Transformations from EFL to ELF in English-Medium International University Programs in Japan

James Mckinley, Heath Rose

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) first acknowledged the shift from traditional EFL goals to ELF goals a decade ago in recognition of the rise of English as a global means of communication. The drive to prepare Japan’s youth to use ELF in an ever-globalizing world has manifested in a number of MEXT initiatives in recent years. English education has been increasingly introduced at earlier ages, and school curriculum has taken a communicative, instead of grammar-driven focus. In one large initiative, undergraduate university programs conducted entirely in English have been initiated across the country as part of the “Global 30” project, in a bid to attract international students into the Japanese higher education sector—creating new communities for ELF usage in Japanese universities that rarely existed before. This paper will examine the transformations from EFL to ELF in the global cultural construction of English-medium international university programs in Japan using four case studies.
The paper uses Jenkins (2008) model of EFL vs ELF usage to evaluate the successes and failures of these universities to make the transition from an EFL to an ELF focused curriculum. The framework of analysis looks at the transition of language education:
• As part of a modern foreign language to part of World Englishes
• From a deficit to difference perspective
• From metaphors of transfer/interference to contact/evolution
• From code-mixing and code-switching being viewed as interference to a resource.
In the evaluation of successes and failures, the study uses a mixed method approach to data collection, including interviews with curriculum and program coordinators, focus groups with instructors and teaching assistants, and survey data with students. It also takes a critical view of the Global 30 initiative in making this transformation. While the limited use of English in many of these universities continues to be the most obvious concern, another major concern is that the policy appears oblivious to the Confucian characteristics that distinguish Japan’s higher education institutions from its late-modern competitors in regional and global markets for overseas students. Nevertheless, if the Global 30 project can manage to make the EFL to ELF transformation, it could encourage Japanese universities to become hybridized institutions incorporating and resourcing Confucian and late-modern characteristics, giving them a niche advantage in the overseas student markets.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Event6th International Conference of English as a Lingua Franca - Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy
Duration: 4 Sept 20137 Sept 2013


Conference6th International Conference of English as a Lingua Franca
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