Linguistic Imperialism

Introduction

As English has established its position as the commonest language in the world, its imperialistic and dominant aspects have been often discussed among scholars. It is even argued that the world has been dominated by English and its speakers and English has had strong power. Indeed, English is spoken by a variety of speakers all over the world not only in English speaking countries which are called ‘inner circle countries’ but also in other countries which have other languages as main languages.

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Although English is just one of the languages as well as other major languages, there is no denying that English has played important roles as a lingua franca both in daily and business contexts. Crystal (1997) argues that English as a lingua franca (ELF) has become more popular and been used as a communication tool among non-native speakers. Yet, English native speakers occupied only 25 percent of every English speaker. In other words, whilst English has the strong authority, population of English speakers has been supported by non-native speakers. As a result, issues on the quality of English speakers has been raised, as Halliday (2006) proposed.

Similarly, according to Tsuda (2006), the world has been anglicized, and English has become strong as well as military mighty or economic strength. Likewise, as English has become a standard language in the world and dominant language and Tsuda (2006) raised 6 issues in English being a standard language, in other words, dominant language as follows; (1) Inequality and discrimination in communication, (2) Decline of minor languages, (3) Standardization of the world, (4) Gap between information ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, (5) English hegemony based on ‘Myth of English’ and (6) English hierarchy underpinned by English dominance. Even though English is just a lingua franca which is meant to function as a bridge between English speakers and others or between people who share different languages, the worlds has been dominated by English culture along with the spread of ELF.

Hence, this essay will analyse how global English has become imperialistic and dominant threatening other languages and cultures whilst English has functioned as a lingua franca and played a significant role as a bridge between people. This essay mainly uses 6 potential problems Tsuda (2006) mentioned which can threaten other languages or cultures and native speakerism theory proposed by Halliday (2006) to underpin the statement.

English speakers

Melchers, Gunnel, and Philip Shaw (2013, p7) states that “English is also widely used today among speakers who have acquired it as a foreign language. The massive exposure to and use of English tends to result in a heavy impact on the first language of its users. Some characteristics of English as spoken by various foreign learners as well as examples of its influence are given, which also discusses the role of English as an international language of communication -its use in the ‘expanding circle’ created by globalization”. According to Kachru (1992), countries using English as a Native Language are mainly UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and these are the traditional cultural and linguistic bases of English. Jenkins (2003, p14) states that Their English speakers are thought to number around 350 million. English as a Second Language refers to the language spoken in a large number of territories such as India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Singapore, which were once colonized by the British. These speakers are also thought to number 350 million. Kachru (1992) divides ‘Englishes’ into 3 categories; the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle. This model explains how English has been acquired in the world and how English is used. The Inner Circle is where English is spoken as a native language as stated above. The Outer Circle includes countries which have had an influence of the British empire or U.S as colonies. In these countries, English is used besides their main languages as a second language.

The Expanding Circle is where English is taught in school although English is not treated as an official language. Crystal (1997) argues that the speed of the diffusion of English has been extremely fast. Since 1950s, English has become popular. This is how Crustal called English ‘global language’. According to Canagarajah & Said (2011, p391), “The discourse of native speakerism is made of the following assumptions: that ‘native speakers’ are the authorities on the languages and enjoy superior competence; that those who use it as an additional language have to treat ‘native’ speaker competence as the target; and that ‘native speakers’ are the best qualifies to teach that language”. That is to say, people who have disadvantage from English are not only from the Expanding Circle but also from the Outer Circle. However, as Melchers, Gunnel, and Philip Shaw (2013) indicates, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi/Urdu, and Spanish have more native speakers than English has even though those languages do not play roles as a global language which is used for communicating. Once Spanish used to have a strong impact on the worlds as Spanish empire had had power across the world. So, what is the reason English has built its position as a global language? As for this reason, Melchers, Gunnel, and Philip Shaw (2013) explains as follows; English is a flexible language in terms of its grammar and vocabulary. Furthermore, the reason is explained as follows; English has a dialect with an army and navy. That is to say, English has been related to political, economic power and historical coincidence and formed through activities of its speakers over the centuries.

In summary, English speakers has increased over the centuries throughout the world from the Inner Circle to the Expanding Circle building its position as a global language with political, economic, historical and language background.

Imperialism and dominance of English

The more English has become global, the more issues occur to other languages, cultures and non-native speakers. As elaborated in the chapter 2, along with the globalization of English, non-native speakers even in the Outer Circle have experienced lots of disadvantage including job opportunities or discrimination and so on.

In this chapter, this essay focuses on Imperialism and dominance of English and elaborates on how English has threatened other languages or cultures. Canagarajah & Said (2011, p389) states that “Though languages may be treated as a neutral system at the abstract grammatical level, when they play social and ideological functions at the level of communicative practice, they acquire the properties of discourses. Hegemony is exercised when the ideologies and discourses of a powerful community are internalized by other social groups, to the extent that they willingly participate in the leadership of that community”. Once English has established the position to communicate ideologies, English has had more functions as a tool or lingua franca and started dominating the world. As introduced in the introduction, Tsuda (2006) raised 6 issues in English being a standard language; (1) Inequality and discrimination in communication, (2) Decline of minor languages, (3) Standardization of the world, (4) Gap between information ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, (5) English hegemony based on ‘Myth of English’ and (6) English hierarchy underpinned by English dominance.

First of all, for those who are in the Outer Circle or Expanding Circle, English is a second language although in some countries in the Outer Circle, English is treated the same as the main languages. As a result, non-native speakers have disadvantages in many aspects for instance at workplace because of their communication skill. Additionally, inequality exists in learning of English given the distance of languages’ ancestor. Certain languages which share the same ancestor with English such as German make their learners easier to acquire English compared to other languages speakers. As a result, learners for instance from Asian countries find difficulty in acquiring and it takes more time. In this sense, it can be said that English as a global language is unfair in terms of acquisition.

As for the decline of minor languages, Schneider (2003) mentioned as follows; it has been damned as a ‘killer language’, responsible for the extinction of innumerable indigenous languages, dialects, and cultures around the globe. In fact, along with the spread of English as a world language, lots of minor languages or dialect have been endangered because of its usability. Melchers, Gunnel, and in fact, Philip Shaw (2013) explains how English might be affecting other languages as follows; firstly, English affects the code of other language. Secondly, majorities of population end up giving up their own languages and surrendering to English eventually as happened in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Finally, languages lose domains and stop being used in particular areas. Tsuda (2006) explains that English dominance can lead to “Americanization” in the world as U.S. has strong power in many aspects. In this sense, Imperialism and dominance of English contributes to the standardization of the world, excluding other values or cultures. Furthermore, English dominance can also lead to the dominance of information. A lot of information on the internet is provided in English in many cases, which makes the inequality bigger and bigger. Modiano (2001, p341) argues that “We must keep in mind that acquiring English is something difficult to avoid. English is now a prerequisite for participation in a vast number of activities. The global village is being constructed in the English language, as are the information highways. Access to findings in science and technology is made through English, and scientists who want to partake in the discussions which are currently taking place internationally must have a command of the tongue.

Moreover, the entertainment field, as well as the arts, are moving steadily toward a realm where English is a requirement for participation. In industrial, financial, and diplomatic arenas, English is also making gains. Individuals who desire or need to participate in the international movement will be rendered incapable of doing so without learning English. In a nuts shell, learning English has become substantially mandatory to participate in lots of activities including academia or entertainment; otherwise, you will be literally information poor as Tsuda (2006) points out. Similarly, people have the myth that English is a standard and global language and keeps remaining in the same position for good. Therefore, values and ethics are to be determined by English. According to Phillipson (1996), along with the spread of English, mental structures are put into people’s mind. Whilst people learn English and western cultures such as American or British, they tend to drop their own cultures or dialects.

As for English hierarchy, English serves as a test of abilities and based on their English people are judged. This is how English hierarchy is structured. English abilities sometimes determine wages or promotion especially in the Expanding Circle serving as sort of privilege. According to Melchers, Gunnel, and Philip Shaw (2013, p128), “There are ‘three layers’ of competing languages. At the top is English. Then there is one or several ‘national’ languages which have nationalist value and are spoken by a majority or are lingua francas, that is languages used by non-native speakers to communicate with one another. Then there are the languages of minority groups. The ruling classes typically are educated in English and use it for many purposes, often paying mere lip service to extended use of the national language(s). A large group use the national languages for most purposes and sometimes seek to impose them on all citizens, at least as the medium of instruction. Minority groups may prefer English to the national languages because of its ethnic group has an advantage if it is used. In the Malaysian case, of course, there was a deliberate policy of advantaging the previously disadvantaged Malay speakers”.

In summary, usage of global language English over the world have a great deal of dangerous potentials to generate inequality, to eendanger minor languages and cultures to extinction, to expand the gap between information rich and poor based on English skill and to deify English. In the next chapter, this essay moves onto Native- Speakerism which also can potentially make the hierarchy among English speakers.

Native Speakerism

According to Holliday (2006, p385), “Native-speakerism is an ideology that upholds the idea that so-called ‘native speakers’ are the best models and teachers of English because they represent a ‘Western culture’ from which spring the ideals both of English and of the methodology for teaching it (Holliday 2005: 6)”. Likewise, according to Holliday (2006, p385), adds as follows; “As an ideology, it is a system of ideas that represents a distorted world view that supports a particular vested interest. The vested interest in the case of native- speakerism is the promotion by the ELT industry of the so-called ‘native speaker’ brand. The realisation that this is an ideologically constructed brand derives from Phillipson’s (1992) linguistic imperialism thesis that the concept of the ‘native speaker’ as a superior model and teacher was explicitly constructed by American and British aid agencies in the 1960s to support their agenda of spreading English as a global product”. Indeed, as Phillipson (1992) argues as follows; “as a general principle, that non-native teachers may, in fact, be better qualified than native speakers, if they have gone through the complex process of acquiring English as a second or foreign language, have insight into the linguistic and cultural needs of their learners, a detailed awareness of how mother tongue and target language differ and what is difficult for learners, and first-hand experience of using a second or foreign language”, non-native speakers are more suitable for teaching because they know how to acquire.

Furthermore, Holliday (2006, p386) argues that “The impact of native-speakerism can be seen in many aspects of professional life, from employment policy to the presentation of language. An underlying theme is the ‘othering’ of students and colleagues from outside the English-speaking West according to essentialist regional or religious cultural stereotypes, especially when they have difficulty with the specific types of active, collaborative, and self-directed ‘learner-centred’ teaching-learning techniques that have frequently been constructed and packaged as superior within the English-speaking West. Such a perspective is native-speakerist because it negatively and confidingly labels what are in effect ‘non-native speaker’ ‘cultures’ as ‘dependent’, ‘hierarchical’, ‘collectivist’, ‘reticent’, ‘indirect’, ‘passive’, ‘docile’, ‘lacking in self-esteem’, ‘reluctant to challenge authority’, ‘easily dominated’, ‘undemocratic’, or ‘traditional’ and, in effect, uncritical and unthinking (Holliday 2005: 19, Pennycook 2002, Kubota 2001)”.

Similarly, Hertel and Sunderman (2009, p469) adds as follows; “Medgyes (1992) argued that while NSs (Native Speakers) have an advantage in linguistic competence, this alone does not necessarily make them more effective language instructors than NNSs (Non-Native Speakers). In fact, he suggested that it is precisely the NNSs’ ”de?¬?cient” linguistic competence and English language learning experience that give them several advantages over NSs in the classroom. These include NNSs’ better ability to: serve as imitable models of successful English learners, teach learning strategies, provide more information about how the language works, better anticipate linguistic dif?¬?culties and overcome them, be more empathetic to needs and problems of learners, and use the ?¬?rst language (L1) to facilitate learning”.

Discussion

Through chapter 2 to 4, this essay demonstrates that global language English has functioned to threaten other languages, cultures and other English speakers. In chapter 2, how English has been called ‘global language’ referring to the theory proposed by Kachru (1992) is clarified and the historical background of the birth of English as a global language.

In chapter 3, this essay elaborates on linguistic imperialism and dominance aspects English has and demonstrates that how English and its global usage has been dangerous focusing 6 issues raised by Tsuda (2006); (1) Inequality and discrimination in communication, (2) Decline of minor languages, (3) Standardization of the world, (4) Gap between information ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, (5) English hegemony based on ‘Myth of English’ and (6) English hierarchy underpinned by English dominance. In chapter 4, this essay focuses on native speakerism and demonstrates that native speaker has been treated as an ideal model in teaching and makes a hierarchy to an extent among English speakers.

Conclusion

Through analysing how global English has become imperialistic and dominant threatening other languages, cultures and other speakers relying on these elements; English as a lingua france, and 6 issues proposed by Tsuda (2006) and Native-speakerism argued by Halliday (2006), this essay demonstrates that imperialistic and dominant aspects of English usage have risks to expand gaps in information, equality and to endanger minor languages or dialects to extinction as well as to generate the hierarchy among English speakers where native speakers are regarded as the best.

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