Beyond English as a second or foreign language: Local uses and the cultural politics of identification

Seargeant, Philip and Edwards, Alison (2020). Beyond English as a second or foreign language: Local uses and the cultural politics of identification. In: Schreier, D; Hundt, M and Schneider, Edgar eds. The Cambridge Handbook of World Englishes. Cambridge University Press, pp. 311–359.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108349406.015

Abstract

We explore how English is implicated in local language practices in the Netherlands, where English has limited official status, and in Japan, where it has no significant role in transactional communication at all. English in these contexts has typically been constructed as a “foreign” or “international” language, precluding consideration of the increasingly complex and multifarious ways it is mobilized for local interpersonal functions and the performance of identity. We present two specific analytic examples from the mediascapes of the two countries. Sociolinguistic and discourse-analytic analyses of our data show how English is tied up with the construction of the self and the other in different, profound, and sometimes unexpected ways. Although the prevailing English-language ideologies are almost polar opposites – the Japanese are typically constructed in the Japanese national imagination as “English-incompetent,” in contrast with the broad “English-knowing” identity in the Netherlands – in both contexts the use of English as a global linguistic resource creates new semiotic opportunities for social actors to negotiate and revise their identities and strategically construct the local.

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