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ESL Part 3: Module 1

Global Concerns

Robert Phillipson’s article, “English for globalisation or for the world’s people?” explains how
English has become a global language and the implications of this global “trend.” Philippson
investigates and examines the history of the English language by using post colonial,
communist and cold war examples to current day realities. Throughout the article, the reader is
left to examine the power and role of English in non western worlds and the use of this power as
a culturally subtractive tool and a means to increase capital. The article highlights the language
used by world organizations such as the United Nations, The World Trade Organization, North
American Free Trade and the European Union, etc., all of which are highly powerful and
influential organizations. Phillipson goes on to further provide examples of the English Global
Village through military, business, journalism, and most importantly education. A good question
that Philipson asks is “whose interests English serves?” He further describes how “the colonial
experience was not merely about conquering territory and economies, but also about
conquering minds.” By creating such an elite status for those that speak English along with the
monetary gains, English has become a global commodity for distance education for universities
in America, Australia and Britain. The article questions if English is subtracting culture from the
world and provides possible solutions to how “English learning can function productively in ways
that meet local needs.” Philips states that “...an increasing number of scholars and trainers are
seeking to redefine the content of English teaching in Asia so as to make a break with the
cultural and linguistic norms of the Anglo-American world.” Overall, the article calls educators to
critically look at the reality of globalisation and diffusion of English and how to make it more
equitable globally.

This article contributed to my understanding of the political reality of English language teaching.
Phillipson highlights how the world operates using English - the United Nations, WTO and
NATO, etc. These are bodies that govern the world and yet, I have never made the connection
that English is the universal language. It is incredible the extent of power that American
colonialism and British imperialism had, both English speaking, have spread their English
speaking dominance globally through technology. Technology, specifically the internet, has
helped globalise English and create such a political and economic platform. It is the ticket into a
good university and has created social hierarchies in non western worlds. Now, it is time to
examine how educators create equality in the classroom and value local dialects of English and
respect native languages while teaching English.

Reference:
Phillipson, Robert. English for Globalisation Or For The World’s People? 185-200.
http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.queensu.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=14&sid=1820b3a
3-8f27-43c3-8575-33fbf2e11709%40sessionmgr4009.