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  • 1. English as MOI (medium of instruction ) in Hong Kong Linguistic imperialism Or Cultural capital?
  • 2. Source: Talbot. M. M., Atkinson, K., & Atkinson D. (2003). Extracts from Reading 5.1 in Language and power in the modern world. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 272-281 (Study Guide, Unit three, pp. 18-23)
  • 3. The premise: “This paper suggests that linguistic imperialism might be a useful concept in denoting the language situation in the earlier days of the colonial administration of Hong Kong, but it provides an inadequate account of the role of English in its most recent and post-colonial situation”. (p.18)
  • 4. “Linguistic imperialism concerns the intention to dominate” (p.18) And so… “Linguistic imperialism cannot provide a full explanation of for English as the MOI in Hong Kong, as Hong Kong Chinese have always wanted English”. (Boyle 1997, p. 176)
  • 5. Let’s look at the facts Evidence for linguistic imperialism: • In the 1970s and early 1980 English enjoyed a higher status than Chinese • Climbing the social ladder and having a well- paid job required proficiency in English • The colonial administration was the largest and predominant employer • English became the predominant medium for trade and administration, science and technology
  • 6. “The British administration’s concern was to use the schooling system to select a local elite to work for the colonial government (Boyle, 1995). In this sense the notion of linguistic imperialism in using English in the service of colonial domination is perhaps useful”. (p. 20) “The language policy helped to perpetuate British power in a society at the expense of the quality of education of large sections of the local population”. (p. 21)
  • 7. Most importantly… “The colonial education system produced a largely disempowered populace who simply could not find their voice in English and whose voice (Aronovitz & Giroux, 1986) in Chinese was denied”. (p. 22)
  • 8. On the other hand… Evidence for cultural capital: • English provided entry into lucrative careers in an increasingly competitive job market • All interviews for government or large business corporations were conducted in English • A good pass in English was essential for university entrance • HK parents sent their children to EMI schools in the pursuit of enhanced life chances for them
  • 9. So… … “Hong Kong Chinese have always wanted English” (p.18) And “English has been instrumental in the prosperity of Hong Kong” (p.19) Because “it provides access to cultural and economic capital; this ensures the economic survival of HK and its citizens and, as Bordieu suggests, economic capital it at the root of all other types of capital”. (p.19)
  • 10. Conclusions? • Educational policies borne out of imperialistic tendencies give citizens the opportunity to gain cultural capital and so to improve their life chances • however, they also reproduce and augment inequalities of power in favour of the already dominant group(s). • and can have dire consequences for the maintenance and survival of one’s native/heritage language and culture
  • 11. In the end… As advantageous as it might turn out to be, is learning an ideologically imposed language ever a completely FREE choice?