Whose English(es)?: Naming and Boundary-Drawing as Language-Ideological Processes in the Global English Debate

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Abstract

The field of language education, though often compartmentalized, forms part
of the complex relationship between language and society. One would therefore
expect it to make some use of the concept of language ideology, described by
Park (2009) as a “crucial window through which we can investigate the intersection of language and society” (p. 15). What is taught and tested depends on a number of fundamental beliefs and assumptions about, among other things, the boundaries of the language being taught, the needs of learners and their societies, and the nature of effective communication. If ideology is defined as “the most fundamental belief systems in any social practice” (Mirhosseini,
2018, p. 20), then the study of language ideology aims to reveal and explicate
the functioning of these belief systems as they pertain to language practices.
They may be implicitly held or dependent upon particular readings of past
events and present conditions, and by virtue of being accepted as “common
sense” they create a particular view of the enterprise and inhibit change and
innovation.

Although an awareness of language ideology would therefore appear to be essential for researchers and practitioners in English language education, the
concept is still met with considerable scepticism. The call for them to practise
“reflexivity”, for example, by exploring their own beliefs and assumptions,
brings unexpected challenges. Wee (2018) observes that “expert” attempts to
‘problematize taken-for-granted assumptions run the risk…of being treated as
too esoteric and therefore as having questionable relevance” (p. 50). It is therefore unsurprising that many researchers and practitioners are sceptical towards the concept of language ideology, preferring to leave stable ground beneath their feet and avoid undermining their professional authority.

In this chapter I apply the concept of language ideology to a study of how
English language education is being debated by researchers in the era of global
English. My concern is thus mainly with professional language ideologies (see
Kroskrity, 2000; Gal, 2002), and how these intersect with more widely held
beliefs about language and communication. I argue that proposed “new”
approaches to language education often reflect similar beliefs and assumptions
as the approaches they claim to challenge or supersede, and are based on the
same language-ideological practices, in particular boundary-drawing and
naming. By considering some of the discourses of language education from a
language-ideological perspective, the chapter is thus concerned with both the
nature of the ideologies that influence English language education and with the
discursive mechanisms by which these ideologies are turned into prescriptions
for policy and practice. It also aims to highlight the relevance of language ideology by identifying the ways in which researchers and practitioners can benefit from an awareness of the concept. In asking the question “Whose Englishes?” I am drawing attention to the way in which the territorial claims of the global English debate are based on particular ideologies of language.

The chapter begins with an outline of what are argued to be the language ideological foundations of current approaches to English language education in
many parts of the world. It then provides a brief introduction to some recent
debates in English language education, focusing on the contributions of
research from the English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) paradigm. These contributions are assessed from a language-ideological perspective that compares their assumptions about language and communication with that of the dominant model. The chapter concludes by identifying the main insights of this perspective and discussing the implications for English language education policies and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorldwide English Language Education Today: Ideologies, Policies and Practices
EditorsAli AL-ISSA, Seyyed-Abdolhamid MIRHOSSEINI
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter1
ISBN (Print)9781138599185
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 2019

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language education
language
ideology
English language
Ideologies
communication
expert
paradigm
discourse
present

Cite this

SEWELL, A. J. (Accepted/In press). Whose English(es)?: Naming and Boundary-Drawing as Language-Ideological Processes in the Global English Debate. In A. AL-ISSA, & S-A. MIRHOSSEINI (Eds.), Worldwide English Language Education Today: Ideologies, Policies and Practices Routledge.
SEWELL, Andrew John. / Whose English(es)?: Naming and Boundary-Drawing as Language-Ideological Processes in the Global English Debate. Worldwide English Language Education Today: Ideologies, Policies and Practices. editor / Ali AL-ISSA ; Seyyed-Abdolhamid MIRHOSSEINI. Routledge, 2019.
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abstract = "The field of language education, though often compartmentalized, forms partof the complex relationship between language and society. One would thereforeexpect it to make some use of the concept of language ideology, described byPark (2009) as a “crucial window through which we can investigate the intersection of language and society” (p. 15). What is taught and tested depends on a number of fundamental beliefs and assumptions about, among other things, the boundaries of the language being taught, the needs of learners and their societies, and the nature of effective communication. If ideology is defined as “the most fundamental belief systems in any social practice” (Mirhosseini,2018, p. 20), then the study of language ideology aims to reveal and explicatethe functioning of these belief systems as they pertain to language practices.They may be implicitly held or dependent upon particular readings of pastevents and present conditions, and by virtue of being accepted as “commonsense” they create a particular view of the enterprise and inhibit change andinnovation.Although an awareness of language ideology would therefore appear to be essential for researchers and practitioners in English language education, theconcept is still met with considerable scepticism. The call for them to practise“reflexivity”, for example, by exploring their own beliefs and assumptions,brings unexpected challenges. Wee (2018) observes that “expert” attempts to‘problematize taken-for-granted assumptions run the risk…of being treated astoo esoteric and therefore as having questionable relevance” (p. 50). It is therefore unsurprising that many researchers and practitioners are sceptical towards the concept of language ideology, preferring to leave stable ground beneath their feet and avoid undermining their professional authority.In this chapter I apply the concept of language ideology to a study of howEnglish language education is being debated by researchers in the era of globalEnglish. My concern is thus mainly with professional language ideologies (seeKroskrity, 2000; Gal, 2002), and how these intersect with more widely heldbeliefs about language and communication. I argue that proposed “new”approaches to language education often reflect similar beliefs and assumptionsas the approaches they claim to challenge or supersede, and are based on thesame language-ideological practices, in particular boundary-drawing andnaming. By considering some of the discourses of language education from alanguage-ideological perspective, the chapter is thus concerned with both thenature of the ideologies that influence English language education and with thediscursive mechanisms by which these ideologies are turned into prescriptionsfor policy and practice. It also aims to highlight the relevance of language ideology by identifying the ways in which researchers and practitioners can benefit from an awareness of the concept. In asking the question “Whose Englishes?” I am drawing attention to the way in which the territorial claims of the global English debate are based on particular ideologies of language.The chapter begins with an outline of what are argued to be the language ideological foundations of current approaches to English language education inmany parts of the world. It then provides a brief introduction to some recentdebates in English language education, focusing on the contributions ofresearch from the English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) paradigm. These contributions are assessed from a language-ideological perspective that compares their assumptions about language and communication with that of the dominant model. The chapter concludes by identifying the main insights of this perspective and discussing the implications for English language education policies and practices.",
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SEWELL, AJ 2019, Whose English(es)?: Naming and Boundary-Drawing as Language-Ideological Processes in the Global English Debate. in A AL-ISSA & S-A MIRHOSSEINI (eds), Worldwide English Language Education Today: Ideologies, Policies and Practices. Routledge.

Whose English(es)?: Naming and Boundary-Drawing as Language-Ideological Processes in the Global English Debate. / SEWELL, Andrew John.

Worldwide English Language Education Today: Ideologies, Policies and Practices. ed. / Ali AL-ISSA; Seyyed-Abdolhamid MIRHOSSEINI. Routledge, 2019.

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsBook ChapterResearchpeer-review

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SEWELL AJ. Whose English(es)?: Naming and Boundary-Drawing as Language-Ideological Processes in the Global English Debate. In AL-ISSA A, MIRHOSSEINI S-A, editors, Worldwide English Language Education Today: Ideologies, Policies and Practices. Routledge. 2019