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English language learning, internationalization and neoliberalism in higher education in Canada – Jonathon Luke


lukeIn recent years the spread and influence of the English language worldwide has rapidly accelerated, in large part due to processes of globalization and late capitalism. This has prompted much debate and discussion about English as a world language and its effects on local languages, socioeconomic mobility, and English language teaching worldwide (e.g., Crystal, Canagarajah, Holliday, Jenkins, Kubota, Phillipson, Pennycook). Recent national education and language policies implemented in numerous countries reflect and generate interest and debate in English broadly, but it is by examining how these policies are taken up in particular local contexts that we gain palpable insight into how global discourses interact with local discourses, strategies and practices to construct English locally both symbolically and instrumentally. However, this spatial turn to the local is further complexified by increased potential, virtual and actual global mobility. As citizens previously bound in large part to national or regional spaces journey farther and wider with greater frequency, the notion of locality must be adapted beyond the rootedness of the modern era to include a wider range of transnational spaces of habitation, community, employment and education.

To this end several researchers in applied linguistics, literacy and sociolinguistics (e.g., Blommaert, Collins, Heller, Park, Pennycook, Wee) have challenged modernist and nationalist conceptions of language, calling for an increased sensitivity to language understood as mobile resources whose indexical value in a given interaction is tied to particular local spaces of occurrence. My own research focuses on how these indexical values construct language ideological assemblages of English among international students in late stages of tertiary education as they prepare to transition into the labour market.

Participants in the Ciência sem Fronteiras programme of international scholarships for Brazilian students of science and technology who travel to English speaking countries or study in English-speaking institutions in other countries are exposed to a range of language policies (both explicit and implicit, overt and covert) emanating from multiple sources of authority at international, national, regional and more immediate scale levels. My research is ethnographic by design and paradigm, and examines the function and perceived value of English for students on these scholarships at Canadian universities. I am particularly interested in exploring the plurality of perspectives on English simultaneously held by these students and the role of space in their discursive constitution. Multi-sited ethnographic observation and interviews will allow me to thoroughly explore the various discourses of English in these students’ lives, while participant journals will provide detailed records of their actual English use. An examination of relevant policy literature from source and host countries and educational institutions will provide a picture of larger scale perspectives on English that inform their daily experience. This study will present a rich and detailed account of English for these young people both as they perceive it, and how it is actually realized in their lives. As such, its findings are highly relevant to researchers across a range of disciplines including applied linguistics, cultural studies, education, globalization studies, and sociolinguistics who are interested in the position, function and value of English in today’s era of globalization, and questions of language education, testing and other policies that surround it.



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