Wednesday, 9 June 2010

English villages, English the way to prosperity and beautiful English (Tuesday workshop, part II)

In Lo Bianco's workshop on Tuesday there were several examples of language planning and policy making taking place on 'levels 2 and 3' (see my last blog entry on the same workshop) that have a huge effect on English usage and the way people see English. I want to put some of the examples in a separate blog entry, since I personally see them as very thought-provoking. (Maybe because I'm closely involved in both English teaching and Finnish Sign Language – the first one being the 'bachelor that everybody runs after' as one of my Deaf research participants described in an interview, and the latter one being the language of a very small minority whose right to use their language has many times been denied.)

- Language policy through becoming "Official" or a "mission"

Korea: "English to our 2nd language"
One interesting example and a current phenomena: English villages.
English villages, Wikipedia.

- English in China and making language policy through identity change and conflict:
"Teaching barbarian"

(An interesting curiousity: There are more Chinese English learners than there are Americans)
Special about China and English in China:

Laws are vague about the status of English in China, that makes the teachers key actors in language policies. Policies say: English is only a tool to know the world – however, in practice it seems to be a question of something more than just using a tool for something.

Recent debates in China about English have been about efficiency and identity, actually it is becoming patriotic to know English. (With English we make our country known and appreciated.)

An example of a person/a phenomena, where language policies are being made just through behaviour: Yu Minhong – "Godfather for overseas study": "English means accumulation of capital". His key message is that English as a tool for prosperity

At the same time, also in China, there is this phenomena of "Young women's inspirational English" that is seen, for example, in a very famous book Beautiful English. ("acclaimed as a book of methodology and inspiration for English learners throughout China … a self-help manual and an autobiography … " (Li, 2009)

These both offer success stories on how learning English is the key factor for gaining something desired.

On the other hand there are strong opinions about Chinese becoming the universal language instead of English.

Another example: radical new methodology "Crazy English"
"To shout out loud, you learn" (Crazy English in Wikipedia)

In the discussion someone noted that it is really happening that people are made to choose between their minority mother tongue and English. What makes them choose that way and what is gained and what is lost when doing that?

Another point made by a member of the audience: For rather monolingual, English speaking countries it is typical that people who are used to one big language it is difficult to imagine learning even more languages. As if thhere is room for your mother tongue and maybe one foreign language.

In the discussion, one 'slogan' (made by Lo Bianco) was made: It is a major disadvantage not to know English BUT it is a major disadvantage to know ONLY English.


The final points in the workshop and its vivid discussion were on teachers and their role in LP.

Lo Bianco gave example of a student–teacher interaction where teacher is doing a lot more (doing LP) when teaching orthography that was the topic of teaching. She/he was, among other things, stating what is proper language, how this view is unquestionably something that the students also have. There are unnoticed practices of teachers doing language policy. For example, what languages they pay attention to, what is recognized, talked about etc. Teachers are giving many strong messages between the lines.

When language education policies are talked about in the media, for example, one voice that is never there is the voice of experience, the teachers' voice!

Teachers have the power to neglect or take the general language policy (the 1st level of making LP) when the classroom door is closed. Only thing that matters there is the interaction between the pupils and the teachers. Teachers' voice is the most important and the most silenced when it comes to making (official) language education planning and language policy.

No comments:

Post a Comment