Monday, 29 June 2015

Discussions--Series 23--ELT Professionals Around the World

Please read Post 68 and then come back here. Thanks.

Discussions Series Twenty-three
Topic 60
Anes Abdelrahim Mohamed Lecturer at Kansai Gaidai University
How 'global' is English language?
Robert Phillipson makes the argument that English isn't really as widely used as is often assumed:

"The argument that you can communicate in English with ‘people from almost any country in the world’ is flawed. You don’t get far in Latin America, southern Europe, most of Africa, the Middle East or Asia -even in India -with English outside elite circles and tourist sites. Even in Scandinavia, proficiency in communication in English above a crude spoken level is not widespread. Contrary to what Coleman, cited initially, asserts, the expansion of English in higher education in Europe consists almost invariably of English being added to national language repertoires rather than replacing them (Gregersen 2014, Phillipson in press). While English is of major importance for the global economy, assuming that it is so ‘basic’ that it is a requirement for economic success is contradicted by the fact that the economies of China, Japan and Korea succeed through using local languages in basic Education , as do continental European countries." Robert Phillipson.
Rod MitchellJudson WrightNeyri Matos, +10 like this

But outside of these circles and tourist sites, why would they be needing to communicate in English? I would still think that English is very much a "global" vehicular language - it's used in business for international/internet trade and tourism as a common ground language in just about any country I've visited (though I haven't any experience in South America). Some countries, such as Korea, may push English very hard as a symbol for both social and economic success, but they're still very proud/content maintaining their national identity and language. English is a tool in their kit, not something a majority of the citizens of any country need to succeed.

On a parallel thought, I would hazard to guess that as translation software becomes more and more sophisticated, English may slide as a common ground business language to some degree as the reliability of less common language translation mixes becomes more accurate. Mind, that's supposition, and it could be that, for example, Arabic to Swahili translation programs lead the way. I'm also in the dark as to how Mandarin to "x" software has progressed in the last several years...

Agreed. However, put six colleagues together from various Asean nations and English may be the sole common language. Similarly, consider the vast number of students who have for political reasons been denied English and see/understand their yearning. Its' complicated in my opinion. On the one hand I see merit in a young Hindi MFA student resenting being taught Western Aesthetics in English however, to eliminate a vast body of knowledge from a willing and able student ultimately leaves great holes in the comprehension of their subject. Yes, a Tamil child should know their own culture, poetry and literature but this may also foster devisive nationilsm and hugely limit their job mobility. I wish I spoke more languages and have little or no gift for this so my heartiest respect goes to the many multi-lingual.

Which brings about a fair point that I neglected - that vast content that a younger generation is inherently motivated to discover and understand via youtube, social networking, etc. that is still primarily in English. Though again I'd be curious to see if that motivation diminishes as such sites become more common/widespread in their native tongue.

As an interesting side reference/curiosity:

I can't believe we're being asked this question. Imagine the conference call in this common situation: Japanese factory country manager, German engineer, Korean programmer and Indonesian local factory manager. Do you think they employ interpreters or they use English? I lived in SE Asia for 10 years plus and saw this kind of thing every day.
Airlines, hotels, education, conferences, police, army. Millions of Chinese speakers learning as you read this.

I remember walking over a snow-covered pass in Bhutan (approx. 4500 metres) and seeing an old man walking towards us with a Yak. His face looked as if he'd been attacked by a bear years before and he was wearing what may have been the skin of that very bear. He looked at me through his one milky eye and said "Good morning, welcome to Bhutan". Now, he had no need to have any expertise in English, at that time there were fewer than 5000 tourists in Bhutan each year and not many of them at 4500 metres. Bhutan has never been a British colony. Yet he spoke English, I quizzed him about various things and he answered in A2/B1 English throughout.

I have a great many Chinese speaking students doing master's degrees in the UK and they are telling me about the huge numbers of their fellows who will tread the same path of study as they have.

Now, not all of these learners and newly minted English speakers need or require a knowledge of UK/USA/Australian/etc. culture and are quite happy to use English 'lite'. English as a Lingua Franca in its lowest complication. Stripped of idiomatic opaqueness, question tags, etc. Not everyone wants an appreciation of Shakespeare and the beauty of this approach is that native speakers, of course, fully understand such cut down modes of communication,

Does the world speak English? Yes, everywhere and no sign of the trend stopping.

..., I do teach English. My posts are not so much 'negative' as critical in the sense of attempting to 'make visible the interconnectedness of things'.

As a matter of fact, it is because I enjoy teaching that i raise these issues. As I indicated in a separate post, to me, teaching is a calling. It is really difficult to enjoy teaching, or any other job for that matter, if we don't have autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Thanks to ELT industry, not many teachers enjoy their job.

Going back to this post, I have been to many places where, to my initial surprise, English is hardly spoken. For instance, in Turkey, Iran, and Japan, you will have a hard time mixing with people as they don't speak English at all. In the gulf, different varieties of English are mostly spoken by the expats while the local people don't seem to be interested. In most of Asia, businesspeople tend to communicate in what can be called globish, which is "a simplified constructed language related to, but independent of, standard English".

English is a global elite language used mostly by the business classes across the globe facilitate trade, and as usual, the poor are left out.

"Even in Scandinavia, proficiency in communication in English above a crude spoken level is not widespread". I completely disagree with your view here. I lived and taught in Norway and Denmark for 7 years, and the standard of English spoken in both countries is very high. Norwegian children are taught English from 6 years old - their first school year. I was able to go into a Norwegian high school and teach students aged 16 -19 in English without resort to any other languages. The only people I met who could not speak English well were some of the older generation - but they were the minority. Most of the Danish students I taught were more linguistically competent than many native English speakers I have taught since my return.

Anes, I have to question your response above where you indicate that people in "Turkey, Iran and Japan... don't speak English at all." I spent over 30 years in International business before changing careers to Academia. I currently live and teach English in Istanbul, Turkey, and have traveled around the country over the ~5 years I have lived here. No matter where I go, I find people that not only speak English, but are eager to show off their skills in the language. As for Japan, that also is a misstatement, as dealing with business and social contacts in and around Japan, I found a large number of people that spoke English, and were more than willing to speak to me in my native tongue, Finally, considering the close proximity and ease of movement into and out of Iran into Turkey, I have come into contact with Iranians that were looking to expand their English, and told me of a large number of people that know and are learning the language. While I am sure that you can find people in remote places in these countries that are unable to converse in English, but to make a blanket statement as you did about the use of English in those countries is doing a disservice to those people that live there, and also those that are looking at the possibility of traveling to these countries.Just offering a word of caution about stereotyping here, as this is the kind of misinformation that starts conflicts between countries and people all over the world. Cheers.

We are all imprisoned in English :-) This is a metaphor A. Wierzbicska uses in her recently published book.

"I am right because this is my experience," doesn't really sway me. I'm sure we've all met English speakers in our travels, but "in my experience", outside of hotels and specific companies, it's usually those people who have for whatever reason picked up or retained some English and want to try it out that approach me, or that I can find to communicate a little. I would hazard to guess we're dealing with some degree of confirmation bias, and it would take a much larger bit o' evidence to sway me one way or another. A quick glance suggests about 1 in 7 folks speak English, but it obviously doesn't break it down into their level of fluency. ^ ^

"English is the current lingua franca of international business, education, science, technology, diplomacy, entertainment, radio, seafaring, and aviation. It has replaced French as the lingua franca of diplomacy since World War II. The rise of English in diplomacy began in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I, when the Treaty of Versailles was written in English as well as in French, the dominant language used in diplomacy until that time. The widespread use of English was further advanced by the prominent international role played by English-speaking nations (the United States and the Commonwealth of Nations) in the aftermath of World War II, particularly in the establishment and organization of the United Nations. English is one of the six official languages of the United Nations (the other five being French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish). The seating and roll-call order in sessions of the United Nations and its subsidiary and affiliated organizations is determined by alphabetical order of the English names of the countries.

When the United Kingdom became a colonial power, English served as the lingua franca of the colonies of the British Empire. In the post-colonial period, some of the newly created nations which had multiple indigenous languages opted to continue using English as an official language to avoid the political difficulties inherent in promoting any one indigenous language above the others. The British Empire established the use of English in regions around the world such as North America, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, so that by the late 19th century its reach was truly global,[22] and in the latter half of the 20th century, widespread international use of English was much reinforced by the global economic, financial, scientific, military, and cultural pre-eminence of the English-speaking countries and especially the U.S. Today, more than half of all scientific journals are published in English, while in France, almost one third of all natural science research appears in English,[23] lending some support to English being the lingua franca of science and technology. English is also the lingua franca of international Air Traffic Control and seafaring communications."

For those who are interested in an in-depth analysis of the issue, here is the link to the article from which I quoted: English, the lingua nullius of global hegemony

English is more global than any other language. However, I do not believe it has anything to do with hegemony. It is about convenience and practicality.

As I stated above, the critical perspective zeros in on the ways in which issues of power and ideology are implicated in language. Below are some useful references that discuss these issues at length:

Norton, B. (1997). Language, identity, and the ownership of English. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 409–429.
Pennycook, A. (1994). The cultural politics of English as an international language. London: Longman.
Pennycook, A. (1998). English and the discourses of colonialism. London: Routledge.
Peterson, J. O. (1998). Ethnic and language identity among a select group of Vietnamese-Americans in
Portland, Oregon. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Portland State University.
Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Phillipson, R. (Ed.). (2000). Rights to language: Equity, power, and education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Tollefson, J. W. (1991). Planning language, planning inequality: Language policy in the community.
London: Longman.
Tollefson, J. W. (2000). Language ideology and language education. In J. Shaw, D. Lubelska, & M. Noullet (Eds.), Partnership and interaction: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Language and Development (pp. 43–52). Bangkok: Asian Institute of Technology. Tollefson, J. W. (Ed.). (2002). Language policies in education: Critical issues. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

I'm with Katerina here. Where is this going Anes? I don't subscribe to linguistic imperialism and have publicly stated on numerous occasions that NNES are probably the better teachers of English.
The fact that the world has chosen, albeit reluctantly, to use English as a lingua franca, at least for now, is fortunate for those of us who were lucky enough to be born native speakers. However, I have recognised that English no longer belongs to the inner circle and that not everyone wants to use full-strength native-like English. Let's move on...

We know one another now thanks to English. What more do you want? In a multilingual country like India, English is the only connecting language. As Mr Ian Paul has put it, let's spend our time discussing issues concerning teaching this world language rather than how English has become the the language of hegemony, etc.

I did critical analysis in my PhD, I referred to Phillipson and others. I found evidence of linguistic imperialism, colonialism, orientalism and UScentrism in the discourse and images of one global ELT book. In my conclusion, I recommended that administrators and practitioners become aware of the ideologies and power relations that have 'become stuck to English' (Pennycook, 1998). My other recommendation would be for people to be aware of 'who is speaking on behalf of others'. Look at the Table of Acknowledgements in any ELT textbook, and read who is consulted about the content of the book. Also note where they come from.

It makes me chuckle why doesn't Robert Phillipson amuse in English it is a mystery only!

We made a lot of discussions about the matter--why does Mandarin debut not an International language---in Applied linguistic forum last year and so on.

Not now, twenty years back, I have been to HKG for two years including three months to Beijing. I traveled to Beijing first from HKG to Canton by train, later, again train to 2,700 miles for three nights journey to see the vast country of China.

General people were so amused in speaking in English, it enchanted me all time-- I am not claiming all taxi drivers or like similar these people were all good at English-- but rather their fervor to speak or to know the language used to make me surprise! It has been happening to all Asia specially I saw to BKK, Singapore, KL or elsewhere visiting there several times.

Being a foreigner, I needed only 2/3 people in an unknown place in China who knew the English language, that was all, interesting was many knew to show me the path or direction how to go.

I think we shouldn't weigh and compare languages in terms of their relative value. Value in learning a language is deeply rooted in culture and we shouldn't ignore it.

If you're talking about English as a practical language, however, the argument is clear. As a foreigner who's lived in China for 7 years and at an intermediate level of Mandarin, I use English almost exclusively. The same can be true for most of the world. Perhaps the locals of every country don't often use the language, but at almost any corner of the world, you'll encounter someone who can converse with you in English. Can we say this about any other language in the world?

Perhaps French and Spanish are a distant second/third. How many of you live abroad and are/know French and Spanish people? I can tell you with confidence their level of English will be much higher than your average non-expat because of the inherent need for English in their life. They're often not improving their skills in the local language, but in English because it's a global language.

This is especially true in a business setting, as emphasized above. I feel to some degree this article is a bit of a troll post, as it's taking issues completely out of context.

This post is in response to Gangadharan Nair who wrote that " Ian Paul wrote 'let's spend our time discussing issues concerning teaching this world language rather than how English has become the the language of hegemony".

I think we can and should discuss how to teach ESL / EFL AND the ideologies that are carried along with the language. Perhaps the how English has become the language of hegemony is less important than that is has. The topic can shift, as I suggested earlier to raising awareness of how the hegemony is carried in the language.

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

Katerina, the all too familiar concept of one-size-fits-all refers to the standardization and commodification of language teaching and learning promoted by ELT industry-they can't make profit without this faulty assumption of an abstract learning set-up. Teachers who work in an academic institution have to stick to the prescribed textbook, but teachers who run private classes have the choice whether to use mainstream textbooks or not.

It is because we can't "isolate human activity" that ,as teachers, we need to situate pedagogical practices within its social, historical, economic, and political contexts. and as language is an ideological expression of our human activities, what we teach and how we teach it, has political implications.

Problem lies here when somebody sticks to prescribed books as suggested by the authority, problem lies when you are independent and follow numerous books like I follow, solution? I think we must combine all and be alert who is following which, being a researcher to English grammar, I try to follow all authenticated sources only and read all if possible.

Of course, somewhere you are helpless when punctuation matter where it is related with grammars too, but you have to follow the prescribed ways of style, like AP/Oxford/Moribund/Chicago,etc what will you do?Nothing, you will have adore the authority in apposite time and place. Like, you know what TOEFL authority likes or IELTS? and so on.

I make sure I have displaced from the starting topic point but ,Anes,forced me to say vital discussion of authority and prescribing.

Actually, Katerina, you're going to see more and more textbooks claiming the "Global" mantle, especially in Primary. I can think of at least two big name publishers who already have a "global" course out there (one even has it in the name), and more on the way. For better or for worse, it's not about publishers being ignorant of student/teacher needs, it's that schools are wanting much more savvy (and ultimately more expensive to produce) books. It's sadly not cost effective to make a strong series featuring all of the bells and whistles schools/administrators demand and still only make the series focused on one region.

On top of that, as more schools across the markets adopt the Cambridge exams, it's becoming easier to make a "one size fits all" book because they're all reaching for the same standards that, again, schools demand.

Ah, testing, increasing the demand for globalized English. ;-)

I have problems when one divorces language from culture. You just can't, it is impossible.

The notion of a "Global" language implies a language that is neutered and divorced from its history and cultural core. This to me is never the case. Now indeed, since English is used all over the world as a lingua franca, we might consider it in that vein a "global" language but only through it's dispersion. I prefer to think of English as having many local varieties both native (standard) and non-native (non-standard).

I do think we need to rethink the role the internet is playing in homogenizing the world into one more common form of English. It is occurring. However, this process then brings into question "domination" and "imperialism" as if language had its own battleships (to reference a famous quote). Recently, an article was written by two Iranian scholars about EnglishCentral, the site I'm building. They insist that we are bashing Iran and have a hidden agenda to promote America at the expense of Iran and that this isn't a good thing for an educational company. I find the article misinformed but interesting nontheless. I disagree with it but wonder what others here think about it. Do they have a point or is it typical totalitarian scholarship and playing to the mullahs?

Does 'global' mean homogenized and static, or is there still some wonder and awe (and value) even in one language with many dialects from 'old english' to more modern usage? Here in Missouri, we have a distinct Ozark accent and dialect that in structure can roll with inflections up and down through the sentence like the Ozark limestone hills. The dialect words and phrases have been debated as relicts from Shakespearian times, or more modern, isolated influences. I was reminded of this recently in an "Ozarks Watch" public television show, where (a musician and) former teacher Mitch Jayne (deceased 2010) was interviewed. He was startled as a new teacher of young Ozarks children when he first heard ancient nouns and verbs being tossed around. I wouldn't 'countenance' a forced merger to a global language, spoken or written, but then I still value inches and miles as perfectly valid up against centimeters and meters.

David, it looks like a legal issue to me.

Every practice, including linguistic practices--the teaching, disseminating, learning, practicing of a language--brings with it implicit and explicit metaaspects of power relationships. Michel Foucault made brilliant arguments about this, so did Juergen Habermas, with an emphasis on language as a medium of social control and power. Albert Memmi includes linguistic analysis in his seminal work "The Colonizer and the Colonized". Post-colonial studies often focus on issues of language use and identity creation/manipulation.
The spreading of a language, in any historical or geographical context is typically preceded by military/political/economical/cultural power and the expansion of such power, albeit temporary. Look at the languages previous posters cited, including Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, and Chinese--military and cultural expansion went hand in hand with the expansion of these languages. With this in mind, English is as global as it suits military, political, economic, and cultural interests--be they in the form of oil, rice, cars, or Coca Cola. TYPICALLY, but not necessarily, proficiency in a language such as English will be more prevalent among humans whose interests are served by knowing English. And this is the social, historical, economical, and political context that Dr. Anas is talking about, or so I think. Looking at language use as an "innocent" or "un-interested" practice makes it very easy to buy into such superficial arguments like the one that "english is a global language".
Beyond the practical necessities of knowing the languages we teach (in terms of phonetics, syntax, morphology, lexis, etc.) and teaching methodologies, awareness of extra-linguistic contexts ought to be added to our required repertoire of knowledges. Without such awareness, our perspectives as educators are saddeningly limited.

you can teach for the society in which you live, or you can teach for the one you want to see. I am afraid there is no third option when it comes to what we teach or how we teach it. in other words, you can earn your living teaching for this society, or you can earn your living teaching for a better society. There is no hypocrisy involved here. The same is true for whatever we do in this life: you can eat/shop/...for the society in which you live or you can shop/eat for the one you want to see.

"What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make". Jane Goodall.

I truly appreciate the diverse positions posters are taking in this thread. The fact that there have been as many responses seems to suggest that this IS a topic worthy of discussion and reflection. This surely isn't an easy topic to discuss, but I applaud the civility with which most posters are expressing their divergent viewpoints.

..., you certainly raise some valid questions. Still, i am not sure any of my statements express hypocrisy; if they do, I apologize, and will go back to reflect on the thought processes underlying my statements. But I am glad about the first point you bring up, for, from my perspective, you highlighted a conflict of interests. Yet just because something isn't easy (biting the hand that feeds ya, so-to-speak, by looking critically at the activity that provides one's livelihood), we cannot use that as a rationale to shy away from it.

I firmly believe that we can and MUST look at the implications of our actions--specifically, teaching English, in any of its forms. The thing is that we are NOT just teaching a language. We are committing a political act--whether interpreted correctly or not, as David's latest post illustrates.

Ideally, we are teaching a plethora of things: life time learning skills, the historical and cultural origins of a language, along with an awareness of what language does--what all it communicates, from social status to economical status, to local origin of speakers, levels of education--indicating one's place in "the system", if you will. To me, all this fits perfectly with one of the skills you list--critical thinking skills.

Discussing English as a "global" language encourages reflection and analysis of ALL aspects tied to language teaching, including the marketing stunt of labeling a teaching book as "global". These are not "philosophical" issues, or issues dissociated from "teaching this world language" as Ian wrote, suggesting we should spend our time otherwise, on more "practical" issues. These are very important practical issues that have ramifications beyond the classroom, and the best teachers don't stop being teachers when the class session is over.
The fact that these issues invite, perhaps require, critical self-reflection about what we do as educators beyond how we explain the difference between "to grow" and "to grow up" in a classroom makes these discussions all the more fascinating. There is no reason to "feel guilty" about teaching English, not at all, and there are plenty of reasons to be thrilled and enthusiastic about what we do, how we help our students. But especially if we value critical thinking skills as a staple of the education we impart on our students, for us to be aware of extra-linguistic aspects of language learning can only make us better educators. Even if it makes the teaching process more complex.

Katerina, my point is not to suggest that what I do for society is better or worse than what everyone else does, which is an entirely separate issue. I just want to emphasize one thing: it is hugely important to be conscious of what we do as it has far-reaching implications, as Jane Goodall beautifully put it. We need to constantly question our taken-for-granted assumptions.

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." Mark Twain.

Hi Anes,

Having met many students from many parts of the word, including Europe, I have come to understand that yes, English may not be widely spoken in some countries -- yet people from those places also acknowledge that English is today's global language, whether they like it or not.
In fact, here in Asia, some cultures that are traditionally non-English speaking, are quickly introducing the learning of English even in the pre-school. I also believe that English will remain our lingua franca for many more years to come.

"language teachers do not just teach language" -- Katerina, I agree with you. We teachers of language help our students with many life skills they'll need as they move on to the next phase in their lives - be it in higher studies, or in finding work, or in their various ministries (as in the case of my own adult EFL learners).

I have had the privilege of teaching in religious communities, and in one pastoral institute, whose members all come from different cultural backgrounds, and it has been an enriching part of my life.

Mohamed, I kind of get what you are saying.

"you can teach for the society in which you live, or you can teach for the one you want to see. I am afraid there is no third option when it comes to what we teach or how we teach it." - this is what during World War 2 was commonly refered to as Nazi Indoctrination (essentially - please don't get specific on the difference, I know).

A teacher's job is to walk in a classroom and be as impartial as possible. It's a teachers job to inspire learners to find their own direction, not show them the direction you think is right

..., awakening happen every day in the field of education. Learning/ Educational Technologist is easily the largest growing in the field of education. With new technologies, comes new idea to use it in education coupled with the new Psychology and understanding of the human brain and how that might apply to learning influence greatly educational and learning theories, which are evolving daily - in short we are getting better at teaching - as a species, the next generation will become vastly superior to the one before it.. We are on the cusp of inventing AI, human development in the next century will be a vast change - I am certain of it!

Brian, I will leave aside the analogy with Nazi Hitler as it suggests that the critical perspective on language education is a kind of indoctrination while mainstream pedagogy is not. Let me just repeat a quote from Paulo Freire, the father of critical pedagogy, that expresses the critical perspective:

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

This quote lays out two diametrically opposed approaches to education. The first one aims primarily at maintaining, legitimizing, and ultimately reproducing the dominant social order while the second one is geared toward challenging, contesting, and ultimately transforming the dominant social order. What’s more, these two approaches entail entirely different sets of pedagogical practices and implications. It is not only what we teach, but also how we teach it that has political implications whether we are conscious of it or not. For instance, the way English is taught and learned now tends to reinforce consumerist, egoistic, acquisitive, competitive, and atomistic tendencies in learners.

Andrew (1992) carried out a broad and incisive analysis of ELT textbook where he sought to locate the practice of ELT material production within a larger socio-political context. He provided an interesting summary of propositions on the basis of which ELT is structured:

1. Basic proposition: ELT textbooks are cultural products whose production is socially located. As such, they contain within them 'ideological coding' or representations and materials practices operating at the level of society as a whole.

1. Textbooks constitute part of a struggle for hegemony in which (ruling class) ideologies are represented as 'natural' and 'commonsensical'.

1. In the production of cultural objects, ideological coding can be seen in various ways: through the content of cultural objects and (more importantly) their form which will contain representations of the societal context.

1. The societal context is characterized by:

* a social structure based on class divisions in a relationship of exploitation

* a division between work and leisure

* clocked labor, in which time is bought and sold

* a division of labor, in which production tasks are broken down into simple repetitive operations

* deskilling, in which skilled work is rendered unskilled by new technologies

* a separation of conception from execution in which decision making is
* a strengthening of accountability to higher levels in the social hierarchy

* standardization in which social life develops a uniform character everywhere

* a process of commodification in which tangible goods and intangible services
are promoted as a commodity to be bought and sold.
* planned obsolescence which necessitates repeat purchasing of commodities.

* the development of a psychology of 'possessive individualism' in which the
public come to see themselves as consumers and accumulators
* 'colonization' in which patterns of consumerism, commodification, work and
authority relations are reproduced and confirmed in other areas of social life.

Andrew, L. (1992). Why are ELT materials the way they are? Retrieved from dissertations and theses database. PhD Lancaster 1992 (p. 241).

Advocates of critical approaches to second language teaching are interested in relationships between language learning and social change. From this perspective, language is not simply a means of expression or communication; rather, it is a practice that constructs, and is constructed by, the ways language learners understand themselves, their social surroundings, their histories, and their possibilities for the future. (Norton and Toohey, 2004:1)

The key words here, I think, are ‘social change’: a critical pedagogy has a transformative agenda, seeking social justice by challenging inequalities based on gender, ethnicity, religion, class, sexual orientation, language and so on. An important tool for identifying and exposing the power structures that sustain, and are sustained by, these inequalities is critical discourse analysis (CDA). CDA lifts the lid off texts and teases out the ideological subtexts buried therein."

I highly recommend this article by Scott Thornbury:

If children understood how to reason they would not need to be educated.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau, was born in 1712, and goes on to inspire countless educating pioneers whereas Paulo Freire (1921) was an advocate for the poor in the field of education and is maybe not the right person to quote (it suggests a bias).

"For instance, the way English is taught and learned now tends to reinforce consumerist, egoistic, acquisitive, competitive, and atomistic tendencies in learners." -I'd love to see the science that validates this opinion!

As for Andrew's work, I'd suggest he didn't look in China. The Chinese produce their own ELT materials. Which according to my Chinese peers are horrible. Additionally, I work with several professionals from the UK and atour school we have teaching material from the UK, which my colleague also suggest is horrible (and I agree).

The reason for this in my opinion? The US government and general consumer of education spend more than twice as much as any economy on Earth in the field of education, in that country.

As for Andrew Little John, I don't think he wrote a timeless piece, I am not sure he would still believe his points valid. ESL teachers don't write a lot of material for big publishers like Pearson Longman or the like, if you read the writer's credentials it tends to say EdD or PhD Ed, so, I am not sure the current model leaves Dr. John as an expert.

Critical pedagogy is used in different fields including ESL. Below are some references from the article by Scott Scott Thornbury:


Auerbach, E. (1995) ‘The politics of the ESL classroom: Issues of power in pedagogical choices’, in Tollefson, J. (ed.) Power and Equality in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Benesch, S. (2010) ‘Critical praxis as materials development: Responding to military recruitment on a US campus’, in Harwood, N.(ed.) English Language Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Canagarajah, A.S. (1999) Resisting linguistic imperialism in language teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Freire, P. (1993) Education for Critical Consciousness, New York: Continuum.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (1999) ‘Critical classroom discourse analysis’, TESOL Quarterly, 33, 3.

Norton, B. and Toohey, K. (2004) ‘Critical pedagogies and language learning: An introduction’, in Norton, B. and Toohey, K. (eds), Critical Pedagogies and Language Learning, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pennycook, A.(1999) ‘Introduction: Critical approaches to TESOL’, TESOL Quarterly, 33, 3.

Wallace, C. (1992) ‘Critical literacy awareness in the EFL classroom’, in Fairclough, N. (ed.) Critical Language Awareness, London: Longman.

As for how the current ELT practices promote consumerist ethos,

Socio-economic Bias and Consumerism

What is meant by socio-economic bias? Simply, the privileging, omission, or stereotyping of particular socio-economic classes. In textbooks, this is common in the frequent, nearly default, portrayal of middle-class or upper-middle class pursuits as the norm. Participants in example sentences, for instance, all seem to take vacations, travel nationally or internationally for leisure purposes, play tennis and golf, and buy new cars and jewelry. In other words, consumerism in textbooks is tied to the portrayal of the middle or upper class as the global norm; in addition, it is further complicated by the promotion of certain brand names of goods, or the act of buying itself.

The following examples of socio-economic bias and consumerism are taken from recent ESL grammar texts. These examples are not taken from contextualized discourse samples, but stand as individual sentences exemplifying grammatical structures (discussion follows the examples).

a. The rings are small but expensive.
b. That is a beautiful car.
c. The best color for a new car is red.
d. Do you have a green sports car?
e. They go to Florida every summer.
f. Of all the restaurants, he likes McDonald's best.

(Example 2. Sample sentences from an ESL grammar book, 2001)

a. I prefer the Ford Mustang.
b. Your mother drives a sports car, doesn't she?
c. I hope to go to Italy next fall.
d. They advise us not to travel by bus.
e. Those cars are brand new.
f. My watch is new.

(Example 3. Sample sentences from an ESL grammar book, 2006)

a. She has some money.
b. Maria wears a lot of jewelry.
c. Sonya is wearing some silver jewelry.
d. I need some money.
e. Where did you buy those shoes?

(Example 4. Sample sentences from an ESL grammar book, 1996)

a. I shelled out a lot of money on the diamond engagement ring that I bought for her.
b. After the game, he gulped down the entire bottle of Coke in no time.
c. It even has a nice swimming pool that we'll be able to use in the summer.

The source:

For a book on the subject, you can read "The Construction of English: Culture, Consumerism and Promotion in the ELT Global Coursebook" by John Gray. In case you need more sources, I'd be happy to oblige.

I see what your saying rings are small expensive - social economic biased - agreed. If you are teaching this from a book, it's because you are a poor teacher! I work with English majors all day long, and I mean to be offensive, except for English rules, which none of them seem to know, in the field of education (as a teacher), they are seemingly useless. Everything is about drill, drill, drill, which any educational psychologist would tell you is useless, useless, useless!

Bloom's Taxonomy is on my website, here is the link:

On Bloom's Taxonomy:
Remember is where drilling would be classified.
A good teacher might use project based or problem solving based learning to educate a learner which is where Creating comes in:

I have a 15 year old Chinese student. two other native English speakers and two Chinese teachers teach him. I began teaching him heroes utilizing wikipedia. Various heros, not American, I asked him to come to class and share an English song from an English culture, that he found independently on his own using the internet - not my biases. I then discussed apart of his culture's history. I am particularly fond of: San Guo or the 3 Kingdoms, which, I had him explain his country's history to me in English (also, not biased-just familiar) - English Comprehension/ Project Based Learning.

Accoding to all 4 of his other teachers an the student, his growth has been exponential in the 4 months I've been teaching him.

My point is you are complaining about old models which you are still using and maybe not everyone else is. You work in the field of education teaching English, yet you are using English learning models when Educational models are vastly superior!

In my English Classes as a Junior High Schooler or High Schooler I did book reports of classical English literature, and that is certainly biased but, it gives an accurate historical perspective of where the language was and where it is, and it is absolutely necessary for English language learning.

What is the objective of English Language learning of your student?

A young lady, I know, from Poland was classically educated at Oxford University in English studies. She is fluent in English. Became in 4 years mostly fleunt in Chinese. Started her Master's Degree in the Netherlands in English. Turns out, her level of English isn't quite good enough to write an academic paper. I look at all my students, be it a 2 year old or a 15 year old and I ask myself when they are 25 if, I've done my job correctly, will they be able to write academic paperson a Master's level in English. More over, as that many many many academic papers are written or rewriteen in English will they be able to read and understand them.

Anes writes "The following examples of socio-economic bias and consumerism are taken from recent ESL grammar texts".

Therefore, I think that Anes has provided a set of 'typical' content from ESL/EFL textbooks as a demonstration of typical and 'unquestioned' ideological content. I don't think he provided these as examples of methodology.

It is glaringly obvious that I am very critical of mainstream methods and textbooks. it is beyond me how anyone who has read any one of my posts can associate me with mainstream pedagogy.

Here is a better alternative: problem-posing approach. As Freire said:

"Education as the practice of freedom-- as opposed to education as the practice of domination-- denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in their relations with the world."

“authentic education is not carried on by “A” for “B” or by “A” about “B,” but rather by “A” with “B.”

Within such an approach, learners fully exercise their own agency as they are directly involved with the students to decide what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. Where's the indoctrination here? Incidentally, learners don't start from a point of tabula rasa waiting to be enlightened or indoctrinated by an all-knowing teacher.

compare these two models:

a) Mainstream: what we do, is decided by forces outside our control like ELT industry, which still reigns supreme, unless one teaches private classes and it is an exception compared to the majority of teachers who teach at language centers across the globe or academic institutions.

Critical education: what we do, is decided by you (students) and me(teacher)? which model results in indoctrination and usurpation of agency.

"The problem-posing approach stems from the work of Brazilian Paulo Freire, who developed a method of teaching literacy while also facilitating learners’ understanding of social and political contexts around them. This method has been adapted for use in the U.S. in teaching ESL and lends itself well to topics involving cultural issues. The instructor can use the problem-posing approach as a tool to allow learners to compare and contrast cultural elements and the challenges that these differences create in their lives.

The method begins with a discussion of a “code” which is used to develop language ability and guide learners in critical analysis of a topic. The “code” may be a picture, song, poem, or written passage – anything that embodies aspects of the learners’ lives and allows the instructor to draw out the learner’s’ thought and feelings about something relevant to them. Ideally, the “code” should also represent a problem that learners face, although they may not always interpret the code as embodying a problem in the way the instructor thinks they will.

Here is a step-by-step guide to the problem-posing approach:

STEP I: Identify the Elements

Ask questions that elicit a description of what learners see in the “code.” These will most likely be who/where/what types of questions. Vocabulary development may occur here. Make sure that learners understand what the “code” depicts.

STEP II: Identify the Context

Expand the discussion to include the implication of what the learners have described. What can we deduce about what the people in this “code” are doing? This may include “why” questions of inference.

STEP III: Relate the ‘Code’ to Personal Experience

Ask the learners if the “code” is similar to their lives in any way. In what way is this event or place meaningful to them? At this point, the elements that are in conflict or present problems may be emerging. Elicit the learners’ feelings about this issue.

STEP IV: Identify the Problem – if one has emerged (if not, go to step 5)

Ask the learners to define the problem as they see it. It is important to allow the learners to articulate what they see going on so that they have a personal stake in the problem.

STEP V: Identify Cultural Differences

Whether a concrete problem has emerged or not, a discussion of cultural differences will allow learners to reflect on their lives in a meaningful way. In what ways has culture played a role in this situation? In what ways does culture contribute to the existence of a problem?

STEP VI: Propose Solutions

The instructor can facilitate a brainstorming discussion of possible solutions and ways that learners have personally tried to deal with problems such as this. Get out a lot of possible ideas, which you can then analyze and refine. Ask learners to evaluate the pros and cons of each solution and to arrive at their choices of the best ways to deal with this problem. What should the players in the “code” do? What could learners do in the same situation?",d.dGY

English is perhaps a global language only in the sense that it is learnt and used most outside countries where it is the predominant language by the elites within countries and is used to engage in trade and education and the sharing of ideas within these areas. Although it is widely taught in state schools globally, in general only those with access to better education and those who can afford private classes actually develop any genuine ability to communicate and gain an advantage over others in the competition for the better paying jobs which require English competence. That is probably why as a traveller one encounters so few speakers of English.

I have only explored an ELT text, but in so doing I found the following:

Chappelle (2009) explores the hidden curriculum in a French programme at a university in the US. She shows how Canada, as a destination for French language study programmes, had been rendered invisible. Her quantitative research of course books, CD ROMs and multiple online resources, for nine beginner French language classes demonstrated that French language and culture were presented in an array of media as if being owned exclusively by the French. What Chappelle (2009) found was the French language instructors were recreating their educational experiences while at school in France and, in so doing, did not question the centrality of France within the French programme.

Chapelle, C. (2009). A hidden curriculum in language textbooks: Are beginning learners of French at U.S. universities taught about Canada? The Modern Language Journal 93.

But Linda, the question is - do the authors have an obligation to reflect the totality of the linguistic domain of a language?

Besides Quebecois there are thousands of other types of "French" which could equally claim they should be represented in a text teaching "French". It is even worse when it comes to English.

I do buy into the prevailing sentiment that we must create materials purified and representing the whole spectrum, diversity of a language. This amounts to sucking the culture and spirit out of a language - you end up getting the Interchanges and English Files, pleasing everyone but at a cost of cutting out the wonderfully interesting nuance of the English language.

The even larger question is (as you allude in your comment), "Who owns / controls a language?". I say the people and if some segment want to create a book excluding Quebecois, so be it (even if done unconsciously). I'm sure in Canada there are programs with curriculum fully reflecting the Franco-Canadian experience and this language.

Let's not push curriculum into one corner. Allow diversity and teachers/schools can be the ultimate ones to choose what suits their program best. That's my take. Keep it real, avoid creating this artificial "teaching" globlish stuff...


My above comment should read, "I don't buy into the prevailing sentiment ...."

..., you talk about inviting students to look at the content in a critical way and I have found that they do anyway. For example with regard to the examples Anes has given us I have seen students take issue with these silly kind of sentences and scoff at them. I have at times been on the brink of laughter myself at some of the ridiculousness of sentences found in course books.At the same time I think the students recognise these are a vehicle for improving their English language skills and so disregard the content and just focus on the grammar point itself.

Anes with regard to the problem posing approach I think some teachers already do this in their lessons but I think we have to be mindful of the language level of the student some for example at elementary level may not be able to engage in an activity like this because their English is so limited.

Shall we do English as a universal language? Let us expand our horizons. Klingon, anyone?

Hey David,
Re author’s obligations: I image they have obligations to their publishers. I think that teachers/ programmes have an inbuilt responsibility to meet the needs of students.

I offered Chappelle’s work as an example of research that had been conducted on languages other than English, so I think it was she who initiated the concept of language ownership. That idea was not my 'hidden curriculum'. She researched the hidden curriculum, you are correct, in teaching any kind of French, a different version of the hidden curriculum could emerge.

There seems to be a misconception that addressing critical theory equates with offering ‘dispirited’ materials devoid of culture. Critical theory means being aware that meaning is socially situated, an acknowledgement that leads to the idea that curriculum and diversity are very much in the center of the room. Critical theory also means being aware of power and ideology that are in materials.