The findings of the study show that non-standard features found do not seem to cause any overt disturbance in communication in this ELF setting, with the exception of non-standard question formulation. The speakers make use of a variety of pragmatic strategies to get the message across. The findings imply that the effectiveness of a speaker of English in academic ELF settings is determined primarily by the speaker’s pragmatic ability and less by his/her proficiency.

– Many assume that communicative effectiveness is in direct proportion to proficiency, but this is not necessarily the case in ELF-settings. A speaker who is highly proficient in English might think that it is the weaker speaker’s task to make himself/herself understood. In ELF settings where speakers are from a range of levels of proficiency, both those who are native speakers or those who are highly proficient, and those who are non-native speakers with varying degrees of proficiency are challenged, says Beyza Björkman.

Even proficient speakers need help when English becomes the medium of instruction

The results show that pragmatic ability is more important than proficiency when English is used as a lingua franca.

– Being proficient in the language does not presuppose that one is also a pragmatically effective speaker. In settings where English is used as a lingua franca, communicative effectiveness takes precedence over language complexity. Any speaker may aim for better accuracy, fluency and language complexity, but when it comes to investing in a communicative situation, it is ways of achieving effectiveness that help speakers produce the desired outcome, i.e. be communicatively effective. The proficient/less proficient or the native/non-native speaker dichotomies, therefore, are not of primary relevance or utility to international settings, says Beyza Björkman.

An important part of the study deals with question formulation.

– They are the only verbal real-time signals as to what is going on in communication and are invaluable in checking understanding. They are also important organizational devices. In this sense, they serve the teaching-learning situation tremendously, says Beyza Björkman.
The findings of the study are of relevance, primarily to content teachers and students who operate in ELF settings, but also to decision and policy makers with the responsibility to prepare language policies and curricula, and to language teachers who provide ESP/EAP training in ELF settings.

The thesis’s title: Spoken Lingua Franca English at a Swedish Technical University: An Investigation of Form and Communicative Effectiveness

Further information:
Beyza Björkman, Department of English, Stockholm University, phone +46 70 2224968, +46 8 16 12 30, e-mail

An image of Beyza Björkman can be downloaded via