Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Conference Paper Topic

Vanja Duka- "English and Globalization"
My primary question is the effect of globalization on the politics of foreign language learning. Primarily, I will be looking at the effects of capitalism, which I think I cannot evade here at this point: to what an extent globalization, and consequently capitalism, influence the English language learning. Once I define the crux succinctly, I will expand the point and mention the following points: the English language learning across the globe as the main consequence of the above mentioned political and social trend, English-only policy, and lastly, monolingualism in the United States, as the most obvious trend based on the English language learning policies that are based on globalization and expanding capitalism trends. In order to substantiate my claims better, I will be looking at some of the essays in The Language Book. None of the essays address the point directly, but I think I can draw my unique outlook based on some of the claims from the essays found in the book. For example, I can use Ron Silliman's essay where he talks about the dialectical process in order to explain the social origin of capitalism. He goes on to say that "capitalism has its own mode of reality which is passed through the language and imposed on its speakers" (131). So,the language seems to be the carrier of social change; the social changes happen by way of the language. My particular stance in this situation is: if we accept that fact, what are the consequences? If a language is the means of changes, what happens when capitalist social trends are so visible in the English so as to lead to the obliteration of other languages but English?


  1. Vanja-

    This seems like a real interesting topic. As far as globalization, more people in the world speak English fluently as a second language than people who speak it as a first language. So, how do we see English becoming the new mode of globalized language- this is due to capitalism and the business standards of the US and the UK and how other countries do not want to be left behind on this. Of course, the other front runners would be German, Japanese, (and probably now) Chinese languages. But I'm still a little confused on how we deal with this in terms of poetry/poetics- are you thinking about the universal arts? or are you thinking about capitalist models for writing poetry with a transitive exchange value? One thing to consider is the value of using English as an art form because it will most likely reach a larger audience without having to be translated (which takes a lot of time and money to do).

    Also, I'm still not sure I see your point of obliteration of other languages outside English. If you are talking about Native American Languages, then yes, English has consumed those languages. But I am still not sure there has been a lot of other languages that have suffered from this (it is more in terms of bilingual vs. monolingual).


  2. Vanja,

    This sounds really interesting; I think the dominance of a few languages over one's ethnic or cultural language probably does have a lot to do with the commodification of language and how it gets perceived as a tool--we'd want the most efficient tool in that case.

    I have an interesting book called Vanishing Voices that might interest you and be useful for the paper.

  3. I agree with Justin and Christina that this topic sounds like it will be really interesting. It also sounds like for the length of the paper you are writing that it might get out of control very quickly and might even be a lot to take on as a 25 page paper. Nonetheless, it seems like this paper could work as a launching point for future papers and you might even write this with the expectation that something you leave off could easily be added (conceptually writing a much longer paper in your head and figuring out the structure ... even doing some of the research ... while only writing this shorter, more limited paper).

    I'm not sure, it might be feasible, it just sounded like a great deal of work when I read over your scope and aims.

    One thing that what you were talking about made me think of that is I saw as a feasible project at some point is to do a study of college level English courses in English departments and college level English courses in ESL/TESOL departments (for example, compare syllabus, books, etc. both structure, lessons, and implicit/explicit messages).

    My assumption with something like this is that you would see very different pedagogical aims and while I imagine that there are justifications for both styles (that could be questioned), I wonder how much one community really interacts with the other (how many people have subscriptions to both TESOL Quarterly and CCC).

    I know essays have been written about the lack of attention/respect paid to TESOL scholarship in the larger Rhet/Comp communities as well as the delay some international scholars face in getting updated scholarship which can then impact their ability to join academic conversations, but I think there would be more to say (and probably said) than noting ghettoization or neglect and these things to say (and that have been said) would probably benefit from (or have benefited from) Marxist readings (as well as Critical Race Theory and Post-Colonial Theory) in terms of theoretical approaches to classroom management, grading, and teaching theories.

  4. For me, teaching English to speakers of other languages feels like a tiny imperial action, so I find this an engaging and especially relevant topic. I'm interested in the hierarchy of languages that results from the capitalist attitude. Can the value of a people exceed the value of its language if its commercial prowess is defined and limited by language? What about the WVU students whose first language is considered an "academic" enough language to satify foreign language requirements? Among the assumptions embedded in that scenario is the belief that English itself doesn't count as anybody's foreign language. Wow. I could go on about this.

  5. right. Actually, I want to argue that there is no "right" English, but rather that English belongs to the persons who use them, regardless of whether it is their first or second language. There is no "standard" English anymore.

  6. Vanja: A great topic. I agree with others that it will potentially be much larger than a 10 page paper. One option is to set out a survey of the topic. Another option, possible with some of the survey as well, is to develop the particular crux, as you note, working with Silliman, perhaps some of the others, and then set out future directions and questions, making it very clear that the essay is only a beginning. The general topic intersects with the course in many ways. You might also think of the plan of the concrete poets to create a universal poetry modeled on advertising and so on. In fact, perhaps your paper could start by describing this idea and setting it against Silliman's arguments about capitalism - that would be about 3/4 of the paper there - then conclude by some implications for global english and point to some future directions? Also, Rita Raley of UC Santa Barbara has an interesting project called "global english" and it sets out many of these questions: You could email her for more info - she's also a scholar of digital literature.