Expanding Circles Within the Outer Circle: The Rural Kisii in Kenya

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This paper evaluates a range of factors that have contributed to the limited spread of English to rural Kisii, Kenya, making the presence of English in this non-urban context fall closer to an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) or Expanding Circle continuum than to the expected English as a Second Language (ESL) context. Kenya is an Outer Circle country, which means that it is an ESL context where English is not only available in the school, but it is also available and used widely outside the classroom. As in most ESL/Outer Circle countries, English is the official language in Kenya and, consequently, it may be logical to assume that this language is easily available to all Kenyan users. The findings of this discussion show that due to historical, educational, political and economic factors, the spread of English into rural Kisii, Kenya is limited, and clearly English is a foreign language in this rural context, despite Kenya being in the Outer Circle. A discussion of the functional allocations of English in rural Kisii is included to illustrate the limited roles English plays to emphasize the fact that rural Kisii shares more characteristics with the EFL/Expanding Circle contexts than with the ESL/Outer Circle contexts.