051si Re-interpreting Globalization in Multilingual Contexts

Elana Shohamy


Joel Spring argues that in most nation states around the world today, English plays a central role primarily as a commodity of globalization. At the same time in the US, English is being perpetuated in nationalistic terms as the only legitimate language. This is done through mechanisms such as language tests in the form of No Child Left Behind which are used to deliver clear messages about the supremacy of English while other languages, especially those used by immigrants are expected to be transformed into English. At the same time the only other languages which are supported by US Federal government are those believed to be needed for national security (e.g., Arabic, Persian and Korean) defined as critical languages. It is in the acquisition of these languages that the US government is investing resources, believing that knowledge of these critical languages will prevent the next 9/11. English then is a globalization tool in non-English speaking countries and a patriotic and nationalistic device in the US where it is used for enhancing national identity and protecting against the others by perpetuating traditional views of nation equal language. Thus, in the US today, a connection is being made between immigration and security, marginalizing immigrant languages and returning to notions of language as a problem.