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ENGLISH FOR GLOBALISATION OR FOR THE WORLDS

PEOPLE?
ROBERT PHILLIPSON

Abstract The article explores the role of English in ongoing processes of globalisation, the reasons for its dominance, and the need for conceptual clarification in
analysing English worldwide. Examples from the post-colonial and post-communist
worlds and the European Union reveal increasing corporate involvement in education,
and World Bank policies that favour European languages. Studies of global English
range from those that uncritically endorse global English to those which see it as
reflecting a post-imperial but essentially capitalist agenda. Many of the contemporary trends are captured in two competing language policy paradigms that situate
English in broader economic, political and cultural facets of globalisation, the
Diffusion of English paradigm, and the Ecology of Languages paradigm. A number
of studies of various dimensions of linguistic and professional imperialism in the
teaching of English to Asians reveal the persistence of western agendas in education.
There is also increasing documentation of resistance to this, both at the level of
awareness of the need to anchor English more firmly in local cultural systems, and
at classroom level. Language pedagogy needs to ensure that English is not learned
subtractively. Only in this way can globalisation be made more accountable and locally
relevant.
Zusammenfassung Der Autor dieses Artikels untersucht die Rolle der englischen
Sprache im fortlaufenden Prozess der Globalisierung, die Grnde fr ihre Dominanz
und den Bedarf an begrifflicher Aufklrung in der Analyse des Englischen weltweit.
Beispiele von post-kolonialen und post-kommunistischen Welten und der europischen Union zeigen ein wachsendes Engagement von Firmen in der Bildung sowie
politische europische Sprachen favorisierende Massnahmen der Weltbank. Studien
ber globales Englisch reichen von denen, die globales Englisch unkritisch favorisieren
bis zu solchen, die Englisch als Ausdruck post-imperialer jedoch hauptschlich kapitalistischer Tendenzen sehen. Viele der zeitgemssen Trends sind in zwei miteinander
kon-kurrierenden Sprachpolitikparadigmen gefangen, die Englisch in umfassendere
wirtschaftliche, politische und kulturelle Facetten der Globalisierung setzen: die
Verbreitung des Englischparadigmas und die kologie des Sprachparadigmata. Eine
Reihe von Studien ber unterschiedliche Dimensionen linguistischen und beruflichen
Imperialismus im Englischunterricht fr Asiaten zeigt die Fortdauer westlicher
Tagesesordnungen der Bildung. Es gibt jedoch eine wachsende Dokumentation ber
den Widerstand gegen diese Fakten, sowohl auf der Ebene des Bewusstseins ber die
Notwendigkeit, Englisch fester in lokalen Kultursystemen zu verankern als auch auf
Klassenraumebene. Sprachpdagogik muss sicherstellen, dass Englisch nicht subtraktiv
gelernt wird. Nur so kann Globalisierung effektiver gestaltet und lokal relevant werden.
Rsum Lauteur de cet article tudie le rle de langlais dans les processus actuels
de mondialisation, les raisons de sa prpondrance et le besoin de clarification
conceptuelle dans lexamen de la langue anglaise en diffrents points du globe. Des
exemples tirs du monde post-colonial et post-communiste ainsi que de lUnion
europenne montrent lengagement croissant des entreprises dans lducation, ainsi
International Review of Education Internationale Zeitschrift fr Erziehungswissenschaft
Revue Internationale de lEducation 47(34): 185200, 2001.
2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

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que les politiques de la Banque mondiale qui favorisent les langues europennes. Les
tudes menes sur langlais dusage mondial stendent de celle approuvant sans
rserve langlais universel celle le considrant comme le reflet dune conception
post-imprialiste et essentiellement capitaliste. De nombreuses tendances actuelles
sexpriment travers deux modles concurrents de politique linguistique, qui placent
langlais dans le complexe conomique, politique et culturel plus vaste de la
mondialisation : le modle du rayonnement de langlais, et celui de lcologie
linguistique. Plusieurs tudes menes sur les diffrents aspects de limprialisme
linguistique et professionnel dans le cadre de lenseignement de langlais aux
Asiatiques rvlent la persistance dun influence occidentale dans le domaine ducatif.
Il existe galement une documentation croissante sur la rsistance cet tat de fait,
tant au niveau de la prise de conscience quant la ncessit dancrer davantage
langlais dans les systmes culturels locaux, quau niveau de la classe. La pdagogie
linguistique doit garantir que lapprentissage de langlais ne se fasse pas au
dtriment de la langue maternelle. Cette voie est la seule qui puisse rendre le
phnomne de mondialisation plus responsable et plus pertinent au niveau local.
Resumen Este artculo explora el papel que desempea el idioma ingls en los
procesos de globalizacin actuales, las razones de su dominio y la necesidad de aclarar
conceptos en el anlisis del ingls mundial. Hay ejemplos provenientes de los mundos
postcolonial y postcomunista y de la Unin Europea que revelan una creciente
participacin corporativa en la educacin y polticas del Banco Mundial que favorecen
las lenguas europeas. Los estudios sobre el ingls global abarcan una amplia gama,
desde los que aprueban sin reparos el ingls global hasta aquellos que lo consideran
reflejo de un programa postimperialista, pero esencialmente capitalista. Muchas de las
tendencias contemporneas estn representadas por dos paradigmas contrapuestos de
poltica lingstica que sitan idioma ingls dentro de facetas econmica, poltica y
cultural ms amplias de la globalizacin: el paradigma de la difusin del ingls y el
paradigma de la ecologa de las lenguas. Una serie de estudios realizados sobre
diferentes dimensiones del imperialismo lingstico y profesional en la enseanza del
ingls a educandos asiticos revela la persistencia de los programas occidentales en
la educacin. Pero tambin se est documentando de forma creciente la resistencia
contra estas tendencias; tanto a nivel de la conciencia en cuanto a la necesidad de
afianzar el ingls en sistemas culturales locales como tambin a nivel de las aulas.
La pedagoga lingstica debe asegurar que el ingls no sea aprendido de forma
substractiva, para que la globalizacin se pueda desarrollar con mayor responsabilidad y relevancia a nivel local.

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English in globalisation
English is integral to the globalisation processes that characterise the contemporary post-cold-war phase of aggressive casino capitalism, economic
restructuring, McDonaldisation and militarisation on all continents. English
is dominant in international politics and commerce, its privileged role being
strengthened through such bodies as the United Nations, the World Trade
Organisation, and regional groupings such as the North American Free Trade
Agreement and the European Union. The dominance of English is also being
consolidated in other dimensions of globalisation such as military links
(NATO, UN peace-keeping operations, the arms trade), and culture
(Hollywood products, BBC World, CNN, MTV).
There is a considerable literature on globalisation, but language policy is
accorded little attention in the work of economists and political scientists.
Even development researchers, including those specialising in education,
seldom focus on language issues. By contrast, the substantial literature on
language policy and language in education shows that an increasing number
of sociolinguists and applied linguists are approaching language in more
multi-disciplinary ways. However, there is still a striking absence of literature that brings the study of globalisation and English together.
The huge literature on English includes excellent portrayals of the history
of how and why the language expanded (Bailey 1991; Mhlhusler 1996), and
many descriptions of its diversity in different parts of the world. There are
studies of how the role of English in post-colonial societies has served to
maintain western interests, and how the education systems of independent
states have continued the language policies of colonial times virtually
unchanged (Phillipson 1992; Pennycook 1994). Many scholars from the South
are challenging the professional orthodoxies of language scholars from the
North: Kachru (1997) has been concerned to extract the study of post-colonial
Englishes from the stranglehold of western approaches and eurocentricity;

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Dasgupta (1993) convincingly demonstrates that English is not in an organic
relationship with Indian languages or the mass of Indian people; Parakrama
(1995) explores the distinctiveness of Sri Lankan English and its distance from
an Anglo norm; for Ngugi wa Thiongo, the Kenyan novelist, language issues
have always been at the heart of the continuing exploitation of the South by
the North (1993, 2000), hence the need to strengthen creativity in African
languages and to radically change contemporary language policies.
These cris de cur from globally peripheral cultures have affinities to
critiques of linguistics for failing to address the role of language in societal
reproduction. Bourdieu (1991) shows how linguists working in a Saussurean
tradition cut themselves off from social reality when focussing on a standard
language but simultaneously ignoring the processes of state formation that
have led to a unified linguistic market, dominated by the official language
(ibid.: 45). This process has been the dominant pattern at the level of the
state over the past two centuries. It is now being created at the global level.
English is the dominant language of the global economy, markets are being
unified, and language policy interlocks with all the other domains of social
interaction and hierarchisation. As yet, there is little analysis of global English
in this sense.1
There is a major need for conceptual clarification in this area. Such terms
as global English, anglophone Africa, and English being referred to as a
universal lingua franca conceal the fact that the use of English serves the
interests of some much better than others. The concepts include some and
exclude others. Many write loosely that English is the world language, but to
describe English in such terms ignores the fact that a majority of the worlds
citizens do not speak English, whether as a mother tongue or as a second or
foreign language. Critical scholarship ought to analyse the strong forces that
are at pains to create the impression that English serves all the worlds citizens
equally well, or those who uncritically assume this is so, when this is
manifestly not the case.
Mufwene, a linguist from the Congo now based in the US, demonstrates
(1997) that the concepts and terminology used in relation to English outside
the neo-Europes,2 new Englishes, and creoles, involve biased processes of
hierarchisation of the legitimate and illegitimate offspring of English, and
are fundamentally flawed and ethnocentric.
Symptomatic of the wishful thinking of global English is the publicity used
by The International Herald Tribune (earlier New York Herald Tribune). It
describes itself as The worlds daily newspaper. Since 1887. . . . The global
village has a hometown newspaper . . . Its the newspaper the whole world
reads. Evidently the global village, another metaphor much used by the cheerleaders of globalisation, is monolingual. There are in fact still some
6,0007,000 spoken languages in the world, and perhaps equally many sign
languages, and hundreds of languages are used across national borders. The
continuing existence of most languages is, however, threatened by market
forces and the ideology and practice of monolingual nation-states (Skutnabb-

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Kangas 2000a). The continued use of many languages used in international
fora is threatened by globalisation and those forces that strengthen English at
the expense of other languages.
Many decisions that affect the entire worlds population are taken in
English. Reference to English as a global language has therefore much less
to do with demography or geography than with decision-making in the contemporary global political and economic system. The world system itself is
fragile, turbulent and unsustainable. English is currently pre-eminent but may
be challenged by Chinese, Arabic and other languages. In our contemporary
world, 1020% of the population are getting obscenely richer, the Englishspeaking haves who consume 80% of the available resources, whereas the
remainder are being systematically impoverished, the non-English-speaking
have-nots.
When analysing English worldwide the bottom line is whose interests
English serves. Also of crucial importance, not least in the academic and
educational worlds, is whose interests scholarship on English serves. Ngugi
wa Thiongo encapsulates the issues vividly:
A new world order that is no more than a global dominance of neo-colonial
relations policed by a handful of Western nations . . . is a disaster for the peoples
of the world and their cultures . . . The languages of Europe were taught as if they
were our own languages, as if Africa had no tongues except those brought there
by imperialism, bearing the label MADE IN EUROPE. (Ngugi 1993: xvi, 35)

The agony of language loss has been expressed vividly by a delegate from
Mali to UNESCO, when pleading for funds to record the oral memories of
old people, because Malis history itself was still almost entirely oral and
would die with his generation:
When an old man dies in one of our villages, a shelf-full of books is lost. (quoted
in Hoggart 1992)

Contrast this with the words of Lord Macaulay, whose educational minute
in India in 1835 set the tone for language policy throughout the British empire.
When referring to British Orientalists, i.e. westerners who learned oriental
languages, he wrote:
I have never found one amongst them who could deny that a single shelf of a
good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.
(quoted in Kachru 1986: 7)

The colonial exercise was not merely about conquering territory and
economies, but also about conquering minds. For Macaulay and generations
of colonialists the purpose of British education for Indian leaders was to
produce:
A class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, English in taste, in opinion, in
morals and in intellect. (ibid.: 5)

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Throughout the entire post-colonial world, English has been marketed as
the language of international communication and understanding, economic
development, national unity and similar positive ascriptions, but these
soft-sell terms obscure the reality of North-South links and globalisation,
which is that the majority of the worlds population is being impoverished,
that natural resources are being plundered in unsustainable ways, and that
speakers of most languages do not have their linguistic human rights respected
(Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson 1994; Kontra et al. 1999).
Globalisation policies serve to ensure that the role of English is maintained
and perpetuated. The key player in educational policy is the World Bank
(Brock-Utne 2000). Its policies are cast in Macaulays mould:
The World Banks real position . . . encourages the consolidation of the imperial
languages in Africa . . . the World Bank does not seem to regard the linguistic
Africanisation of the whole of primary education and beyond as an effort that is
worth its consideration. Its publication on strategies for stabilising and revitalising universities, for example makes absolutely no mention of the place of
language at this tertiary level of African education. (Mazrui 1997: 39)

The policies of key international organisations dovetail with those of


transnational corporations, which are increasingly active in determining the
content of education worldwide (Spring 1998).
Corporations are also the main providers of educational materials for US schools
. . . and in Canada and other countries, too . . . Oil and chemical companies have
been particularly generous in providing materials to explain nature to young people
. . . a generation of American youngsters is trained to regard nature in a way that
coincides with corporate objectives (Mander 1996: 311312).

This development reflects the predominant interest of corporations in


producing consumers rather than critical citizens. Corporations have long
dominated advertising and the media. As education is a key site of cultural
reproduction, it is logical that the World Bank and the transnational corporations are expanding their influence in education.
This pattern is now also visible in Europe, where hitherto corporate
influence on national education systems has been discreet and more indirect.
In the post-communist world, English was one of several panaceas that were
explicitly and fraudulently marketed as the solution to the problems of the
economy and civil society (explicitly by two British foreign ministers, Douglas
Hurd and Malcolm Rifkind). There is a major support scheme for English
teaching in post-communist European countries.3 The British Petroleum
corporation (now merged as BP Amoco) is funding a Science across Europe
scheme which is being marketed in tandem with the British Council in postcommunist European education systems. The SHELL corporation is funding
a project to upgrade English language education specialists in Bulgaria,
which is doubtless good for both the oil company and for the British textbook
business. So just as the business of America is business (Fishman 1996: 4),

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manifestly English for business is business for English. The English teaching
industry was reported as being worth 6 billion to the British economy in the
1980s, and has expanded significantly since. This industry involves language
schools, publishing, university degrees connected to English teaching, and a
host of ancillary services. A recent example of cultural globalisation aimed
at strengthening English and British interests is the Blair Initiative,
announced on 18 June 1999, which aims at increasing Britains share of the
global market in foreign students. This Initiative is somewhat intriguing
when, according to the British governments own figures, one third of all
children in Britain are growing up in poverty and derive little benefit from
the education system.
A recent development, in parallel with this industry, is the globalisation of
distance education, which is big business for American, Australian and British
universities. School-level exams in the full range of subjects are also business
that consolidates the dominance of English. The University of Cambridge
Local Examinations Syndicate is the second largest examination organisation
in the world, after Educational Testing Services of Princeton, New Jersey. It
organised exams in 1996 in 154 countries (Rosenthal 1997).
The British minister for education and employment, David Blunkett, echoes
official statements of the last fifty years when stating in November 2000
that . . . It makes good economic sense to use English fluency as a platform
to underpin our economic competitiveness and to promote our culture
overseas.4
The use of English is expanding in European Union (EU) member states
and institutions. Links between the education systems of the countries of the
European Union have intensified in recent years, although education policy
is, along with language and culture, in principle a matter for each member
state rather than supra-national bodies (the European Parliament, the
Commission, the Council of Ministers). The EU does however involve an
immense amount of contact in all spheres of life (politics, commerce, tourism,
scientific research, higher education, . . .), such exchange being far from
symmetrical in the use made of languages. The expansion of English is partly
a result of Americanisation in the media, commerce, youth culture et al., and
is assisted by its status as the dominant foreign language in continental
European education systems. While there is no simple correlation between the
use of English and either British culture or US corporate interests, these
developments embody and entail hegemonising processes that tend to render
the use of English natural and normal, and to marginalise other languages.
The EU is in fact a test case for policies that effectively implement language
rights and linguistic equality, which in theory the EU is committed to maintaining. Until recently the dominant language of each EU member state has
generally not been under threat internally from other languages for the past
two centuries, and in this respect there are major differences between what
is happening now in Europe and the experience of the Soviet empire and the
colonial and post-colonial worlds. The meshing of English with each local

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linguistic ecology thus differs substantially. But at root what is at stake is
comparable: is English being strengthened at the expense of local languages
and cultures, or is there a healthy balance between the uses to which English
is put and democratic language policies that accord linguistic human rights
to speakers of all local languages? These are complex, multi-faceted questions to which there are no straightforward answers, even if there are clear
tendencies. What can be attempted in the present context is to exemplify how
some of the issues can be addressed.

Global English
The globe of global English is a crystal ball. Global English represents special
interests. In political and scholarly discourse it is often a subtle form of special
pleading, the advocacy of the privileged in an unjust world: see, for instance,
Crystals book (1997) English as a Global Language, which is, in my view,
eurocentric, and fails to see how the triumph of English affects other languages and is connected to political and economic dominance.5
The overall position of English in many countries has been explored in a
large volume entitled Post-Imperial English: Status Change in Former British
and American Colonies, 19401990 (Fishman, Conrad and Rubal-Lopez, eds.,
1996).6 The volume begins and ends with Fishmans attempt to bring work
on the relationship between language(s) and economic, social and political
indicators up to date in the light of a statistically-based study of a wealth of
such data by one of his collaborators, Rubal-Lopez, and input from the 29
scholars from British and American spheres of influence (including many
from Africa and Asia) who contribute to this volume. Fishman speculates on
English being reconceptualized, from being an imperialist tool to being a
multinational tool . . . English may need to be re-examined precisely from
the point of view of being post-imperial (as the title of our book implies, that
is in the sense of not directly serving purely Anglo-American territorial,
economic, or cultural expansion) without being post-capitalist in any way
(ibid.: 8). He also stresses the limitations of our instruments and concepts, but
boldly tabulates the degree of anglification in each state. His assessment that
the socio-economic factors that are behind the spread of English are now
indigenous in most countries of the world and that the continued spread of
English in former colonies is related more to their engagement in the modern
world economy than to any efforts derived from their colonial masters (ibid.:
639) seems to ignore the fact that engagement in the modern world means
a western-dominated globalisation agenda set by the transnational corporations and the IMF, and the US military intervening, with or without a mandate
from the United Nations, whenever vital interests are at risk.
Many of the dimensions in the contemporary tension between a globally
expansionist language and alternatives to it are illuminatingly brought together
in two paradigms that were initially proposed by Yukio Tsuda (1994), and

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The Diffusion of English and Ecology of Languages paradigms
The diffusion of English paradigm

Ecology of languages paradigm

01. monolingualism and linguistic


01.
genocide
02. promotion of subtractive learning of
02.
dominant languages
03. linguistic, cultural and media imperialism 03.
04. Americanisation and homogenisation of 04.
world culture
05. ideological globalisation and
05.
internationalisation
06. capitalism, hierarchisation
06.
07. rationalisation based on science
07.
and technology
08. modernisation and economic
08.
efficiency; quantitative growth
09. transnationalisation
09.
10. growing polarisation and gaps
between haves and never-to-haves

multilingualism, and linguistic


diversity
promotion of additive foreign/
second language learning
equality in communication
maintenance and exchange of
cultures
ideological localisation and
exchange
economic democratisation
human rights perspective, holistic
integrative values
sustainability through promotion
of diversity; qualitative growth
protection of local production and
national sovereignties
10. redistribution of the worlds
material resources

which have been further elaborated in a more differentiated analysis by Tove


Skutnabb-Kangas (2000a: 657), from which the table on page 193 comes.
Skutnabb-Kangass book is a comprehensive survey of the entire field of
language dominance, language rights, and language ecology that synthesises
work in many disciplines. It can serve as a springboard for action to promote
more democratic language policies. The Diffusion of English paradigm entails
the promotion of one language (English) and one culture (the USAs) at the
expense of others, by means of the interlocking of linguistic imperialism with
a system of production and ideologies that attempt to justify an economically
expansionist and exploitative world order. The Ecology of Languages
paradigm, by contrast, builds on our linguistic and cultural diversity, attempts
to ensure equality for speakers of all languages, and uses the human rights
system as a counterweight to the free market. To advance the cause of the
Ecology of Languages requires efforts at all levels from the local to the global.
This means putting language policy higher up on political agendas.

Global English teaching professionalism?


English plays a dominant role in many post-colonial contexts. In Pakistan,
English acts by distancing people from most indigenous cultural norms
(Rahman 1999: 293). In India, according to a large survey of the status, role
and functions of English entitled Problematizing English in India, there is
an increasing mystification and deification of English socially and peda-

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gogically it is essentially meant for a special group of people; it is taught
(effectively) in prestigious public schools and other Indian languages are
ignored and marginalized (Agnihotri and Khanna 1997: 19). The study concludes with the words: What we need is a more radical paradigm shift in
language planning in which English sustains rather than destroys the multilingual ethos of India (ibid.: 144). The survey was funded by the British
Council, reminding us that even if the British presence in English studies in
India is small, it can none the less have a significant impact.
A survey of how English has been brokered in India, concludes that when
there is collaboration between British and Indian experts, the leadership,
and the greater initiative and influence, come from the British expert (Rajan
1992b: 140): The connection between higher education in India and the
western academy undeniably exists it is not only historical and paradigmatic
but is also a continuing relation of dependence and support in matters of
scholarship and expertise, material aid, the training of personnel, the framing
of syllabi, and pedagogical methods. (ibid.: 141). This fits the pattern of
professional imperialism that Ivan Illich warned against thirty years ago:
Professional imperialism triumphs even where political and economic domination
has been broken . . . The knowledge-capitalism of professional imperialism
subjugates people more imperceptibly than and as effectively as international
finance and weaponry . . . The possibility of a convivial society depends therefore
on a new consensus about the destructiveness of imperialism at three levels: the
pernicious spread of one nation beyond its boundaries; the omnipresent influence
of multinational corporations; and the mushrooming of professional monopolies
over production. Politics for convivial reconstruction of society must especially
face imperialism on this third level, where it takes the form of professionalism.
(Illich 1973: 5657)

Illichs convivial society has strong affinities with the Ecology of Languages
paradigm. The professionalism he warns against permeates much English
teaching, which has its origins in the Diffusion of English paradigm (Phillipson
1992) and for the most part still sees itself this way, with the native speaker
American or Brit as the target of language learning, and in many parts of the
world as the ideal teacher of English too. The native speaker ideal is implemented in teaching materials that serve to flesh out native speaker norms in
texts that project a culture-specific worldview.
An increasing number of studies is challenging the legitimacy of the
linguistic and cultural universe of English in post-colonial schools. Glenn
Tohs PhD study (Toh 1999) scrutinises cultural bias, cultural and linguistic
hierarchisation in three generations of English teaching textbooks in
Singapore, and shows the inappropriacy of relying on native speaker models
when Singaporean identity is to be strengthened. Through meticulous critical
discourse analysis he shows that the language pedagogy of the textbooks has
its origins in a western vision of the world and is irredeemably eurocentric,
hence incompatible with the contemporary social realities of Singapore and
the wider world. His study confirms the analysis in a recent survey article of

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English in Singapore: the language in education policy ensures that the
language of school and government displaces the language of home and
neighbourhood (Tickoo 1996: 444), official policy resulting in a debilitating
dependence on native speaker models, a product of not just what Phillipson
sees as the five fallacies in ELT,7 but of what Skutnabb-Kangas calls
colonized consciousness (ibid.: 449).8 He adds that this may have seriously
harmful consequences for national identity, with excessive dependence on
exonormative English possibly leading to constraints on the development of
innovation and creativity.
Martin Baiks PhD study analysed the cultural content of textbooks for
English in the two Koreas (summarized in Baik and Shim 1995). It shows that
in the case of South Korea, the textbooks are based on stereotyping: embellishment and glamorisation project western life-styles as objects of
admiration and envy, all of which serves to dissimulate the cultural dominance of foreign nations, especially the United States and Britain, and to
belittle other cultures. The conclusion is that In an age where foreign language
learning has become a survival skill, it becomes virtually everybodys business
to review the cultural message of language textbooks with a more critical eye
(ibid.).
Masaki Oda has reported on the traumatic experience of a university student
from Japan attending a language course in London (Oda 2000). When the
Japanese student did not conform to the stereotype of how the Japanese were
supposed to behave, and questioned it, she was victimised by the school and
subjected to humiliating treatment. The institution insisted on control over
all aspects of the educational discourse, which was structurally biased against
the Japanese learner and her culture, disempowered her and invalidated her
norms. Oda regards this as confirming a picture of mainstream TESOL
imposing an ethnocentric ideology and inadvertently supporting the essentializing discourse that represents cultural groups as stable or homogeneous
entities (Spack 1997: 773). This can be explained in terms of the colonial
construction of the Other. . . . Culture has become a category of fixity rather
than an engagement with difference (Pennycook 1998: 188189). For Oda,
this was a clear case of linguicism in an educational institution, discrimination on the basis of language and culture, and native/non-native hierarchisation.
Thiru Kandiah sees countries in the postcolonial world as trapped in a major
contradiction. On the one hand, they need the indispensable global medium
for pragmatic purposes, even for survival in the global economy. On the other
there is the fact that the medium is not culturally or ideologically neutral, far
from it, so that its users run the apparently unavoidable risk of co-option, of
acquiescing in the negation of their own understandings of reality and in the
accompanying denial or even subversion of their own interests (2001: 112).
These two elements form a dialectic, the one inevitably entailing the other.
What is therefore needed in relation to English is interrogating its formulations of reality, intervening in its modes of understanding, holding off its

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normalising tendencies, challenging its hegemonic designs and divesting it
of the co-optive power which would render it a reproducing discourse (ibid.).
Kandiah advocates authentic local projections of reality, and emancipatory
action.
Canagarajahs 1999 book on resisting linguistic imperialism in Sri Lanka9
is a path-breaking documentation of how English learning can function
productively in ways that meet local needs. He anchors a detailed empirical
study in a highly articulate theoretical perspective. The rich bottom-up
language learning description and analysis shows how the classroom can serve
genuinely emancipatory purposes. He explores student resistance in a marginalised community, and elaborates critical pedagogy strategies that can
productively build on Kandiahs dialectic, the tension between accommodation and resistance, as a way of contributing to a social struggle for empowerment.10
Appropriating English while maintaining their vernaculars makes periphery subjects
linguistically competent for the culturally hybrid modern world they confront. The
maintenance of polyvocality with a clear awareness of their own socio-ideological
location empowers them to withstand the totalitarian tendencies of local nationalist regimes and Western multinational agencies enforced through uniformity
of thought and communication. The simplest gestures of code-switching and
linguistic appropriation in the pedagogical safe houses suggest the strategic ways
by which discourses may be negotiated, intimating the resilient ability of human
subjects to creatively fashion a voice for themselves from amidst the deafening
channels of domination. (Canagarajah 1999: 197)

This is a far cry from the universe of mainstream development aid in


education. People working on educational language projects in Asia in the
early 1990s have pooled their experience in an admirable collection of papers
Language and development. Teachers in a changing world (Kenny and Savage
1997). It contains a fund of reflective analysis of the factors contributing to
the triumphs and, more frequently, the failures of development aid projects.
But it is striking that the title of the book itself seems to assume that English
is a panacea. Language in fact refers exclusively to English. All teachers
in our changing world are apparently teachers of English. This invisibilisation of the rest of the relevant languages is a re-run of much colonial and
post-colonial language-in-education policy, which, as is well known, has
served European languages well and other languages much less well. It reflects
investment being put into English, an infrastructure and ideology that discursively construct English as the handmaiden of globalisation, the universal
medium.
It is significant that an increasing number of scholars and teacher trainers
are seeking to redefine the content of English teaching in Asia so as to make
a break with the cultural and linguistic norms of the Anglo-American world.
Several papers given at the Fifth English in Southeast Asia Conference, held
at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia, 58 December
2000, represent attempts to re-shape the English language of classrooms so

197
that English here genuinely reflects Asian values and goals, and so as to
contribute to educational language policies that can appropriate English in
ways that involve strengthening the local language ecology and the additive
learning of English.11
The forces behind globalisation and the Diffusion of English have massive
resources to promote their cause, and have been successful in projecting a
favourable image of themselves. Those who believe that all languages have
value, and that use of ones mother tongue is a human right, need to be much
more active in counteracting linguistic and professional imperialism, and
creating favourable conditions for a viable, just Ecology of Languages. Both
paradigms need further elaboration so as to clarify for language pedagogy precisely what the subtractive spread of English12 entails, and how it can be
counteracted in all parts of the world. Learners need to develop receptive
competence in many Englishes, beginning, of course, with local variants.
Foreign experts are non-natives whose professionalism must build on deep
knowledge of the culture in which they have chosen to work, which, among
many other things, requires learning local languages. There are many individuals, globally and locally, who are working to make English serve more
equitable purposes, which means that we have cause for feeling confident in
addressing the major challenges that we face professionally. Only by doing
so can we hope that globalisation can be made more accountable and more
sensitive to the real needs of the entire worlds citizens.
Notes
01. On shortcomings of this kind in Crystal 1997, see Phillipson 1999b. Graddol 1997
brings many fields together, but is also not firmly anchored in social theory. See
also Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas 1999.
02. This term relates to parts of the world occupied by Europeans, the Americas,
Australasia, and South Africa.
03. Reported on the British Councils ELTECS electronic list and annual reports.
04. Quoted in the Guardian Weekly, 1622 November.
05. The final paragraphs of Crystal 1997 (139140) speculate on whether English will
eliminate all other languages, which he considers would be an intellectual disaster,
whereas his alternative scenario, the global triumph of English, is: In 500 years
time, will it be the case that everyone will automatically be introduced to English
as soon as they are born . . . ? . . . It may be that English, in some shape or form,
will find itself in the service of the world community for ever. See my review
article, Phillipson 1999b, and Phillipson 2000b.
06. I have reviewed the book in the journal Language, Phillipson 1999a.
07. English Language Teaching, also widely known as TESOL, the Teaching of
English to Speakers of Other Languages, and ESL, English as a Second Language.
08. The term derives from Franz Fanons pioneer analysis of post-colonial societies.
09. See also Lakshman Punchis article in this issue.
10. For several examples of this in bilingual education in a wide range of contexts,
see the contributions to Phillipson 2000a, in particular those by Cummins, Peura,
Taylor, and Wink & Wink.
11. On related issues, see, for South Africa, Alexander 2000, Desai 2000, and Heugh

198
2000; and for more general issues, the contributions to Phillipson (ed.) 2000,
and Ricento (ed.) 2000.
12. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas was the first to propose the re-naming of the Diffusion
of English paradigm as the Subtractive Spread of English paradigm. She
has specific recommendations for teachers of English in Skutnabb-Kangas
2000b.

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The author
Robert Phillipson is British, with degrees from the Universities of Cambridge and
Leeds, and a doctorate from the University of Amsterdam. He worked for the British
Council in four countries, and has lived in Denmark since 1973. He is currently a
Research Professor at the Department of English of Copenhagen Business School.
He has written widely on language learning, language policy and language rights: for
details see the bibliography of his article. A full list is available on his homepage
http://babel.ruc.dk/~robert. His Linguistic Imperialism builds on an analysis of why
English has remained so powerful in postcolonial countries, and the role of language
pedagogy as an instrument of western policy. His current research is mainly concerned
with globalisation and English, and language policy in the European Union.
Contact address: Dr Robert Phillipson, Department of English, Copenhagen
Business School, Dalgas Have 15, DK 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark. E-mail:
rp.eng@cbs.dk.