Why English? Confronting the Hydra

This month, we published Why English? Confronting the Hydra edited by Pauline Bunce, Robert Phillipson, Vaughan Rapatahana and Ruanni Tupas. This book brings together the voices of English language teachers, linguists and award-winning community voices in detailing a range of confronting and confrontational accounts of the powerful, yet possibly unforeseen impacts that the global English language teaching industry can have on unsuspecting, non-English-speaking communities worldwide. In this post, Pauline introduces the book.

9781783095841This is the second Hydra-themed publication in Multilingual Matters’ Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights series. It is a brand new collection of short-form, eminently readable exposés of the rarely-examined downsides of the massive, global English-language teaching (ELT) industry. It will provide considerable food-for-thought for teaching professionals, language planners and critical observers of globalisation.

In this new collection, our contributors liken the burgeoning ELT industry to the all-powerful, multi-headed monster of Greek mythology known as the Hydra. This volume further documents the threats that can be posed by this beast’s (often beguiling) “heads”, as the multiple branches of the ELT industry (e.g. textbooks, examinations, overseas teaching schemes, policy advice to governments) manage to infiltrate an ever-widening range of national and international settings.

The book’s 24 chapters span locations on every continent, including contributions from Iceland, Eastern Europe, the Pacific and the USA. The language settings range from call centres to volunteer teaching, from elementary classrooms to teacher training to language policy-making. In style, our collection includes the analytical and the deeply personal, as well as presenting several poems and a challenging response to the novel, “Mr Pip”. Many of our chapters detail a welcome pushing-back against the often deleterious effects of prioritising English language teaching in non-English-dominant societies.

The collection examines and explodes a great many widely-held myths about the efficacy of teaching English in a too-much, too-soon manner, to the detriment of children’s conceptual development and in the false belief that it will catapult its learners into positions of influence.

As editors, it must be said that we are certainly not against the English language per se, but we do fundamentally oppose its imposition over and above local and regional languages. In line with UNESCO’s principles, we believe in multilingual approaches to language education, with the English language having an additive role, rather than sitting centre-stage.

Dr Pauline Bunce, W. Australia, paulinebunce@hotmail.com

9781847697493If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy English Language as Hydra: Its Impacts on Non-English Language Cultures, also edited by Vaughan Rapatahana and Pauline Bunce (Multilingual Matters, 2012).

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