English as a global language

By Umar Khalid

Globalization is a multifaceted phenomenon. The term Globalization is a controversial term and has been defined in several different ways. The word globalization can imply different meaning for different people across the glob. Some focus on the economic aspect and hence emphasize the global economy outlook, whereas some focus on the cultural aspects of this phenomenon and how globalization has effected different aspects of their culture, still others focus on the political aspects of the structure of globalization, yet others equate globalization with advanced technology, particularly in the area of communication and transportation. Globalization is all that. According to Majidi(2005), There is not yet any single definition about globalization and there no consensus about it among the scholars. According to Walsham(2001), ”The term globalization has achieved the unusual status, in a relatively short time, of becoming fashionable in academic debates in the social sciences, in the business world, and to some extent in the popular media. However, even a cursory examination of these sources would demonstrate that the term is highly ambiguous, and that it masks a wide variety of opinions on what is happening in the world.’’

As Bamgbo˙se (2001) observed, English is recognised as the dominating language in the world as globalisation comes to be universally accepted in political and academic discourse. English as a global language grew with the spread of British colonial power in the 19th century and its dominant position has been strengthened by the powerful influence of the United States in the 20th century. Language is an essential factor in social life which has a major role in a society. According to Verghese, The language of any group, people is the major carrier of those group’s traditional beliefs and customs and history’. Therefore sociolinguists see language as a social institution. Language as a social institution functions at a collective representation. Saussure (1875) has defined language as a social act (in Durkheims sense) or a social institution.

Today, communication across the cultures and nations is more important than ever before. Language is the best medium of communication and is therefore essential for human interaction. In this globalized world, many people speak more than one language. Besides many other languages being taught in Pakistan, the English language is widely recognised for personal and professional use. Language is an important aspect of empire as Nicholas Ostler‘s book Empires of the Word (2005) demonstrates. However, military power, or political domination, does not inevitably translate into linguistic domination. As Ostler says: A language does not grow through the assertion of power, but through the creation of a larger human community‘ (Ostler 2005). At the moment, however, it is the language of globalization and this has had the following consequences. 1. The weakening and death of the smaller (weaker) languages of the world has increased pace (Crystal 2000; Nettle & Romaine 2000).

Pakistan is a multilingual country where students have to learn more than one language even from early years of their schooling. These languages are English, Urdu that is a national language, Arabic taken as a sacred language due to having the language of the Holy Quran (Pakistan being a Muslim state and the Quranic education is compulsory part of school education) and in the province of Sindh, Sindhi (a regional language) are part of basic education. In the case of learning languages; a child learns mother tongue and a dominating language of that area if that is other than mother tongue by informal method at home as well as from the society where one lives (Melhuish, Phan, Sylvia, Sammons & Taggart, 2008). Chabbot and Ramirez (2004) emphasise the central role of international development organisations and conferences in rationalising a discourse that strongly links development and education for national and individual development goals. According to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, a major goal of education is poverty alleviation. However, recent studies emphasise the social, political and cultural aspects of development in addition to economic gains from development. This section focuses on some of the effects of globalization on ELT. It discusses, respectively, the positive and negative effects.

  • Positive Effects of Globalization on English Language Teaching (ELT)

 In this era of global English market, as stated by Pennycook (1994), ELT is considered to be a kind of service industry. This means that English language is seen as a commodity, and teaching it is a service provided for people. This commodification, according to Block and Cameron (2002), affects people’s motivations and choice of language to be learned in that they may prefer English over other languages because it is associated with better jobs, higher positions and promotions. In support of this, Heller (2002, cited in Block and Cameron, 2002) observes that ‘many entry-level service jobs in tourism, travel, leisure and hospitality demand foreign language competence.’

  • Negative Effects of Globalization on English language teaching (ELT)

It could be argued that although some global ELT approaches or methodologies can be effective and useful in some ELT classrooms, they can be inappropriate for particular ELT classrooms in which they may be used. Pennycook (1994) affirms that ‘the export of applied linguistic theory and of Western-trained language teachers constantly promotes inappropriate teaching approaches to diverse settings.’ Both the process and content of ELT can include some values, traditions, and social habits that may not socially and culturally correspond with particular environments.

This paper has presented some recent definitions of globalization, and described how it is linked to English language and ELT. Indeed, globalization is a process that implies radical changes in our life. It has increasingly promoted the spread of both English language and ELT. The power and influence of English have been widely recognized nowadays in the context of globalization. Bottery (2000) demonstrated that the development of “globalization” has been associated with the dominance of the English language. Bamgbo˙se (2003) not only recognized the hegemony of English but also pointed out its influence on the choice of English in language education.

The writer is a student of sociology at University of Punjab, he can be reached at: umarkhalid146@gmail.com

About Arif Qureshi

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