Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

English in the Age of Globalization: Changing Elt Models, Restructuring Relationships

Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

English in the Age of Globalization: Changing Elt Models, Restructuring Relationships

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Towards the end of the 20th century English became a truly global language and since then it has kept its privileged position among other world languages. It is estimated that English is spoken by about 1.5 billion people all over the world (Crystal 1997:5). The term 'global English' reflects various functions English serves on all continents. In the Inner Circle countries, to use Kachru's terminology (Kachru & Nelson 2001), it is the first and majority group language. In the Outer Circle countries, for example India, Pakistan, Singapore and Nigeria, English is used as a second language together with other languages as a means of intranational communication and in the Expanding Circle, which covers an unspecified number of countries, English is largely taught as a foreign language in schools.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt has English become the major lingua franca and has achieved a high level of international significance. None of the previously established lingua francas, whether it was Latin in the times of the flourishing Roman Empire, French in the 18th and 19th centuries, Russian imposed as the common foreign language in Eastern Europe after the Second World War or the artificially created Esperanto, influenced international communication on such a large scale as English has done in the past few decades. In general, two opposing perspectives can be traced in the discourse on the global use of English. Crystal (1997) and Wardhaugh (1987), for example, perceive the dominant role of English in world communication as a natural outcome of the collaboration of several historical and cultural factors which have helped the language to achieve its special position. As Wardhaugh comments: "What is remarkable about English and what makes it unique is the extent to which it has spread throughout the world. No other language has ever had the influence in world affairs that English has today" (Wardhaugh 1987: 131).

These ideas are opposed by a wave of critical voices who emphasize the interdependence between the worldwide use of English and the ideological, political, and commercial interests of the core Inner Circle countries, mainly the UK and the USA. In this field the seminal work of Robert Phillipson (1992) on linguistic imperialism has probably been the most influential in inspiring further research into the politics of English and English language teaching (ELT) (Pennycook 1994, 1998), (Singh, Kell & Pandian 2002). These authors argue that the universal presence of English is a result of pursuing political and economic interests and of the effort of the British and the Americans to maintain control over the English language, often with the support of national organizations and the ELT industry. In other words, they link global English closely with the linguistic and cultural imperialism of the English speaking countries. An obvious question arises here: was the rise of English as the world language just a natural outcome of the English language being 'in the right place at the right time' or is it more a result of power struggles and deliberate policies?

In this article we intend to examine the connections between the spread of English, ELT business, and the distribution of power between native and nonnative English speaking communities. Secondly, we will discuss the implications of the global use of English for the ELT profession and describe the potential of the ELT pedagogy for restructuring the existing power relationships. As for terminology, we will make use of Phillipson's notions of the Centre and the Periphery. The first term refers to the core English speaking countries, while the latter involves the regions in which English is used as a second language (mainly former British colonies) or taught as a foreign language. Here Eastern Europe, which at the beginning of the 1990s emerged as "the new postcolonial world" (Wallace 2002: 108), occupies an important place. The divisive line between the Centre and the Periphery is drawn along linguistic differences between native and non-native English speaking communities as well as along the differences in their economic and technological development. …

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