Mastery of the
English language now stands both as a means for the elite of various countries
to access the world system, and as a barrier to keep all but native speakers
out of the highest levels of power.
Explicit rewards and implicit threats are meted out to those countries
and peoples living linguistically on the edge of
Some of the strongest opponents of the spread of English originate from Asian Pacific countries with well-established monolingual settings that emphasize correct forms communication, and avoid communicative disharmony. The implication is that the objections against English come from older nationalistic hegemonies that wish to preserve their hold on to zealously guarded cultural boundaries. While decrying the loss of a linguistic ideal for their countries, linguists and political thinkers alike have failed to accept the political reality of internationalization, which even now is in the process of replacing nationalism just as nation states replaced the earlier political models of the 15th and 16th centuries. One of the results of internationalization has been the compromise of linguistic and cultural borders by the onslaught of American English via satellite, entertainment media, the Internet and the ever-increasing migration of English language teachers. The practice of TESOL, therefore, seems to be intertwined with issues of power politics, especially of who has it and who wants it.
have been calls in
In places such as Japan, where many quietly feel that their culture, language and national identity are under attack from the forces of American-style English Language Teaching, taking ownership of English in this way is an attempt for Japanfs elite not only to contextualize English for their own nationalist aims, but also to begin using English as their own tool of protest and personal expression. As admirable this effort may be, proponents of English as an International Language also need to aware of certain pitfalls in the venture to separate themselves from the American Hegemony.
lies in the terminology of ginternational.h In Western history, Hellenization, and
then Romanization were terms used by the Greeks and Romans to describe an
increased level of international political and economic integration. A common language (Greek, then Latin)
was central to the goal of unifying vast numbers of people from different
cultures and language groups.
Because the English language is a fundamental aspect of
internationalization, it begs the question of whether internationalization is
not really Americanization. While
supporters of EIL in
In terms of
culture and language education, some will still question whether one can or
should divorce Anglo-American culture from the English language. Metaphorically speaking, to some, EIL
may seem like taking the flavor out of a meal while attempting to preserve its
nutritional value, or perhaps of injecting an imported fruit with the flavor of
a local vegetable. It may take some
time for more students and teachers in
Another pitfall lies in the fact that EIL proponents often call for a return to traditional grammar-based language teaching methods as a means of lessening American influence. American language teaching methods, many state, lessen the status of the teacher, and create confusion in the minds of learners as to how to operate within their classrooms. They claim that because most learners will not be able to reach the level of a native speaker, EIL should be taught so that learners can communicate only enough to feel friendly emotions towards people from other countries (also known as gcomityh). Students are encouraged to maintain the communicative strategies used in their mother tongue for speaking English, and to focus upon reading and writing skills.
The problem with these ideas is that traditional grammar-based teaching is as political an exercise as the potentially-democratic teaching methods of American TESOL. The teaching of grammar is a very authoritarian model. The teacher is the sole expert who controls the flow of information to the learners. The teacher chooses grammatical examples of the language, which modern linguistics has shown to be, at best, only true for some of the time. Grammar tests often demonstrate less about how much the students have acquired English, and more about to what extent they have conformed to the teacher.
In addition, while most of the main proponents of EIL very skillfully use Anglo-American models of English communication and achieved a near-native speaker standard in the language, by not holding their learners up to a similar level, they implicitly encourage learners to acquire a level of English that is far below what they might have had the potential to attain. Asian language learners are caught between two untenable positions: In the Anglo-American Hegemony, learners are encouraged to strive to become like Americans or the elite speakers of their own society, but with little economic or social rewards for their efforts. However, if the learners follow the suggestions of some of todayfs EIL proponents, they are literally gkept in their placeh by being taught a form of English which is clearly less proficient than the elite members of their society, and are returned to a system of dependence and conformity. The flow of information from the American Hegemony is controlled by the elite, with only the acceptable information to be filtered down to the rest of society. In the meantime, those who seek comity on their own run the risk increased misunderstanding, creating the need for experts to come in to assist in the process of clear communication.
supporters of the American Hegemony nor many of the proponents of EIL presently
seem to offer much hope for Asian students. English as an International Language
does exist, but no one has yet been able to either control it or define what it
is in the process of becoming.
Continued debate and discussion on the topic of EIL are necessary to
form better a better understanding of what it entails. Using American models as a point of
departure only serves to bind EIL as a gnon-Americanh form of English. World Englishes, such as those found in
However, in the meantime, it must be
noted that while the concept of EIL is still a subject of controversy, and
rather nebulous to both students and teachers, all of us should anticipate an
evolution in the way that English will be taught in
language teachers and students in
teachers serve the interests of the American hegemony, nationalist aims or
focus on the local needs of their learners, hinges on the pedagogic beliefs and
practices implicit in their lessons.
It is felt that Asian language teachers should regularly reflect on what
they are actually teaching in their classes, how they teach the
language, and why they are teaching English in the first place. Careful attention needs to be paid to
the textbooks chosen, and what type of English (American, British, nativized
varieties, or a combination of the three) is being quietly upheld as the ideal
for students to model.
Language teachers would benefit from clearly identifying what they believe about the spread of English, and design their lessons accordingly. Regardless of whether they believe in teaching EIL, support an Anglo-American model, or are committed to teaching English as an Islamic language, they should prepare their lessons in way that these goals are met. However, such purpose-driven language teachers should be careful to work in a manner that is respectful to the differing views of others. Language teachers should also be explicit about their political ideology and how those beliefs influence their pedagogic practices. Teachers who state that their educational practices are apolitical should be viewed with skepticism.
At a minimum, it is felt that learners should be exposed to a variety of views, types of teachers (bilingual experts and native speakers from the expanding circle countries), and materials that take local as well as Anglophone interests in mind. In light of the developments taking place in the world and the field of TESOL, where appropriate, students should also be given more information about the matters discussed in this paper. For example, language lessons centering on English and actual economic opportunities in their country, possible Anglo-American beliefs in teaching materials, or the political implications of English as an International Language, could help stimulate critical thought about some of the larger issues involved with English language study. Students should be better informed so they can choose for themselves if they want to support or subvert the hegemonic implications of conforming to Anglo-American norms. They should also be made aware of the potential punishments and rewards that may result from their decisions. As well, students need to be made aware of the agenda of many within the elite classes of their society who support English as an International Language. By providing students with greater awareness, they might be empowered to make their own informed choices about the role of English in their lives.
It is recognized
that this paper may raise more questions than it attempts to answer. For example, in view of the recurring
cycles of history, is imperialism avoidable? Are nation states, with their respective
sociolingual classes of elite and oppressed, simply smaller versions of what is
happening on an international scale?
If the continued spread of English is to be construed as an unwelcome
development, what can be done to replace it without major disruption on a
global scale? Given that the
dynamic of empire-building is as ancient as the history of humanity, and if