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Review of  Teaching English to the World

Reviewer: Ingrid Piller
Book Title: Teaching English to the World
Book Author: George Braine
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 16.3452

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Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 15:24:23 +0100
From: Ingrid Piller
Subject: Teaching English to the World: History, Curriculum, and

EDITOR: Braine, George
TITLE: Teaching English to the World
SUBTITLE: History, Curriculum, and Practice
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2005

Ingrid Piller, English Department, Basel University, Switzerland

This book is a kind of reference to English teaching in a number of
countries. The editor has collected 15 articles which are all structured
in the same way. Each article begins with a brief introduction to the
country, usually of a geographical, demographic or historic nature.
This is followed by an historical account of English Language
Teaching (ELT) in the country under discussion. The third section is
devoted to the ELT curriculum in that country. The next main section
is devoted to a biography of an English teacher in that country – in
most cases the author's autobiography. Each paper ends with a short
conclusion, mostly mentioning challenges or problems for ELT in the
nation under discussion.

Most of the featured nations are in Asia (PR China, Hong Kong, India,
Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Sri Lanka). The others are located in
the Middle East (Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey), Europe
(Germany, Hungary, Poland), and Latin America (Brazil). The editor
does not explain his rationale for these choices except for the
absence of ELT in any African nation: the editor tried to find a
representative of ELT in an African nation but didn't succeed
and ''believe[s] [his] failure to some extent reflects the trauma of the
African continent, devastated by civil wars, the AIDS epidemic, and
economic and political crises'' (p. ix). However, a collection such as
Owino (2002), with its contributions to questions of language
education and policy in a range of African nations, written by leading
African scholars, throws that assertion somewhat into doubt.

Given the reference character of the chapters and their uniform
structure, I will not summarize individual chapters. Instead, I will move
on to evaluating the undertaking as a whole.

With this, as well as a previous edited volume entitled Non-Native
Educators in English Language Teaching (Braine, 1999), and his work
as the founding president of the Nonnative English Speakers in
TESOL Caucus (, George Braine
has established himself as one of the key spokespersons for non-
native English-speaking teachers' (NNEST) issues. While most of the
contributions to Braine (1999) were concerned with aspects of ELT
and NNEST in the North American context, the concept of the NNEST
has, in the present volume, been transplanted to contexts where
English is a second or foreign language. I also reviewed the 1999
volume (Piller, 2000), and the contributions to that volume convinced
me of the usefulness of the concepts of the NEST and NNEST to
understand aspects of the ELT profession in North America. However,
this is not the case with the present volume. There is such a diversity
of contexts that the focus on 'non-/nativeness' seems to cloud an
understanding of ELT in many of the contexts described rather than
the opposite.

To begin with, it is not always NNEST who are being discriminated
against in ELT institutions. The chapter by Claus Gnutzmann on
Germany, for instance, indicates that it is next to impossible to find an
ELT position in German public schools without German citizenship and
local education and training. In this context, it is thus NEST who are
being discriminated against. In this context, the differential valorization
of NEST and NNEST coincides with the public-private divide in
education. The public education system, where the state invests into
the reproduction of the social order favors Germans, i.e. NNEST;
whereas private ELT schools, which follow an economic imperative,
favor NEST. Even within private schools the desired outcome may
skew hiring practices differentially for N/NEST, as Chang (2004)
explains with reference to ELT in Taiwan. There, conversation schools
favor NEST while prep schools for various state exams favor bilingual
Taiwanese teachers, i.e. NNEST.

The public-private divide points to another divide in international ELT
that runs across the N/NEST divide, namely class and, often
simultaneously, the rural-urban divide. A number of contributors
bemoan the lack of ELT quality in their countries, but the contribution
by Kanavillil Rajagopalan and Cristina Rajagopalan seems to be the
only one that actually links differential English achievement in Brazil to
persistent differences in wealth and privilege. Pasassung's (2003)
ethnographic study of ELT in a remote village on Sulawesi is a good
example of an ELT context where the issue of N/NEST is completely
besides the point. In that context, ELT is of very low priority for both
teachers and students, and the limited ELT that is imposed on them by
the state is marred by lack of access to basic resources such as
proper classroom accommodation or durable books.

Pasassung (2003) also shows that for a few girls in that village trying
to excel in their English studies is their way of being ''modern''
and ''good'' at the same time. Clearly, gender is another key issue that
permeates ELT internationally. The fact that ELT is a highly feminized
profession, particularly at the lower levels (Pavlenko & Piller, 2001;
Piller & Pavlenko, 2004) remains conspicuously invisible in the present
papers – except in Peter Medgyes delightful account of his training as
an English teacher in Hungary. This contributor acknowledges that his
success as an English teacher had ''much less to do with [his]
excellence than with the fact that [he] was a male in a female
profession'' (p. 54).

As I have pointed out, the organization of the volume around nation
states obscures key division in ELT within those countries – be in
those of public vs. private education, those of teaching aims, those of
class, or gender. However, it also obscures the global influences on
ELT that work above the level of the nation state. Numerous
commentators on globalization have pointed out that the loss of
national sovereignty is a hallmark of globalization (e.g., Beynon &
Dunkerley, 2000; Holton, 2005; Lash & Urry, 1994). The inexorable
spread of English is another. Many of the practices described in the
sections of the various ELT curricula can only be understood in
relation to each other, and not as specific to a particular nation.

In sum, the combination of the two guiding principles of a focus on
NNEST and a country-by-country focus has resulted in a rather
unenlightening total. However, within that total there are some
interesting individual reads, and readers interested in ELT in any of
the 15 countries named above might still turn to the paper in question.


Beynon, J., & Dunkerley, D. (Eds.). (2000). Globalization: The reader.
New York: Routledge.

Braine, G. (Ed.). (1999). Non-native educators in English language
teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Chang, J. (2004). Ideologies of English language teaching in Taiwan.
Unpublished PhD, University of Sydney, Sydney.

Holton, R. (2005). Globalization. In A. Harrington (Ed.), Modern social
theory: An introduction (pp. 292-312). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lash, S., & Urry, J. (1994). Economies of signs and space. London:

Owino, F. R. (Ed.). (2002). Speaking African: African languages for
education and development. Cape Town, SA: CASAS.

Pasassung, N. (2003). Teaching English in an ''acquisition-poor
environment'': An ethnographic example of a remote Indonesian EFL
classroom. Unpublished PhD, University of Sydney, Sydney.

Pavlenko, A., & Piller, I. (2001). New directions in the study of
multilingualism, second language learning, and gender. In A.
Pavlenko, A. Blackledge, I. Piller & M. Teutsch-Dwyer (Eds.),
Multilingualism, second language learning and gender (pp. 17-52).
Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Piller, I. (2000). Review of: Non-native educators in English language
teaching. Edited by George Braine. Language, 76(4), 960.

Piller, I., & Pavlenko, A. (2004). Bilingualism and gender. In T. K.
Bhatia & W. C. Ritchie (Eds.), The handbook of bilingualism (pp. 489-
511). Oxford: Blackwell.

Ingrid Piller (PhD in English Linguistics, University of Technology,
Dresden, Germany, 1995) holds the Chair of English Sociolinguistics
and the Sociology of English as a Global Language at Basel University
in Basel, Switzerland. Her current research focuses on linguistic
aspects of globalization, specifically in the contexts of English
language teaching and learning, romantic relationships and tourism.
Her work has appeared in a variety of edited volumes and journals,
including Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, International Journal of
Bilingualism, Journal of Sociolinguistics, and Language in Society. Her
most recent book is Bilingual Couples Talk (John Benjamins, 2002).

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