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Re: Article by Julian Edge in TESOL Quarterly

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  • Don Osborn
    Thank you tope and Matthew for your interesting and thought provoking replies. I should point out that my ticket to my current position in Niger, to use
    Message 1 of 8 , Feb 13, 2004
      Thank you 'tope and Matthew for your interesting and thought
      provoking replies.

      I should point out that my ticket to my current position in Niger, to
      use 'tope's term, actually was not language but a number of
      qualifications plus the fact that I am a US citizen (to the extent
      language entered the equation it was in terms of my French and to a
      lesser degree Fulfulde knowledge). On the other hand my English
      speaking qualifications will figure more prominently in work I will
      do while in China.

      It is true as 'tope suggests that being a native English speaker
      holds some advantages and also that global use of English has an
      advantage for certain countries. On the other hand I do see Matt's
      point that the individual advantages may be limited and I also wonder
      if the advantages to Anglophone countries aren't accompanied by more
      disadvantages than we realize.

      I wonder too if there is not too much tendency to see language at the
      center of political problems - whether it is Edge's perception of
      English and imperialism or the common notion that local language
      differences are at the root of civil strife - when in reality they
      are perhaps mainly emblematic. English in part reflecting the
      prominent global roles of two Anglophone countries over two
      centuries, but also serving as at best an unreliable and secondary
      tool of influence.

      There are people in countries where English is not the mother tongue
      who see the dynamic of spreading English as something more like
      others "taking it over." Indeed, as it spreads, it arguably becomes
      less American or British, but also having impacts not always so
      positive on other tongues (& cultures) - losing what some
      term "independent discourse" in the dubious quest for "counter
      discourse."

      One last thought on the topic of English globally and where we would
      be without it. It seems that two things get lumped together that
      really should be understood separately: 1) that the spread of English
      such as it is happening reflects an "organic" need of humankind in
      this day for some sort of global lingua franca; and 2) that the
      current rise of English to fill that role is the result of
      historical, economic, etc. factors. The latter is almost a
      commonplace, but is so often repeated that the former seems lost in
      the shadows, insufficiently recognized and little analyzed. If we
      understand the two as separate though related issues, and accept that
      #1 is valid, then a number of other questions arise around whether
      there is a choice about the lingua franca, what difference it makes,
      and how to act on it.

      All this takes us a bit afield from multilingual literacy, but in the
      longer run such issues frame the multilingual realities in which
      education and reading take place.

      Don Osborn
      Bisharat.net
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