Marketing English as the global language

"美語是通往世界最近的路" (American English, for children, is the royal road to the world): An English educator promises the world (Source: http://clipamazing.com/?w=Z-PR8DzZjt8; 1:14)

“美語是通往世界最近的路” (American English, for children, is the royal road to the world): An English educator promises the world

Taiwan is enthralled with learning American English. One of the reasons for this love affair lies in the fact that English is the global lingua franca. In Taiwan, as elsewhere, English is associated with status and modernity: an essential instrument to access the world of finance, economy, technology and science; in short, English is regarded as a tool to achieve social modernization, economic growth and internationalization. To individuals, too, English language mastery promises globalization: it is viewed as the key to achieving a better life and future in a world which is imagined as borderless.

In this post, I would like to show that advertising for private language schools is critical to creating the association between English and globalization and to keeping that discourse in circulation. As in my recent post about Taiwan’s love affair with American English, I draw on my PhD thesis (Chang, 2004), where I employed Critical Discourse Analysis to analyze data drawn from private English language school and buxian promotional materials.

Consider the following example from a TV commercial for the famous Giraffe Language SchoolsIn this commercial (1:10-1:25), two figures, a little Taiwanese girl and Father Jerry Martinson walk along a beach. Father Jerry Martinson is an American Jesuit priest who, as a Christian missionary and English educator, is one of the most recognizable public figures in Taiwan. In addition to being an influential broadcaster with Kuangchi TV, he is also the founder of the Giraffe Language Schools. The little girl is looking out at the sea and observes that the world is very, very big. She then asks “Uncle Jerry” how to get to the other side of the world. “Uncle Jerry” responds:

美語是孩子通往世界最近的路  ‘American English, for children, is the royal road to the world.’ (My translation).

As in the examples I discussed last week, this commercial reinforces perceptions of the close relationship between native speaker teacher (“Uncle Jerry”), American English (美語), and, particularly, globalization (indicated by the reference to 世界 ‘the world’).

“For children” in this slogan does not refer only to the featured little Taiwanese girl but, by extension, to the television audience and all Taiwanese English language learners. Indeed, the question “How to get to the world?” is a vexing question for all Taiwanese.

Metaphorically, the commercial places all Taiwanese in a child position vis-à-vis an omniscient Western father figure. While viewers are left to fill “the world” with their own hopes and dreams, the commercial ultimately also suggests that the Taiwanese will only ever be able to enter the world, which is assumed to be Western, as child-like junior partners.

In sum, English language teaching schools in Taiwan respond to a need: the need to learn English for globalization and modernization. However, at the same time, that need does not necessarily pre-exist English language teaching schools. In their advertising they continuously discursively construct and re-construct that link between English and globalization.

Reference

Chang, J. (2004). Ideologies of English Teaching and Learning in Taiwan, Ph.D. thesis.University of Sydney.

Author Jackie Chang

Jackie Chang is an assistant professor in the English Department at National Pintung University of Education in Pintung, Taiwan. She holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Sydney, where she worked under the supervision of Ingrid Piller. Before becoming an academic, Jackie gained extensive experience in the English language teaching industry in Taiwan.

More posts by Jackie Chang
  • Saluton, a nice piece of work. Here to share with the readers, if more parents are aware of the work of Dr Nicholas Ostler, The Last Lingua Franca http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/dec/04/last-lingua-franca-ostler-review

    Of course, BBC has openly admitted that more than 75% of the people in the world do not speak a word of English. http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/guide/languages.shtml But alas, this info cannot be passed to the other parts of the world.

    If as wise goverment, they would put Esperanto as the first foreign language in the learning process to capture the propaedeutic value of Esperanto and that might train more polyglots.

    The poor children would have relearn another language when they grow up. How torturing it would be.

    • Jackie Chang

      Hi Sinjoro,

      Thank you very much for your comments! Enjoyed reading – The last Lingua Franca by Dr. Nicholas Ostler – very interesting and insightful! Thank you very much.

  • Anju

    After reading your PhD thesis I’ve looked forward to more analyses. Inspired by your thesis, I am now doing my MA thesis on how English is being commodified by Wall Street Institute in Thailand. This article has really helped me understand the process of analysis (being a newbie) and I can’t wait for your next blog!

    • Jackie Chang

      Hi Anju,

      Glad that you found my post helpful! Good luck with your thesis!

  • Khan

    Very interesting post and insightful analysis of the subject position in the text. Just a query about the representation of the people in the advert. Do they[ people in the text] represent the larger society or a select group?

    Khan

    • Jackie Chang

      Hi Khan,

      Thank you very much for your comments on my posts! FYI, the people in the commercial represent the larger society. Happy Chinese New Year!

  • Li Jia

    Thanks for your post, Jackie (大师姐)!I’d love to read your posts, very inspiring! Expecting to read more…

    • Jackie Chang

      Hi Li Jia,

      Gong Xi Fa Cai! just got back to work after Chinese New Year holiday! Thank you very much for your comments! 大師姐 – that’s interesting to me! Keep in touch!

  • Hi Jackie!
    I think that although English may not be spoken worldwide, it is one of the main languages of business. You and I may not see it happne in our own lifetimes, but someday, mark my words, there will be One Global Tongue!

    http://davelucasmobile.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/someday-every-child-will-be-a-rosetta-stone/

    • Jackie Chang

      Hi Dave,

      Thank you for your comments. Interesting – one global tongue!

  • Many of my students here read your post and found it useful for their project on an advertisement of an English language school in Thailand, one of the assignments they have to do in my course on intercultural communication. It is an excellent example of how to do an analysis and to write it up (you made my job easier, Jackie;-).

    • Jackie Chang

      Kimie San,

      Congratulations on your new book!! I am very glad that your students found my post useful!! Hope to see you in Thailand!

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  • Dirk Westerduin

    American English is becoming less and less dominant in Taiwanese society. At the time you wrote your PHD dissertation, American English was considered standard English in Taiwan indeed. Fortunately, this has changed and according to me will continue to change. I have taught English in Taiwan for 12 years. At several high schools, where I worked, the majority of foreign English teachers was non-American. At one famous English Language company, they hire English consultants from all over the world, including non native speakers. So the tendency is different from 10 years ago. But even then, at LTTC, the Language Testing and Training Center in Taipei, many instructors were from Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.