Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Agents of Domination

Oh dear, I seem to have become Q to a class full of James Bonds. (Hmmm, that's a good image, surely?...) There was me thinking I was just being a helpful English teacher, going around telling my students that if they want to travel the world and meet interesting people, they could do far worse than go to Japan to teach English as a Foreign Language. But I find this morning that what I have really been doing is recruiting Agents of Domination, trained in English grammar to go out and kill renegade cultures.

Well, I can see the point, and it's this: that in teaching EFL, native speakers tend to impose their own cultural values through the language they teach. And in this, a lecturer from Lincoln University argues, there may be "a social, cultural and pragmatic mismatch in the ethnographic rules of language use". Because English is the most powerful language on earth, this exerts a pressure on second language learners to adopt the ideology underpinning those ethnographic rules. English lessons become cultural propaganda.

It's an important issue for native speakers of English. With power comes responsibility. My classes have long argued that their 1970s Coca-Cola ad vision of all the world singing in perfect (English) harmony is a beautiful ambition, but do we really want a world with only one way of looking at it?

Check it out (and when you go to Japan to teach English, don't make your class sing Beatles' songs).

English belongs to the whole world


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