breathtaking.
Want to move on in a presentation? Forget those signpost phrases. "OK, so…" will usually do the trick. Want to fill some silence while you fiddle with your PowerPoint? Try stretching the OK – "O-kaaaay, so…."
Want to agree or disagree in a meeting? With a little intonation shift, "OK" can do both jobs. Want stop a fight? "OK, OK!" should cool things down. Now, to check it’s safe to continue, ask, "OK?" Everyone replies, "OK." You say, "OK." And on you go.
Need to interrupt? Simply use the speaker’s name. "John." "What?" Works like a charm. To shut up an inveterate babbler, just stick a thanks in front. "Thanks, John." Or maybe it’s Maria who won’t let John get a word in. "Thanks, Maria. John?"
The thing about advanced speakers of English (native or non-native) is that they don’t speak advanced English. They speak simple English in advanced ways. Familiarity breeds concision.
So, dump the native-speaker model? Why do that, when the magic is clearly still there?