Linguistic Imperialism Essay example

5812 Words Apr 21st, 2013 24 Pages
The Linguistic imperialism of Robert Phillipson

1. Linguistic Imperialism

1.1 The spread of English

The stated aim of Phillipson’s 1992 book Linguistic Imperialism was to set out how English became so dominant and why, and to examine the role ELT pedagogy had in contributing to it becoming “the international language par excellence in which the fate of most of the worlds millions is decided.” (Phillipson 1992 p.6) While many writers had tackled the question before no one had done so from the type of critical, socio-linguistic standpoint taken by Phillipson. Whereas for David Crystal, and other commentators, the rise of English is a largely neutral phenomenon, achieved “by repeatedly finding itself at the right place at the right
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Phillipson argues that this relationship is essentially one of “structural and systemic inequality, in which the political and economic hegemony of Western Anglophone powers is established or maintained over scores of developing nations.” (Kachru et al The handbook of world Englishes, p.257).

1.3 The role of English language teaching

For Phillipson the ELT establishment, and certain institutions in particular[1], play a clear role in supporting linguistic imperialism and he believes: “there is a very strong case for claiming that ELT and the intellectual tradition behind it are neo-colonialist”. (1992 p.72) He sees ELT as culpable for propagating and perpetuating a number of pedagogic tenets that have been promoted not, as is commonly thought because they are best practice, but in order to maintain the pre-eminent position of English over other languages and to safeguard the interests of the centre nations. These ‘fallacies’, as they are referred to by Phillipson are:

• The monolingual fallacy: that English is best taught without reference to the learners native language

• The native speaker fallacy: that the best teacher is a speaker from one of the centre countries

• The early start fallacy: that the earlier a language is learnt the better it is mastered

• The maximum exposure fallacy: the more English one comes into contact with the better it is

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