The Role Of English Language Education In Developmental Contexts

2464 words - 10 pages

The Role of English Language Education in Developmental Contexts

The teaching of English in postcolonial, Third World countries is an issue that has received much debate in the TESOL profession. Opponents of the current global spread of English argue that this language dominance is a form of neo-colonialism and that its expansion should be halted, especially in postcolonial countries where English was previously a language of oppression. Phillipson (1992) goes so far as to term the spread of English “linguistic imperialism” in his work of that title and establishes the notion of “linguistic human rights,” calling for the preservation of native languages in the face of global monolingualism. For many others, though, the growing popularity of English does not have such ominous connotations. Rejecting the implied connection between the spread of English and Western cultural dominance, these applied linguists view English as an international language belonging to all, a valuable asset for global business and cross-cultural communication. Many also hail English as a language of development for the Third World, claiming that the access it provides to greater markets and wider communication stimulates economic and societal development. Language policy makers have adopted this view both in wealthy nations (e.g., U.S., U.K.), where large amounts ‘foreign aid’ moneys are spent on promoting English in the Third World, and in underdeveloped countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where English is now often the sole official language of instruction at all levels of education.

What both perspectives in the debate over the dominance of English fail to address, though, is how English language education actually operates in developmental contexts. Despite many language professionals’ concerns about English language dominance in the Third World, most learners receiving English instruction in these countries, particularly those living in rural areas, gain only limited competence in the language and continue to use their native tongues throughout their daily lives. Instead, what having all of their instruction in English does cost these learners is the quality of their education (in that they are forced to learn through the medium of an unfamiliar language) and the opportunity to develop literacy in their L1. English is not the only language that operates in this manner either, although it is by far the most prevalent of the dominant languages. To provide some focus, this paper will remain limited to a discussion of English education in developmental contexts, though similar concepts may apply to any dominant language operating in these conditions. Many postcolonial and international tongues, and even some dominant native languages have the same affects as English on personal development when promoted at the expense of minority dialects, drastically hindering the learners’ individual economic potentials and leading to larger societal...

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