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Linguistic Imperialism
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Linguistic Imperialism

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  • 1. Linguistic Imperialism Language and Culture Lecture Notes WTUC April 2007
  • 2. Linguistic imperialism
    • The theory of Linguistic imperialism has since the early 1990s attracted the attention among scholars in the field of English applied linguistics , particularly since the publication of Robert Phillipson 's influential book Linguistic Imperialism , which led to considerable disputes about the merits and shortcomings of the theory. Linguistic imperialism is often seen in the context of cultural imperialism .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_imperialism
  • 3. English language imperialism
    • Phillipson defines English linguistic imperialism as:
      • "the dominance asserted and maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages".
  • 4. Phillipson's theory
    • Phillipson's theory provides a powerful critique on the historical spread of English as an international language and how it continues to maintain its current dominance particularly in postcolonial contexts like India , Pakistan , Uganda , Zimbabwe , etc but also increasingly in "neo-colonial" contexts such as continental Europe .
  • 5. key underlying tenets of English
    • These are:
    • English is best taught monolingually ("the monolingual fallacy")
    • the ideal teacher is a native speaker ("the native speaker fallacy")
    • the earlier English is taught, the better the results ("the early start fallacy")
    • the more English is thought, the better the results ("the maximum exposure fallacy")
    • if other languages are used much, standards of English will drop ("the subtractive fallacy")
  • 6. Who promotes English
    • English intrinsic arguments describe the language as God-given, rich, noble and interesting. These arguments usually assert what English is and other languages are not.
    • English extrinsic arguments point out that English is well established: there are trained teachers and a multitude of teaching material. There are also abundant immaterial resources like knowledge of the language.
    • English functional arguments emphasize the usefulness of English as a gateway to the world.
  • 7. Other arguments for English are
    • Its economic-reproductive function: it enables people to operate technology.
    • Its ideological function: it stands for modernity.
    • It is a symbol for material advance and efficiency.
  • 8. Linguicism
    • Another very important theme in his work is what he calls " linguicism " the processes by which endangered languages become extinct or lose their local eminence as a direct result of the rising and competing prominence of English in disparate global contexts.
  • 9. Internationalisation
    • Such an "internationalisation" of English might also bring new possibilities for native speakers of the language. McCabe elaborates:
      • ...whereas for two centuries we exported our language and our customs in hot pursuit of...fresh markets, we now find that our language and our customs are returned to us but altered so that they can be used by others...so that our own language and culture discover new possibilities, fresh contradictions" (1985: 45).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_imperialism
  • 10.
    • Even so, the talk of "linguistic imperialism" is not entirely absurd. An obvious annoyance is the way English is seeping into Japanese, often taking the place of perfectly good native words as users try to be fashionable. Of greater concern is what happens when more people become fluent in English. Will English become the language of business (even in Japan) - and of scientific, technological and intellectual discourse? Will parents push their children to learn English at the expense of Japanese? Will the market for printed Japanese materials shrink?
    http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/magazine/2000/0407/ed.english.html
  • 11. Falice Chin Gauntlet Columnist One of the biggest job markets for students nowadays involves ESL teaching in foreign countries. The idea is quite appealing: free travel, cash and a chance to educate the rest of the world. In reality, the bigger picture shows they are participating in a global conquest for perfecting Standard English. http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 12.
    • Indeed, in many countries, the more English you know, the better off you'll be. It's a pity many kids don't even respect their mother tongue anymore and only aim to learn the more "useful" English.
    http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 13.
    • Having spent most of my life in China, I know the advantages that come with knowing English. I recall many times when my father, who obtained his degree in Canada, would put his co-workers in their places simply by speaking to them in English. Furthermore, his ability to manipulate slang usage and technical terms always gained him an advantage in the world of commerce. Even American business partners give way when they listen to him, openly applauding his linguistic abilities.
    http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 14.
    • "Wow, you're really good at English!" they say, following the logic that "if he can speak English then he must be smart."
  • 15.
    • My parents know damn well that language is power , so they shuffled me between as many schools teaching in as many different languages as they could since the day I could babble. Try French preschool, Cantonese elementary, English junior high and Mandarin senior high. Instead of feeling "powerful," I went from struggling with Chinese characters to wiggling through English as a Second Language classes.
  • 16.
    • Right now, I'm thankful for it, but the lesson I learned was that if you knew English, you can screw all other languages. When I was at Shanghai, I had many English-speaking friends. Everywhere we went, there was this superior air around us. From the two international schools I attended, I knew over 2,000 people of non-Chinese descent and less than one per cent of them ever attempted to learn any Chinese. There was a Belgian kid in my grade six class who lived in China for more than eight years and couldn't speak a word of Chinese--but his English was better than most Americans.
    http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 17.
    • The funny thing was all the Polish, Korean, Finnish and other non-Americans I knew came to China with little knowledge of English or Chinese but within half a year they had already picked up English. They didn't need to know Chinese, they got by just fine--more than fine, to be accurate.
    http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 18.
    • Soon, I also learned to speak only English in certain settings to get what I want. Every time I got into trouble or wanted to buy alcohol, I would bust out my English words. It didn't matter that I was skateboarding inside a mall, drinking gin at MacDonald's or throwing empty bottles at apartment buildings, the moment I spoke the magic words, authorities would disappear or simply become more lenient. Sometimes they would even attempt to learn a couple English words from me. I felt the imperial powers of English and I'm not even white!
    http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 19.
    • I came back to Canada in 1999 thinking that if I showed off my English the moment I landed, no one would see me as "inferior." In reality, Canada was more tolerant of other cultures than any international school I ever attended. People here actually want to learn from foreigners.
    http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 20.
    • The whole overseas ESL deal is attractive to Canadians because they want to experience different cultures. Little do they know their future students on the other side of the ocean simply want a piece of that English power-speak. These worldwide ESL teachers are promoting linguistic imperialism in the name of multiculturalism.
    http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 21.
    • Where I come from, a person's non-English language skills are, at times, something to be ashamed of. Even with the best of intentions, ESL teachers to-be should reevaluate some of the social implications behind these language programs.
    http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/3598
  • 22. Discussion
    • Is there a danger that these countries will lose their own identity over time by succumbing to the charm the English-speaking nations yield?
    • Will they lose their own traditions and customs, replacing them with the more “superior” as a result of this intervention?
  • 23. Discussion
    • Should the EFL teachers introduce a cultural element into their classrooms and further reinforce the current trend?