LINGUIST List 10.1015

Wed Jun 30 1999

Disc: Masaki Oda's claims of English centrism in JALT

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <scottlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Joseph Tomei, Response to Masaki Oda's comments on JALT
  2. Charles Jannuzi, Response to Masaki Oda's chapter in Braine's new book

Message 1: Response to Masaki Oda's comments on JALT

Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 18:36:12 +0900
From: Joseph Tomei <jtomeikumagaku.ac.jp>
Subject: Response to Masaki Oda's comments on JALT

[On Monday, June 28, LINGUIST posted a review of George Braine's new
book Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching (Review by Mae
Wlazlinski, LINGUIST Review, 10.999.) We received several messages
with comments concerning the chapter by Masaki Oda and its topic of
English centrism in Japan, specifically in JALT. The messages are
included here and we open up discussion on the matter.]


I'd like to thank Professor Wlazinski for her review of George
Braine's Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching. I did want
to take issue with some of the points mentioned in one of the chapters
that she summarized, that of Masaki Oda's. I should point out that I
am not questioning Professor Wlazinski's summary, but rather the
information given by Professor Oda.

> In chapter 8, Masaki Oda contends that the power wielded by native
>speaker
>teachers of English is unjustifiably strong even in EFL settings. In the
>case of JALT, the TESOL affiliate in Japan, where one expects that it is
>more efficacious to maintain a bilingual policy in administration,
>information dissemination, conferences, everything leans towards exclusive
>use of English. This is no surprise considering that 100% of the members of
>the highest decision-making body are NSs.

Because JALT is a volunteer organization, a bilingual policy, though
undoubtedly more efficient, cannot function if there are a limited number
of Japanese speakers who volunteer. Likewise, the highest decision making
body in JALT is totally composed of elective officers. The dearth of
Japanese participants is not something that can be solved by fiat.

Another problem that seems to have been overlooked is that most
foreign university English educators in Japan have no access to
tenure. The Japanese university 'equivalent' of JALT, JACET (the
Japanese Association of College English Teachers) has taken no stand
on this matter, while JALT, though not taking sides in any specific
labor dispute, has rejected discrimination by race, age, gender or
nationality. For more background on this issue, I highly recommend
Ivan Hall's book 'Cartels of the Mind', which details the systematic
way in which education, along with three other fields, has been
subject to barriers. For a particular instance of the kind of barriers
foreigners face, please check out the Japan Policy Research
Institute's paper entitled 'Combatting Discrimination at a Japanese
University' http://www.jpri.org/public/wp58.html

In addition, because the foundation of JALT (now celebrating it's 23rd
anniversary) was in large part due to foreign teachers, the structure
of the organization is not as strictly hierarchical as a corresponding
Japanese organization would be. This, along with other factors, has
led to a majority of the membership to be foreign.

Given this background, it is understandable, though unfortunate, that
JALT has developed as a 'native-speaker' organization, given the
inequalities in the power structure that exists in Japan. While it is
true that the native/non-native power imbalance is problematic, the
summary suggests that Professor Oda has given a short shrift to these
other factors.

>Oda disputes the unspoken
>expectation for members to have an advanced level of English proficiency,
>so they can access materials and programs, partake of the opportunities for
>professional advancement, or participate in the day to day affairs of an
>organization whose membership includes EFL, French, and Japanese as a
>second language teachers. The organization's exclusive support of English,
>according to Oda, bolsters the false superiority of the native speaker
>teacher which contradicts common sense and educational research findings
>that NNS teachers are experts of the local culture, understanding tacit
>assumptions in terms of expected behaviors that NS may not be privy to or
>do not care to validate.

If the majority of members in an organization are native speakers, to
ask them to 'support' Japanese, even though the Japanese target
population has remained aloof from the organization, seems to be
asking a lot, especially in an age of shrinking budgets. For example,
at the 1995 JALT National conference, bilingual interpretation for the
plenary speakers talks was given, but only 100 people took advantage
of it. It would have been completely unaffordable had it not been for
the efforts of volunteer translators.

It should be also pointed out that Professor Oda has had several
opportunities to discuss this issue in one of JALT's publications 'The
Language Teacher', but has been unable to present a practical form for
making the organization 'bi-lingual'. Thus, the implication that JALT
does not become bilingual because of the vested interest of native
speakers merits some skepticism.

Joseph Tomei
Kumamoto Gakuen Daigaku
Department of Foreign Languages
Oe 2 chome, 5-1, Kumamoto 862-0911 JAPAN
(81) (0)96-364-5161 x1410
fax (81) (0)96-372-0702
jtomeikumagaku.ac.jp
http://www.kumagaku.ac.jp/teacher/~jtomei/index.html
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Message 2: Response to Masaki Oda's chapter in Braine's new book

Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 16:49:03 +0900
From: Charles Jannuzi <jannuziThePentagon.com>
Subject: Response to Masaki Oda's chapter in Braine's new book


[On Monday, June 28, LINGUIST posted a review of George Braine's new
book Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching (Review by Mae
Wlazlinski, LINGUIST Review, 10.999.) We received several messages
with comments concerning the chapter by Masaki Oda and its topic of
English centrism in Japan, specifically in JALT. The messages are
included here and we open up discussion on the matter.]

I am interested in this title--specifically in the Oda chapter. I
have not read his chapter or the rest of the book yet, but I was
involved unwillingly in forming Oda's scholarship on the languages of
JALT.

There was a debate in the pages of 'The Language Teacher', JALT's
monthly magazine, that Oda instigated. The discussion actually
started when Richard Marshall pointed out that should JALT change to a
bilingual (English and Japanese) official language policy, there might
be a concern about JALT's international status in its publications and
conferences (to some extent dominated by anglophone scholars who do
not live and work in Japan). It was a coherent argument put forward
by Marshall, at least in my opinion, calling for caution on a switch
to an official two-language policy, especially in light of the fact
that not that many people are going to volunteer to translate and
interpret for free and JALT doens't have the money to pay for it.

JALT did enact a two-language policy. Oda responded to Marshall in
the pages of TLT, accusing Marshall and the leadership of JALT of
"linguistic imperialism" and "linguicism".

I responded in support of Marshall to this extent: I agreed that JALT
should have a two-language policy, but that Marshall and the
leadership of JALT were not linguicists or linguistic imperialists. I
also pointed out that, since English-speakers are a clear minority in
Japan and there are other language minorities here, a two-language
policy of Japanese and English would not eliminate the language bias
problem or other forms of prejudice ( many of such problems stem from
English's minority status in Japan, in fact)..

In other words, Japanese was potentially as much a language of
discrimination as Oda perceived English to be. Oda then reponded in
this manner: he attempted to paraphrase both Marshall's views and my
views as one conflated set of views and called me too a linguicist and
linguistic imperialist. What's more, he seemed upset that I would
call him a linguicist and linguistic imperialist because I had pointed
out how Japanese had been a language of colonial, imperialist
aggression and oppression. I never directly accused Oda of being a
linguicist or linguistic imperialist (the terms are far too
problematic for me to fling them around like that).

I was myself upset that I had to continue this debate just to defend
myself from such misrepresentation and abuse in print. I think had
the editor of TLT read the entire exchange upon receiving Oda's second
response, that response would never have been published.

My concern now here is that Oda has created some sort of fiction in
the pages of Braine's book because he was upset and embarassed over
the exchange in TLT.

I will try to find time to buy and read the book, and if I find that
Oda has done something that approaches a one-sided, skewed version of
the debate in JALT about language just to serve himself and some sort
of personal vendetta, I will seek recourse in print and possibly with
legal measures.


Sincerely yours,

Charles Jannuzi
EFL Instructor, Fukui University, Fukui, Japan
jannuzimint.ocn.ne.jp
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