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'English as the Second Official Language of Japan?': Globalization, Hegemony of English, and Japanese National Identity
Unformatted Document Text:  English as the second official language 22 (ELT) professionals consider English to be “neutral because, although there may be some critical reference to the colonial imposition of English, its subsequent expansion is seen as a result of inevitable global forces” (p. 9). Detached from the historical contexts of the spread of English, English is considered as “a neutral and transparent medium of communication” (p. 9). If English is regarded as a neutral means of communication and is separated from its historical context, the spread of English becomes a neutral process rather than neocolonialism or cultural imperialism. The “neutral” or “tool” view of English maintains the hegemonic position of English. Thinking of English as a tool not as culture makes learning English or speaking English less threatening to Japanese national identity. If the English language is a neutral tool detached from its cultures, anybody can learn and master it without worrying about the influence or change that those who define language as culture are worried about. The ideology of “neutralizing” the English language can serve as a way for the learners to defend their national identity as well as a way for the people whose interest is in spreading English to rationalize the necessity of learning English, in other words, to form a consensus with the learners. English is not English but the Language of the World Appropriation of English as the international/world/global language is another strategy of expressing Japanese national identity. Like the English as a “tool” strategy, this strategy, by taking away English from the hands of native English speakers, attempts to deculturalize the English language. Kaneda (male; student; 36 year-old) contends that “English is no longer a language of the United States or Britain but is a/the global common language.” 8 C (no personal information) who supports the proposal, claims: 8 The Japanese language does not have definite and indefinite articles. It is difficult to judge which article the opinion implies.

Authors: Kawai, Yuko.
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English as the second official language 22
(ELT) professionals consider English to be “neutral because, although there may be some critical
reference to the colonial imposition of English, its subsequent expansion is seen as a result of
inevitable global forces” (p. 9). Detached from the historical contexts of the spread of English,
English is considered as “a neutral and transparent medium of communication” (p. 9). If English
is regarded as a neutral means of communication and is separated from its historical context, the
spread of English becomes a neutral process rather than neocolonialism or cultural imperialism.
The “neutral” or “tool” view of English maintains the hegemonic position of English.
Thinking of English as a tool not as culture makes learning English or speaking English less
threatening to Japanese national identity. If the English language is a neutral tool detached from
its cultures, anybody can learn and master it without worrying about the influence or change that
those who define language as culture are worried about. The ideology of “neutralizing” the
English language can serve as a way for the learners to defend their national identity as well as a
way for the people whose interest is in spreading English to rationalize the necessity of learning
English, in other words, to form a consensus with the learners.
English is not English but the Language of the World
Appropriation of English as the international/world/global language is another strategy
of expressing Japanese national identity. Like the English as a “tool” strategy, this strategy, by
taking away English from the hands of native English speakers, attempts to deculturalize the
English language. Kaneda (male; student; 36 year-old) contends that “English is no longer a
language of the United States or Britain but is a/the global common language.”
8
C (no personal
information) who supports the proposal, claims:
8
The Japanese language does not have definite and indefinite articles. It is difficult to judge which article the
opinion implies.


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