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Linguistic imperialism, or language imperialism, refers to "the transfer of a dominant language to other people". The transfer is essentially a demonstration of power—traditionally, military power but also, in the modern world, economic power—and aspects of the dominant culture are usually transferred along with the language.
In the modern world linguistic imperialism also translates to power on the International Development front, acting as a standard by which organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank evaluate the trustworthiness and value of providing structural adjustment loans.
Since the early 1990s, linguistic imperialism has attracted attention among scholars of applied linguistics. In particular, Robert Phillipson's 1992 book, Linguistic Imperialism, has led to considerable debate about its merits and shortcomings. Phillipson found denunciations of linguistic imperialism that dated back to Nazi critiques of the British Council, and to Soviet analyses of English as the language of world capitalism and world domination.
As language is part of culture, linguistic imperialism is often manifested in the context of cultural imperialism.
Phillipson defines English linguistic imperialism as
the dominance asserted and retained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages. (paraphrased)
Phillipson's theory supports the historic spread of English as an international language and that language's continued dominance, particularly in postcolonial settings such as India, Pakistan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, etc., but also increasingly in "neo-colonial" settings such as continental Europe. His theory draws mainly on Johan Galtung's imperialism theory, Antonio Gramsci's social theory, and in particular on his notion of cultural hegemony.
- English is best taught monolingually ("the monolingual fallacy");
- the ideal teacher is a native speaker ("the native-speaker fallacy");
- the earlier English is taught, the better the results ("the early-start fallacy");
- the more English is taught, the better the results ("the maximum-exposure fallacy");
- if other languages are used much, standards of English will drop ("the subtractive fallacy").
Intrinsic arguments describe the English language as providential, rich, noble and interesting. Such arguments tend to assert what English is and what other languages are not.
Extrinsic arguments point out that English is well-established: that it has many speakers, and that there are trained teachers and a wealth of teaching material.
Functional arguments emphasize the usefulness of English as a gateway to the world.
- its economic utility: it enables people to operate technology;
- its ideological function: it stands for modernity;
- its status as symbol for material advance and efficiency.
- Demonstrators in non-English-speaking countries often use signs in English to convey their demands to TV audiences around the globe. In some cases, the demonstrator may not even understand what the sign he is carrying says.
- Bobda shows how Cameroon has moved away from a mono-cultural, Anglo-centered way of teaching English and has gradually accommodated teaching materials to a Cameroonian context. Non-Western topics are treated, such as rule by emirs, traditional medicine, and polygamy. Bobda argues for bi-cultural, Cameroonian and Anglo-American education.
- Kramsch and Sullivan describe how Western methodology and textbooks have been appropriated to suit local Vietnamese culture.
- The Pakistani textbook Primary Stage English includes lessons such as "Pakistan, My Country," "Our Flag," and "Our Great Leader," which might sound jingoistic to western ears. Within the native culture, however, establishing a connection between ELT, patriotism and the Muslim faith is seen as an aim of ELT, as the chairman of the Punjab Textbook Board openly states: "The board... takes care, through these books to inoculate in the students a love of the Islamic values and awareness to guard the ideological frontiers of your [the student's] home lands."
- Acar, A. (2006). "Models, Norms and Goals for English as an International Language Pedagogy and Task Based Language Teaching and Learning." The Asian EFL Journal Vol. 8 2006
- Bisong, Joseph (1995 ) Language Choice and cultural Imperialism: a Nigerian Perspective. ELT Journal 49/2 122-132.
- Bobda, Augustin Simo (1997) Sociocultural Constraints in EFL Teaching in Cameroon. In: Pütz, Martin (ed.) The cultural Context in Foreign Language Teaching. Frankfurt a.M.: Lang. 221-240.
- Brutt-Griffler, Janina (2002) World English. Multilingual Matters.
- Canagarajah, A. Suresh (1999), Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching, Oxford University Press.
- Canagarajah, A. Suresh, Thomas Ricento & Terrence G. Wiley [eds.] (2002) Journal of Language, Identity, and Education. Special issue. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Canagarajah, A. Suresh [ed.] (2004) Reclaiming the Local in Language Policy and Practice. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Crystal, David (2003), English as a Global Language, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press.
- Davies, Alan (1996) Review Article: ironising the Myth of Linguicism. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 17/6: 485-596.
- Davies, Alan (1997) Response to a Reply. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 18/3 248.
- Edge, Julian [ed.] (2006) (Re-)Locating TESOL in an Age of Empire. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Holborow, Marnie (1999) Politics of English. Sage Publications.
- Holborrow, Marnie (1993) Review Article: linguistic Imperialism. ELT Journal 47/4 358-360.
- Holliday, Adrian (2005), Struggle to Teach English as an International Language , Oxford University Press.
- Kontra, Miklos, Robert Phillipson, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas & Tibor Varady [eds.] (1999), Language: A Right and a Resource, Central European University Press.
- Kramsch, Klaire and Patricia Sullivan (1996) Appropriate Pedagogy. ELT Journal 50/3 199-212.
- Malik, S.A. Primary Stage English (1993). Lahore: Tario Brothers.
- Master, Peter (1998) Positive and Negative Aspects of the Dominance of English. TESOL Quarterly, 32/4. 716–727. doi:10.2307/3588002
- Pennycook, Alastair (1995), The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language, Longman.
- Pennycook, Alastair (1998), English and the Discourses of Colonialism, Routledge.
- Pennycook, Alastair (2001), Critical Applied Linguistics, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Pennycook, Alastair (2006) Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows. Routledge.
Phillipson, Robert (1992), Linguistic Imperialism, Oxford University Press.
- Phillipson, Robert [ed.] (2000), Rights to Language, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Phillipson, Robert (2003) English-Only Europe? Routledge.
- Punjab Text Book Board (1997) My English Book Step IV. Lahore: Metro Printers.
- Rajagopalan, Kanavilli (1999) Of EFL Teachers, Conscience and Cowardice. ELT Journal 53/3 200-206.
- Ramanathan, Vaidehi (2005) The English-Vernacular Divide. Multilingual Matters.
- Rahman, Tariq (1996) Language and Politics in Pakistan Karachi: Oxford University Press
- Ricento, Thomas [ed.] (2000) Ideology, Politics, and Language Policies. John Benjamins.
- Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove & Robert Phillipson [eds.]; Mart Rannut (1995), Linguistic Human Rights, Mouton De Gruyter.
- Sonntag, Selma K. (2003) The Local Politics of Global English. Lexington Books.
- Spichtinger, Daniel (2000) The Spread of English and its Appropriation. University of Vienna, Vienna.
- Tsui, Amy B.M. & James W. Tollefson (in press) Language Policy, Culture, and Identity in Asian Contexts. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Widdowson, H.G. (1998a) EIL: squaring the Circles. A Reply. World Englishes 17/3 397-401.
- Widdowson, H.G. (1998b) The Theory and Practice of Critical Discourse Analysis. Applied Linguistics 19/1 136-151.
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