English as a Lingua Franca in the Context of Migration: An Italian Perspective
Descriptive research on English as a Lingua Franca has been under way for more than a decade now, to the point where the acronym ELF refers not only to situations in which speakers of different first languages use English as their main communicative medium of choice, but also to a new research paradigm in various disciplines documenting a set of shared and stable features and processes. ELF is, in fact, essentially defined and characterised by its variability, flexibility, and linguistic creativity (Guido & Seidlhofer 2014; Seidlhofer 2011). In this paper, we approach the study of ELF as a socio-cultural, political and pragmatic phenomenon by looking at how it manifests itself linguistically in a specific group of speakers: migrant people who have recently crossed the Mediterranean and are enrolled in the national SPRAR project (Sistema di Protezione per Richiedenti Asilo e Rifugiati). The examples of language contacts between ELF and IFL (Italian as a Foreign Language) here discussed will illustrate how linguistic creativity manifests itself in ELF not only in the way “the virtual language of English” (Widdowson 1997: 138–140) is flexibly and creatively adapted and used, but also in the way in which non-English speech can be also integrated into ELF discourse. In the context of multicultural classrooms like those observed in this study, where such factors as integration, tolerance, respect and conflict are at issue every day, the use of ELF becomes more and more controversial. Indeed, it requires a multidisciplinary approach that considers the teaching/learning environment from a variety of perspectives, from the linguistic to the anthropological, from the pedagogical to the sociological ones.
ELF; migration; Italian as a Second Language; translingual