The Complexity and Challenge of Language Education in Asia

Richmond Stroupe
2010 Language Education in Asia  
The role of language in today's increasingly globalized world is complex. As many suggest, English continues to gain prominence through economic, diplomatic, and media activities (Graddol, 2006 ). Yet at the same time, while the number of native English speakers by some accounts is decreasing slightly, non-native English speakers are dramatically increasing in number (Liu, 1999) , and decreasing in age (Graddol, 2006) . At the same time, increased focus in some regions is being placed on
more » ... ing local languages, while in other areas, local languages are being neglected or actively discouraged. In addition to English, other dominant languages are growing in influence and number of speakers, namely Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi-Urdu, Arabic, and Spanish (Graddol, 2006) . As a result, national governments are implementing language policies in an effort to promote one language or another to prepare their citizenry for the challenges that lie ahead, with resulting dramatic effects on educational systems (Kirkpatrick, 2010). While not unchallenged, the influence of English on the global stage remains significant. In the past, this significance could have been attributed to western influences. More recently, it is the increasing number of non-native English speakers who will determine the future of English (Graddol, 2006) . A number of authors have pointed to World Englishes (Crystal, 1997; Higgins, 2003; Kachru, 1985; Kachru & Nelson, 1996) as an explanation of the influence of English on a global scale, using Kachru's (1985) inner, outer, and expanding concentric circles. With increasing globalization, it has been suggested that these linguistic divisions are becoming less distinct and are merging between a high proficiency inner circle through to a low proficiency outer circle (Graddol, 2006) . No longer are individual countries seen as the "owners" of English, as increasingly the language is the lingua franca not between native speakers and others, but multiple non-native speakers. These changes in the perception of ownership and who uses English for what purposes are characterized by multidimensional cultural flows and economic interests (Graddol, 2006; Kachru, 1996; Warschauer, 2000) . Rather than asking in what country the language originated, the question has more recently and more often become how intelligible the variety of English spoken is. This increase in the variety of Englishes spoken and the emphasis on intelligibility rather than dominant dialect and form (American English, British English) have given rise to a number of World Englishes, used by diverse speakers to communicate within a global community. It is with this in mind that the CamTESOL Conference organizers selected the theme of "One World: World Englishes" for the 2010 conference.
doi:10.5746/leia/10/v1/a01/stroupe fatcat:4tsulek7avdq3czhhzg4bny6hi