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Kristof Savski (Prince of Songkla University)
Abstract ID: 218
Topic: Language ideologies
General Session Papers
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Since its first appearance in 2001, the Common European Framework of Reference for languages has become an integral part of language policy debates across the globe. To some extent, this influence is owed to the perceived positive contribution of language learning and teaching toward social, political and economic integration in Europe. Such perceptions can in particular be linked to the growing interest in CEFR across members of ASEAN, reflecting the community’s own aspirations for further integration following the EU model. However, such plans highlight a key distinction: while EU language policy has, despite certain compromises (Wodak et al. 2012), largely retained multilingualism as its central pillar, ASEAN language policy is almost exclusively founded on the use of English as a lingua franca (Kirkpatrick, 2012). This presents an apparent paradox when considering the prospects for adopting or adapting CEFR in ASEAN contexts: Can the framework be detached from its original policy agenda and attached to another, much different set of priorities without compromising its integrity?

This paper will present the results of a project which attempted to examine the background of this paradox by analysing two concurrent cases of CEFR appropriation. The first is Thailand, which has gradually moved toward using the framework in its educational system since 2014, though not always smoothly owing to various contextual factors. Most notably, the Thai government has funded the development of a localised version, CEFR-TH, which was intended to cater specifically to the needs and specificities of Thai learners of English. The second case is Malaysia, which has since 2016 been developing a new CEFR-aligned national language education strategy, but has, rather than creating a localised version, elected to use the original framework as a basis for curriculum development, material selection and test design. The findings of this research suggest that the apparent paradox of using CEFR in such settings is in fact a largely insignificant factor in such debates. Instead, the agenda which CEFR mediates in this context is linked primarily to its use in the production and sale of globalized teaching materials and its use to compare the level of and results in international tests.


Kirkpatrick, A. (2012). English as a Lingua Franca in ASEAN. Hong Kong: HKUP

Wodak, R., Krzyzanowski, M. & Forchtner, B. (2012). The interplay of language ideologies and contextual cues in multilingual interactions: Language choice and code-switching in European Union institutions. Language in Society 41, 157-186.