The amazing world of Englishes

The amazing world of Englishes: A practical introduction. By Peter Siemund, Julia Davydova, and Georg Maier. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2012. Pp. 283. ISBN 9783110266450 $42.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa

This textbook is a welcome addition to a relatively new and dynamic area of study. The book seeks to introduce students of English as a second language to the diversity of language varieties and the different cultures in which they are used. The text is written in simple, unambiguous language and is well suited to undergraduate students of English in second language contexts, particularly those studying in English language and literature programs (where specialized linguistic knowledge is not required). The book eschews the socio-political dilemmas and controversies regarding the use of English as a global language, which has advantages in particular educational environments where critical discussions are not culturally appropriate, such as countries of the Arabian Gulf (where the reviewer is currently located). The book provides exercises testing the skills presented and some active vocabulary-building exercises at the upper-intermediate level, and audio recordings are accessible on the accompanying website. Each chapter comprises a selection of short reading texts, including both excerpts from other texts about world English dialects and literary excerpts. Discussion questions follow, providing stimulus for either oral or writing activities.

The book comprises nine chapters. An introductory chapter on English as a global language, with an excerpt from Jennifer Jenkins’ work, is followed by three sections based on Braj Kachru’s concepts: inner circle varieties (Irish, Scottish, British, Australian), outer circle varieties (Indian, Nigerian, South African), and expanding circle varieties (English in Europe). Each chapter ends with references directing students towards further reading appropriate for their level. The book ends with a glossary of linguistic terms and a simplified International Phonetic Alphabet table.

Inevitably, the included selection of English varieties will give rise to discussion; however, one misses the inclusion of at least one East Asian variety. Not including a discussion of Singapore, Hong Kong, or the Philippines in the outer circle group, for example, seems questionable when space is found in the final chapter for brief discussion on English in France, Germany, and Russia. The inclusion of these expanding circle countries and the narrow range of countries in the inner and outer circles (e.g. the exclusion of North America and East Asia) probably reflects the authors’ expectations regarding where the text will likely be used.

While someone native to one of the countries portrayed may squirm at the sometimes overly stereotypical or simplistic portrayal of the language and culture of the respective country, this book is highly recommended for use in contexts where a general, simplified introduction to world Englishes, combined with language building activities, is sought. Teachers will find a considerable amount of stimulating and topical material for student projects and assignments. Finally, the book is very visually appealing to users; the layout of each chapter follows a set format and plenty of color is used in illustrations and to highlight texts.