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Globalization and language teaching
David Block
Institute of Education
University of London
[email protected]
Plan of action
 The
rise of CLT/TBLT
 CLT/TBLT as globalized
phenomenon
 The global TEIL textbook and
commodified identities
 Conclusion
(1) CLT was about new ways of
viewing language education in
modern societies

In the aftermath of anti-establishment movements with
explicit anti-institutional implications..., educational
approaches which called for the de-schooling of society
... or, in its less radical forms, for a basic humanizing of
technocratic and de-humanizing schools, had gained
ground. To humanize schools would require an
orientation towards ‘holistic’ education, which aimed to
promote growth in intrapersonal awareness and
interpersonal sharing as well as intellectual
development. (Legutke and Thomas, 1991: 36)
(2) There was a change in how
language was conceived



The shift from an exclusive focus on grammar
(syntax, morphology and phonology) and lexis to
communicative competence (Hymes, 1971)
Michael Halliday’s (1973) early form of functional
linguistics was influential at this time.
There was an interest in the work of John Austin
(1962) and John Searle (1965) and the
development of ‘speech act theory’
(3) There was a change in language
teaching practices

Information gap

It is necessarily inherently good to speak and to
do so as frequently as possible

One learns to speak by speaking
CLT/TBLT as globalized
phenomenon

CLT/TBLT as ideoscape, i.e. a global flow of
ideas about language teaching and learning.
 Ideologically loaded- related to sets of beliefs
and feelings about the best way to conceptualise
language, communication and language
Ideologies are always and necessarily
constructed in the interests of a particular group
or groups (in this case, the academic and
educational communities propagating
CLT/TBLT)
Clash of ideologies
‘[j]ust as the technologically and economically developed
nations of the West (or centre) hold an unfair monopoly
over less developed (or periphery) communities in
industrial products, similar relations characterize the
marketing of language teaching methods’ (Canagarajah,
2002: 135).
 New approaches to language teaching are
disembedded, i.e. lifted out of their source contexts (e.g.
US, UK) and then taken up elsewhere in the world.
 This assumes that their form and content transcend
spatio-temporal contexts (Giddens, 1990)
 There is seldom any dialogue between exporters of new
approaches and their importers.
 There is no discussion, not only of the form and content
of approaches, but also of their ideological
underpinnings.

Reconciling the global and the local


glocalization, taken from the world of business in
Japan, means marketing goods and services on
a global basis by catering to local particularities.
Here, it conveys the idea that the global does
not merely overwhelm or swallow the local;
rather, syntheses emerge from contacts
between the global and the local via a processes
involving the ‘interpenetrating’ of the ‘particular’
and the ‘universal’ (Robertson, 1995: 30).
Glocalization processes in ELT
… involve a call for local teachers to work out
their own solutions, appropriating what they
deem suitable from globally circulating ideas
about language education in the development of
locally-generated pedagogical practices.
 But there seems to be a near-exclusive focus on
Anglophone countries or English-dominant
educational environments.
 But see e.g. Cheiron McMahill’s ‘grass-roots
feminist English classes’ in Japan.

The global TEIL textbook and
commodified identities


Some publishers provide lists of proscribed topics, while
others rely informally on the acronym PARSNIP (politics,
alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, isms, and pork) as a rule
of thumb. One publisher’s list I saw contained some
thirty items to be avoided or handled only with extreme
care. This included alcohol, anarchy, Aids, Israel and six
pointed stars, politics, religion, racism, sex, science
when it involves altering nature, e.g. genetic engineering,
terrorism, and violence. (Gray, 2002: 159)
By contrast, what does seem to be allowed are sanitized
presentations of various aspects of national cultures
(their geography, social norms, history, iconography and
so on), in effect the traditional content of foreign
language textbooks

However, today new textbooks and new editions
of older textbooks include more and more
references to an emergent global culture

And foundational to this shift in emphasis has
been the commodification of the English
language, and as I will argue the concomitant
branding of English speaking identities which
learners can aspire to as cosmopolitan
consumers on the global stage.

For Heller, the commodification of language
means a shift from a valuing of language for its
basic communicative function and more emotive
associations- national identity, cultural identity,
the authentic spirit of a people and so on- to
valuing it for what is means in the globalized,
deregulated, hyper-competitive, post-industrial
‘new work order’ in which we now live (Gee, Hull
and Lankshear, 1996; Cameron, 2002).
 In other words, it means a shift from language as
use-value to language as exchange-value.

However, as Lash and Lury (2007: 6) note, commodities
‘have no relationships' and ‘they only have value in the
way that they resemble every other commodity’.
 English as the consumer good called ‘global English’ is
understood to be vaguely the same thing in different
educational contexts around the world. It is the language
for communication in business and leisure settings that
everyone needs to know in the age of globalization.
 There arises, therefore, a need to bring English alive, to
make it more attractive and ultimately more saleable.
 In order to inject commodities with life, advertisers brand
them, i.e. they link them to particular world views,
behaviours and artefacts, developing in the process
narratives which over time become recognizable to the
public as ways of life and lifestyle options that can be
opted into or abandoned, depending on circumstances.
Cosmopolitanism


‘home plus’ (Hannerz ,1996)- the individual wants the
place he/she is visiting to have one or two exotic
attractions but for the most part wants everything else
(e.g. the standard of accommodation, the transportation
facilities, the nature and quality of services and in some
cases, even the food) to be the same as it would be at
home.
Cultural cosmopolitanism should be understood as the
capacity to mediate between national cultures,
communities of fate (sic) and alternative styles of life. It
encompasses the possibility of dialogue with traditions
and discourses of others with the aim of expanding
horizons of one’s own framework of meaning and
prejudice. (Held, 2002: 57-58)
aesthetic cosmopolitanism


… an engagement with the ‘Other’ which goes deeper
than the superficiality of Hannerz’s home-plus but does
not attain moral high ground implied in Held’s ‘cultural
cosmopolitanism’.
This cosmopolitanism is driven by a desire to consume
the ‘Other’- cuisine, sight-seeing, music, and cinema and
so on- and is the domain with those members of society
with sufficient economic capital to afford to do so
Success as central

Success associated with celebrity
 non-celebrities who are successful
 ‘A steady, durable and continuous, logically
coherent and tightly structured working career is
... no longer a widely available option’ (Bauman,
2005: 27)
 ‘Clare Davis, 26, resigned from her job as a
geography teacher in secondary school and
started retraining as plumber’ … ‘Lorna
Whitwort, 29, and husband Ian gave up their
jobs in the city of London ... and moved to the
country to run a small hotel ...’ (Cunningham and
Moor, 2005: 52).
The conflation of the private and the
public in ELT materials



Under the heading ‘Life stories’:
Work in pairs. Have you got any brothers or sisters? In
what ways are you similar/different? Which of your
parents/grandparents do you take after? ...
Under the heading: ‘Social behaviour’
You go out to a restaurant for dinner. Do you: a. dress
up? b. wear smart casual clothes? C. wear traditional
dress of your country? D. wear whatever you feel like?’
Under the heading: ‘How socially responsible are you?’
Would you ... hand in a wallet that you found in the
street? ... park in a disabled parking space? ... drop
litter? ...’
(Cunningham and Moor, 2005: 36, 74, 96)
Conclusion

There is the idea that the ever-increasing interconnectedness of the world, one of the most
cited characteristics of globalization, means that
the uptake of CLT/TBLT, the commodification of
English as a necessary skill and the positioning
of learners as cosmopolitan global citizens/
consumers is likely to continue and even
increase in coming years
 But this idea rests on two assumptions:
 1) that English will remain the global language.
 2) that the Anglophone countries, in particular
the US, will continue to exercise a considerable
(though by no means complete) dominance over
global forces and flows (technology, the media
finance and so on)

However, US cultural, economic and political hegemony
in the world could be on the wane along with many of the
assumptions which people around the world have made
over the past 60 years. There could be changes in store
as regards the following:
 1) what languages are most studied globally
 2) how languages are taught
 3) the kinds of teaching materials employed
 But, it may well be that no such changes occur.
 Far more likely, however, is a future falling somewhere in
between these two alternatives: a more recognizably
multipolar world (including grass-roots language
teaching methodologies) than exists at present, but one
in which the English language and the influence of the
Anglophone nation states will continue to be important.

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