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Sunday, May 17 • 9:15am - 10:30am
Keynote 3: English, Englishes, or Unequal Englishes? with Dr Ruanni Tupas

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This keynote address raises both theoretical and practical questions about English Language Teaching today (ELT), especially because ELT is undeniably linked with critical but uneven processes and structures of globalization. I would like to approach these issues by tracking the different ways the nature of English has been defined and characterized, which thus have had massive implications for the way the language has been taught in the classroom, as well as for the way the ELT profession has conducted itself (im)properly in different contexts around the world. For a long time English has been characterized or assumed as homogeneous, thus the only standard to be used should be that of the ‘native’ white speakers of English, the classroom anywhere in the world should be English-speaking only, and the only legitimate teachers of the language are those who speak the privileged standard.
Largely because of the spread of the language across the globe through structures of imperialism and globalization, English has begun to be characterized as plural, multivoiced or heterogenous, constitutive of the cultural imprints of speakers from different parts of the world. This has led to a far more democratic and inclusive view of norms of English language use, as well as the questioning of many deep-rooted assumptions about the teaching and learning of English. English has written back against the empire, in this sense, through the many subtle and explicit ways speakers from different cultures have used English to transform or ‘mangle’ it to create authentic voices and give voice to erstwhile muted subjects of the language. ‘English’, in other words, has given way to ‘Englishes’, and one of the many victories of this paradigm has been to raise awareness of the problematic belief that competence in the teaching of English automatically means being a ‘native speaker’ of the language.
Nevertheless, with the mad rush towards English today, inequalities in the ELT profession have in fact persisted, if not widened. What Adrian Holliday calls native-speakerism embeds much of decision-making the profession today; many teachers, materials writers and ELT administrators continue to disregard the multilingual nature of most classrooms and learning contexts around the world. Yes, linguistically the Englishes of the world deserve our attention, but on the ground  these Englishes are not treated equal. How then do we deal with such a reality in the classroom? Unequal Englishes tell us many things about how, in this hugely multilingual and multicultural world, diversity and difference are treated with suspicion, if not derision, and that the so-called ‘interconnectedness’ of people and the ‘breaking down’ of boundaries between cultures which  inform our understanding of globalization are actually based on unequal terms and conditions. What beliefs and myths about English and ELT underpin our own teaching of the language? What attitudes towards diversity and difference dominate our classrooms? Who is a competent teacher of English? What is the role of students’ languages in their learning of English? This keynote address raises fundamental questions about English and ELT and hopes to open up dialogues on how these questions could be addressed through our daily struggles and victories in the classroom.

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Ruanni Tupas

Dr. Ruanni F. TUPAS is an Assistant Professor at the English Language and Literature Academic Group of the National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore. Prior to his NIE position, he was Senior Lecturer at the Centre for English Language Communication (CELC) of the National University... Read More →

Sunday May 17, 2015 9:15am - 10:30am GMT+08
Upstairs in the KM Library

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