Opening Gateways through English

Distinguished Professor Istvan Kecskes, who will deliver two weeks of lectures in Belgrade.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 5, 2018) — Interaction via a common language is an absolute necessity among modern nations, particularly for one that emerged from 35 years in the Communist Bloc and then a decade of war. Serbia will be looking soon to a UAlbany expert in “English as a second language” to pave its way.

Distinguished Professor Istvan Kecskes was selected by the U.S. State Department to deliver two weeks of lectures, April 30 to May 12, at the University of Belgrade on the subject of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). Such international State Department assignments are given to only about 80 English language specialists each year.

“ELF is a way to put a variety or several varieties of English to use in interactions between speakers whose first language is other than English,” said Kecskes, a member of the departments of Educational Theory and Practice and Communication. He will address an audience of Serbian university faculty, doctoral students and practitioners of Teaching English as a Second Language.

“It comes as no surprise that Dr. Kecskes would be chosen for this very select honor,” said School of Education Dean Robert Bangert-Drowns. “He has been on the forefront of scholarship in bilingualism, English as a second language and intercultural pragmatics. We are proud and pleased that he will be able to speak about English as a unifying global language and the ways that it might be differently used in different cultures.”

Kecskes explains that, while there are many languages spoken in different European countries, English serves as the ELF for the European Union (EU). “Serbia will soon become a member of the EU and it is very important for them to increase the number of English speakers in the country,” he said.

“Besides, their language teachers should be aware of how their variety of English will relate to and/or interact with, for instance, Bulgarian, French or Finnish varieties of English.”

EU membership for Serbia will require negotiations and adjustments in several fields of life, including economy, education, commerce and communication. “All this cannot be done without people who are well-trained, not only in their field of expertise, but in speaking English or other European languages, giving them the ability to directly interact with people from other parts of the EU and the world.”

Kecskes is currently at work on a book on English as a Lingua Franca for Cambridge University Press.

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