English as an International Language and English Language Teaching: The Theory vs. Practice Divide

Document Type : Original Article


1 English Department, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka, Croatia

2 Polytechnic of Rijeka


English as an international language (EIL) is considered by applied linguists to be a new paradigm for research, practice and English language teaching (ELT). However, it appears that English language teachers have little voice in these discussions, and the English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom has remained largely unaffected by EIL, hinging upon the native speaker (NS) ideal. This is hardly surprising as insufficient attention has been devoted to EIL pedagogy, and to helping teachers integrate theoretical understandings of EIL into their teaching. This paper aims to address this gap by examining EFL teachers’ (non-native speakers - NNS) perspectives on the implications of EIL for classroom practice. Through an analysis of data gathered from an online questionnaire and 10 semi- structured interviews, this study examined the attitudes of 53 EFL teachers working in Croatian public schools towards: a) the EIL paradigm, b) NS/NNS models in ELT, and c) the implications of EIL for language teaching. The findings show that although the teachers are familiar with and open to the notion of EIL, when conceptualized as a paradigm for teaching, it becomes a rather elusive concept, and a second best NNS English. Overall, the teachers are largely unaware of the potential of EIL for ELT, and rely on the NS as the benchmark and authority. They maintain that the EIL theory-ELT practice link is complex and difficult to operationalise. It is argued that, if EIL is to become a new paradigm for teaching, greater collaboration is required between applied linguists and ELF teachers, and explicit guidelines are needed to help teachers integrate EIL into ELT.