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Volume 12 Number 1, Spring 2015, Pages 1-168   


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Competence and Capability: Rethinking the Subject English

    Henry Widdowson


As is now widely recognised, the role and status of the English language have changed radically over recent years: as both a cause and consequence of globalization it has become appropriated world-wide as an international lingua franca. There is, however, little corresponding recognition that this state of affairs might have implications for how the language is customarily taught. On the contrary, ways of thinking about English as a subject hardly seem to밾ave changed at all. In this article, I want to suggest that we need to enquire critically into taken-for-granted pedagogic assumptions about the English subject봧nto how far the established ways we think about the E of TEFL or TESOL are still valid. In the course of this enquiry, I shall reconsider familiar ideas about communication and competence and argue the essential relevance of the concept of capability in our understanding of how English is used, and how the language might be taught so that it most effectively activates the process of learning how to use it.

Keywords: globalization, English as a lingua franca, English as a subject, communication, competence, capability