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2006: Mark James - The Hegemony of English: A Way Forward


   

The Hegemony of English: A Way Forward

 

Mark James , Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Second Language Acquisition

 

Mark Olov James was born in Jamestown, North Dakota, and lived in various parts of the U.S. in relative cultural isolation — until his mission to French Polynesia in 1974. In addition to learning to appreciate different cultures and languages, in the South Pacific he grew to love the ocean as much as he loved the mountains. After his mission, he enrolled at BYU-Hawaii, found his wife (Choon Huay CHUA) and his profession (Teaching English as a Second Language).

 

James holds an M.A from BYU-Provo and Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisation from the University of Hawaii. He served seven years as Department Chair, and 12 years as the Editor of the TESL Reporter. In 1995, James was awarded the President's Council "Teacher of the Year" Award for his years of service to the university. He and his wife are the parents of four boys — Robbie, Mark, Jeremy, Daniel — and one daughter, Tiffany.


 

The Hegemony of English: A Way Forward

Members of the President's Council, friends, faculty, staff, and students, Aloha! It is with great reverence that I stand at this pulpit before previous lecturers. I want to pay special recognition to my good friend, Dr. Ross Allen, the most senior lecturer in this series with us today, having given his lecture in 1965. I also wish to say I am appreciative of the twelve months that have passed since Professor Beth Haynes addressed us--not just because of the time it has given me to prepare, but because Professor Haynes is a hard act to follow, both for her substance and acumen.

We have had a lot of traditions at this school over the decades. . .Winter Balls, Miss Na Hoa Pono pageants, mud sliding, Founder's Day birthday cakes, Songfests, and Foodfests, but this annual lecture series, begun in 1963, is in my opinion the most enduring and noble of all our traditions and most accurately embodies the vision which President McKay had for this school.

I wish to pay tribute to President David O. McKay. Some in the audience may not know that prior to becoming an apostle and prophet, David O. McKay was this Church's first Commissioner of Education and before that, a teacher and school principal. President McKay once said:

Of what infinite value to the community are teachers and trainers of youth who carve and shape the moral atmosphere in which the people live. Flowers shed beauty and fragrance for a brief time, then fade and die, and are gone forever; but children, through instruction from noble teachers . . . radiate an influence for good which, like their own souls, will live forever. (McKay, 1966, p. 248)

His own students at Weber State University once wrote in the yearbook:

Fortunate indeed are the students who have been registered in his classes; for when he taught religion, he gave truths he believed and had proved in practice. His lessons in literature were interpreted in the light of love and charity for all mankind, and his moral teachings had behind them all the force of a perfect, moral life. (McKay, 1956, p. 29)

We need look no further than this man for the kind of faculty this university needs, and we, the faculty, need to become.

Introduction
Having listened to most of the lectures that have been given throughout the decades, and having read a good number of them over again, my first struggle was with the creation of an appropriate title. A brief look at the most recent ones made it clear that I should at least have a full colon somewhere in the middle. So, with the mechanics in place, it was just a matter of working out the content.
My early attempts at a title included: "Pedagogy as Oppression: The Power and the Glory Forever!" "English Proficiency, Wormholes, and Return-ability" and "EIL Instruction as Religious Experience." However, none of these titles led anywhere fruitful. Over time, I gave up on the divine and the sublime, and came up with "English: A Killer Language." This seemed provocative enough and could lead to several possible interpretations . . .Yes, English is an "awesome" language. Yes, English has contributed to the death of other languages. And yes, it's probably true that a few students during this university's history have gone straight from EIL to the promised land--without ever passing English 101.
My pen-ultimate effort was, "English: Resistance is Futile" (a Borgian perspective). This, in actuality, is not far removed from how many people look upon ESL professionals like me. We are the Borg, the professional soldiers of an evil cartel, the shock troops of a dark and suffocating empire that is casting its shadow, if not throughout the universe, at least across the face of this planet. With those thoughts in mind, I finally arrived at today's more refined title: "The Hegemony of English: A Way Forward"
Hegemony has been defined by some as something more than mere conquest. It means the complete domination of another people or culture, even to the point of the complete convincing of the conquered that they are now better off than they were before. There are many who believe that English has become a hegemonic influence in the world. Let me orient you with just a few statistics:

  • According to Eugene Garfield, founder of the Science Citation Index, approximately 85-95% of the 1 million scientific articles published each year in thousands of major journals are written in English.

 

  • In an effort to keep French alive in Cambodia, the French government pays students at the university of Phnom Penh $25 per semester if they study French (average income per capita is $275 a year). Despite this incentive, 91% of the students choose English. (Bollag, 2000)
  • Korean parents spend up to 30% of family income on extra English instruction for their children.

 

  • As many as 50% the world's languages may die by the year 2050; 90% by 2100. The problem is, as one Native American chief described it, "When a language dies, it doesn't stink." (Eggington, 2002).
  • In the year 2001, the year of the World Trade Center disaster, colleges and universities of the United States graduated a grand total of just 9 students majoring in Arabic. (Talbot, 2001)

 

  • When a non-native speaker uses English to communicate, 80% of the time it is with another non-native speaker. (Seidlhofer, 2004 )
  • Today there are approximately 350 million native speakers of English. By 2015, nearly half the world (3 billion) will use English to some extent.

 

These last two points are highlighted further by the following diagram (adapted from Kachru, 1992, p. 356).

The Story of English
Today, many consider English to be the world's first global language. Before talking about the present or the future, however, it might be well to review the past. To tell the story briefly, the Celtic languages of England were replaced during a variety of invasions by the Angles, the Saxons, and the Vikings, who in turn were greatly influenced by the Norman invasion of 1066, producing a fairly stable and recognizable ancestor of our English today by about the 1300's.
English remained however, a fairly insignificant local language for some time. One scholar in Britain in the late 1500's noted, "Our English Tongue is of small reach-it stretcheth no further than this island of ours-nay, not there over all." He went on further to say, "Our state is no Empire to hope to enlarge it by commanding over countries." (Crystal, 1997, p. 65) Ironically, Sir Walter Raleigh, only two years later, set sail for the American continent, with the idea of setting up colonies.
During the 1700's and 1800's the British Empire continued to grow with varying degrees of success. In each colony, the British sought to Westernize a certain minority of the population so as to have local leaders and politicians with whom the British could work to carry out the interests of the empire. This Westernization included the teaching of English. Thus, in each colony, there developed a class of nobles or high caste families who were English-speaking and Western savvy.
Not too long after the United States gained its independence from England, it became the most populous English-speaking country in the world, and with the political and military power that came from its growing population and economy, the English language, continued to gain in importance.
Even Napoleon Bonaparte, the greatest of Francophiles, began taking English lessons after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815. He was interested, his personal aide wrote, in what the British press were saying about him. (Emperor of English, 2005, p. 1) But even at this point, one could not call English a global language.
As the British Empire began to diminish, and as colony after colony gained its independence, these colonies, many of them multiethnic and multilingual in nature, quickly realized that a neutral language was needed as a means of communication across all ethnic groups within the country. Such was the case when India gained her independence. No Aryan language of the North, like Hindi, was acceptable to the Dravidian-speaking peoples of the South. English, though a colonial artifact, was a political compromise. In this manner, despite the dissolution of the British Empire, English remains a language upon which the sun never sets.

English Triumphalism
There is one more factor that we need to examine for a moment. Since the earliest days, English speakers have had an extremely high regard for the nature and future of their language-not just for their own use, but for everyone else's. And although relatively few people spoke English, scholars in England early on were arguing for the superiority of the English language and culture over everyone else's.
One scholar felt that the monosyllabic nature of the early Saxon words were a testament to the antiquity of English and that this was no doubt an indication that although not Adam's language, English must be pretty near it. He went on to lament the corruption of such a pure language by the polysyllabic monstrosities of French. (Bailey, 1991, p. 39)
In the 1500's, though Latin was still the prestige language of England, there was change in the air. Richard Mulcaster, headmaster of Merchant Taylor's School, and prominent supporter of the English language, once said, "I love Rome, but London better. I favour Italy, but England more. I honour Latin, but I worship English." (Crystal, 1997, p. 64)
In 1848, a reviewer in the British periodical, The Athenaeum, wrote about English: "In its easiness of grammatical construction, in its paucity of inflection, it its almost total disregard of the distinctions of gender excepting those of nature, in the simplicity and precision of its terminations and auxiliary verbs, not less than in the majesty, vigour and copiousness of its expression, our mother-tongue seems well adapted by organization to become the language of the world." (Crystal, 1997, p. 6)
The poet Samuel Daniel spoke prophetic words in his poem of 1599 entitled, Musophilis:

And who in time knows whither we may vent
The treasure of our tongue, to what strange shores
This gain of our best glory shall be sent,
To enrich unknowing nations without stores?
Which worlds in the yet unformed Occident
May come refined with the accents that are ours.
(Crystal, 1997, p. 65)

Some even gave the English language a sense of manifest destiny. The writer de Quincey wrote, ""The English language is travelling fast towards the fulfillment of its destiny . . . running forward towards its ultimate mission of eating up, like Aaron's rod, all other languages." (Pennycook, 1994, p. 99)
At the beginning of the 20th century, one writer wrote that warfare could be abolished forever if the world spoke a common language, and naturally, he thought that that language should be English. He felt the United States should make every effort to cause the whole of the New World to speak English, and Britain should do the same in Canada, Africa and India. The result would lead to the extinction of all other languages, and "universal peace would reign." (McCrum, Cran & MacNeil, 1986, p. 305)
One should point out, however, that British scholars were not very happy about the ways in which Americans were using the King's English. During the late 1820's Captain Basil Hall traveled around the U.S. and was so upset by the many changes and "barbarisms" which he heard that he went to complain to Noah Webster himself. Webster apparently upset the Captain even more by arguing that Americans had every right to adopt new words, and modify the language to make it suitable to its new environment and meet the novelty of new circumstances. Webster then added, "it is quite impossible to stop the progress of language-it is like the course of the Mississippi . . ." Captain Hall persisted, arguing that surely such innovations were to be deplored. Webster then replied, "If a word becomes universally current in America, where English is spoken, why should it not take its place in the language?" To this Captain Hall made an honest British reply, "Because, there are enough words already." (Mencken, 1937, p. 25).
One British writer published an article in which he objected violently to new Americanisms such as the verbs "to locate, to operate, and to antagonize, and nouns such as: transportation and proposition." These words, he said, " . . . are hideous to the eye, offensive to the ear, and meaningless to the brain" (Mencken, 1937, p. 31). Thus began the competitive beginnings to the spread of English--a competitiveness which remains to this day. As recently as 1995, Prince Charles took time at a press conference to say that the American version of English was "very corrupting" and that British English was the "proper" one. (Kachru, 1996, p. 7)

The Surge Begins
While the Americans and the British have been arguing over the relative value of each other's variety of English, there have been eager converts in other countries for many years, willing to sing of the bright future of English. A striking example was Mori Arinori, an influential young noble in Japan during the late 1800's. He wrote to one of the most famous American linguists of the time, William Whitney, saying that he and many other educated leaders in Japan agreed that the Japanese language was too poor to keep up with modernization and should be replaced by a modern European language like English. He went on to recommend that it be used in all government and business transactions immediately and soon thereafter introduced in every school (Bailey, 1997).
As one might imagine, Arinori's ideas were not popular in Japan, but Ulysses S. Grant, president of the United States at the time, was impressed by the idea (desirous as he was of enlarging America's empire) and thought the spread of English would aid his plans. A prominent American journalist also "caught the vision" and wrote the following:

If [Arinori] can . . . undertake and carry out his project, immortality is assured for him in his own country; and when the new language shall have pushed west and proselyted China, winning Ah Sin from his monosyllabic nasals and his pigeon English; absorbed the Indies and conformed to itself the British speakers there; then, careening north and west, swept the continent clean of Turanian, and Semitic, and dead Aryan; and finally, coming into Europe by the old route of its ancestry, conquered at last its kindred continental tongues, having already . . . naturalized it to Africa and the isles long before, then the mighty benefaction of Mori (Arinori) shall be fully appreciated, and gratefully celebrated in eloquence and song that shall be intelligible round the world. (Bailey, 1997, p. 184).

Although the British Empire was perhaps the major impetus behind English becoming an international language, U.S. expansionist efforts also contributed, to a smaller degree. The U.S. efforts in the Philippines are exemplary. An extensive commission under the auspices of the U.S. Department of War studied the economy, geography and the peoples and made several recommendations. The commission's report was very thorough-thousands of pages in length-and recommended among other things that English should be taught in order to replace the old influence of Spanish, and to create a national solidarity which the commission did not feel was possible with every one speaking one of 87 indigenous languages. In language which highlights the attitude of the commission at the time, it was felt that educating Filipino children in their native languages would have left them "with a barren waste before them" (Brutt-Griffler, 2002, p. 35).
The initial successes were evident in the words of the Report of the Governor-general in 1919. The report indicated that all public schools were using English as the medium of instruction and that within fifteen years there would be no Spanish left in the government or legislature. Likewise, in all likelihood, "within one to two generations, there was little chance that any of the local languages would be spoken" (Brutt-Griffler, 2002, p. 36).

Post-World War II
Languages spread only for practical not aesthetic reasons, never just because their speakers have a high opinion of their language. This is something most English speakers do not understand, and it is certainly something the French have not clearly understood. They have tried to compete with English by advertising French as "the language of Moliere." Well, which language would you choose: The language of future science and technology, or the language of Moliere? It's an easy choice for today's citizens-young and old. The great irony is that the French, thanks to the Norman invasion, are chiefly responsible, much like Dr. Frankenstein, for the linguistic monster that now hunts them down in every corner of the world.
Although the British Empire was primarily responsible for English becoming an international language, through mass migrations and colonization, it is to America we must look for an understanding of the uniquely 20th century phenomenon that has caused English to become not only international, but global.
What is so amazing about this global phenomenon is that it has taken place, practically-speaking, in no more than 50-60 years. It began with the preeminent political and military position of influence of the U.S. as a result of the Second World War, but is sustained and magnified by the growth of technology and the electronic age, and much of the pop culture it disseminates. English has been positioned to become this planet's first global language, not merely because of traditional political-geographical reasons (though this laid the groundwork), but because of socio-cultural reasons. It is the language of computers and much of the sciences, it is true, but just as importantly, it has been the language of The Beatles, Rambo, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keyes, Darth Vader, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and Bob Marley.
The story of English took an even more mind-boggling leap forward in the 1970's when the U.S. launched Voyager One, an unmanned spacecraft, targeted for deep space. Among other recorded material was a message by the United Nations Secretary General, Kurt Valdheim, --a greeting to possible extraterrestrials, which began, "As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, an organization of a hundred and forty-seven member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet earth, I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. . . ." Though Mr. Valdheim was from Austria, and officially represented 147 nations, he chose to record his message in English. His choice makes an interesting assumption about our interstellar neighbors, and greatly exaggerates, I believe, the legendary success of my profession! After 30 years of space travel, Voyager One is on the verge of leaving our solar system, and English, our world's first global language, will become in one astrophysical sense "universal."
Today, English is not only a "huge" language, it is literally big business. It has become by some estimates England's number one export, bringing in billions of dollars from the sale of dictionaries, textbooks, English courses, and so on. According to one ESL authority in Colombia, "English is the most profitable business in our nation-next to drug trafficking, of course" (Treen et al, 1982, p. 98).
Like a fire gone wild, the spread of English is no longer controlled by the organized efforts of the traditional "custodians" (U.S./British grammarians, writers, editors, and other assorted pundits). The flames are fanned by any number of organizations, interests, markets, and people. To some native English-speakers these developments are merely a source of amusement, as witnessed by the growing number of internet sites that collect and post some of the more humorous attempts of restaurateurs, hoteliers, and shopkeepers the world over to communicate in English (e.g., the now famous example from a Paris hotel elevator: "Please leave your values at the front desk"). But to other English speakers, the issue is more serious. The global spread of English has created new issues: Who is to say what's acceptable or intelligible? Whose standards are to be imposed, if any?

The Language of Opportunity?
Anybody and everybody, it seems, wants to learn English and for almost every possible communicative purpose. The most outlandish example I can think of occurred some years ago when the Sony Corporation was looking to find a replacement on its sales force, and put the following ad in a paper: "Wanted: Japanese who can swear in English" (Solorzano, 1985, p. 50).
Yes, English is advertised as the language of opportunity. In a sense, English has become a new kind of alchemy--with proficiency, it would seem, comes money, status, happiness, access to bodies of knowledge, and brotherhood. However, the reality is that only the privileged have access to quality English instruction. As a consequence, English might be better described as the language of inequality. The popular press has called this "The English Divide"
As one sociolinguist put it, every time a student is successful in passing the TOEFL test and is admitted into a college somewhere to pursue a dream, we, at the same time, have "put another little brick in the wall" that holds back all the rest who will not have the chance to pursue their professional dreams because they do not have sufficient command of English (Edge, 1996, p. 16). This notion is further supported by one African writer's experience where a person was not eligible for university studies in his country no matter how high one's GPA or genius, if one had only average marks in English classes (Ngugi, 1986).

 

In places such as the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon islands to name a few places within our university's sphere of interest, the use of English as the language of instruction results in the maintenance of a chasm between a relatively few elite individuals--children of wealthy well-placed families--and the relatively large poorly-educated masses. Regarding the situation in the Solomon Islands:

Schooling is often talked about as being the key to well-being and prosperity. It is an irony of modern Solomon Islands history that it [schooling in English] has instead become for many people an occasion of failure and disappointment, a sign of their exclusion from the development to which they aspire. (Watson-Gegeo & Gegeo, 1995, p. 59)

In India, after a century of effort, only a small percent of the population use English with any degree of fluency, and yet, the effort marches on--like some grand elephant parade.

English and Politics
Conquering civilizations have long realized the powerful role which language could play in the administration of a kingdom or empire. I quote from a speech by Lord Macauley, Governor of India in the late 19th century:

It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. (Macauley, 1995, p. 430)

US and British government agencies continue in their use of English to further their political agendas. Three examples will suffice. Several years ago an article in the Washington Times reported that in Pakistan, a $255 million dollar US aid package was being employed to take control of the country's 8,000 religious schools by introducing English, among other things, from the primary and secondary level. An article in the Washington Post entitled, "Putting English over Islam" reported that in the conservative Arab state of Qatar, schools were making more room for English by cutting back on classes in Islamic studies and the Arabic language (Karmani, 2005). And in 1995, the British Council unwrapped a major initiative to provide for the learning of English in many countries throughout the world. In the media packet which was distributed the press conference, was the following admission, the aims of this major initiative is "to exploit the position of English to further British interests." (Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1996, p. 431)1

It is increasingly agreed by many that the spread of English is not merely natural, neutral or benign (Pennycook, 1995). Whether supported by religions, governments, or even philanthropic organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation and the Peace Corps, English is inextricably linked with the concepts of modernization, western capitalism, science and technology, Americanization, McDonaldization, and globalization, each of which has proven destructive, intentionally or not, to local traditions, languages, value systems, ways of knowing, and ways of being. English in this sense has become the ultimate neutron bomb, a weapon which leaves buildings, vehicles, and natural resources intact, while at the same time annihilating every living thing, including people, culture, traditions, histories, and languages. To employ another metaphor, the "gift" of English is an infection which, over time, much like the AIDS virus, inevitably reduces the ability to resist foreign infection.
Of course, it is not necessary to ascribe evil intentions to those who advocate the spread or teaching of English abroad. Many believe they are merely offering the key to success and prosperity. One is reminded of a now famous true story, set in India. As the story goes, "there was a young American scholar who had spent several years in a small village in Eastern India. At the time of his departure, a traditional farewell ceremony was held for him. During the ceremony, one member of the village council, in his own dialect, asked the village chief to ask the young American if there were any water buffaloes in America. The puzzled young scholar replied, "No." The village councilman was somewhat shocked, and said, innocently, that America must be a poor country indeed!
Lo and behold, before the ceremony was over, the young American was presented with a pair of water buffaloes to take back with him. The head of the village council apologized for giving him only two, but reassured the young man that in due time, these two healthy buffaloes would multiply and make his native America prosperous." (Narayanan, 1984, p. x)
It's a touching story really--one of naivete or ignorance. In the words of one scholar, "there is a cozy, rather self-satisfied assumption prevalent at national and international conferences that ELT (English Language Teaching) is somehow a "good" thing, a positive force by its very nature in the search for international peace and understanding" (Naysmith, 1987, p. 3). There are many in the world who truly believe that industrialization, western technology, capitalism, and English are benign gifts that will bring prosperity to otherwise "poor" countries. That many non-native English-speaking peoples believe it as well, represents the final victory. This is hegemony in a nutshell, the successful conquest of another entity, AND the convincing of the survivors that they are better off now than before.

The Empire Writes Back
At the same time that this hegemony is taking place, however, there is a significant body of English speakers and writers in one country or another who are effectively taking that once colonial artifact and using it for their own purposes. The title of one book on post-colonial issues sums it up well with its title: "The Empire Writes Back" (Ashcroft et al, 1989).
The growing strength of regional indigenized varieties of English in a variety of places such as Nigeria, India, Singapore, Fiji, and the like has given rise to a new vocabulary word in English: Englishes-in recognition of the independent paths these varieties are taking. World Englishes is now the generally accepted term for this phenomenon and is also the title of a major journal.
With the global adoption of English, no one owns English anymore. Copyright, as it were, expired long ago. In the words of one scholar, "English is an international language. It is yours (no matter who you are) and it is mine (no matter who I am)" (Smith, 1976, p.2). Lack of "ownership," as expected, has lead to great variety in the forms of English that have evolved.
A few varieties of English have even become distinct languages in their own right. Below are the first three LDS Articles of Faith in Bislama, a language that evolved from a kind of Pidgin English and is now a lingua franca in parts of Melanesia.

13 Bilif Blong Jios Blong Jisas Kraes Blong Lata Dei Sents
1. Mifala i biliv long God, Papa we i no save finis, mo long Pikinini blong Hem, Jisas
Kraes, mo long Tabu Speret.
2. Mifala i biliv we ol man i kasem punis from sin blong em mo oli no mas kasem punis
from we Adam hemi brokem loa.
3. Mifala i biliv we Jesas Kraes em i sufa from sin blong ol man, mo sipos olgeta man
oli obei ol loa mo mekem ol wok blong gospel, bambae oli save go insaid long
Kingdom blong Papa God.

Writers in these new varieties are also taking what was once a colonial weapon, infusing English with local flavors and using it to tell their own stories--writers like Catherine Lim in Singapore, James Kelman of Scotland, Raja Rao in India, and local writer and HPU professor, Lee Tonouchi. As Chinua Achebe once said, "the English language will be able to carry the weight of African experience. But, it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home, but altered to suit its new African surroundings" (Kachru, 1996., p. 3).

A more combative writer put it this way:

Let us be clear that the English language has been a monumental force and institution of oppression and rabid exploitation throughout 400 years of imperialist history. It attacked the black person who spoke it with racist images and imperialist message, it battered the worker who toiled as its words expressed the parameters of his misery and the subjection of entire peoples in all the continents of the world. It was made to scorn the languages it sought to replace, and told the colonized peoples that mimicry of its primacy among languages was a necessary badge of their social mobility as well as their continued humiliation and subjection. . . . Yet, as teachers, we seek to grasp that same language and give it a new content, to de-colonise its words, to de-mystify its meaning, . . . making it a vehicle for liberation, consciousness and love, to rip out its class assumptions, its racism and appalling degradation of women, to make it truly common, to recreate it as a weapon for the freedom and understanding of our people. (Searle, as quoted in Pennycook, 1994, p. 309)

The African writer, Wole Soyinka, once wrote, "black people twisted the linguistic blade in the hands of the traditional cultural castrator and carved new concepts into the flesh of white supremacy. . . .converting the enslaving medium into an insurgent weapon" (Kachru, 1996, p. 3). Positions like these have led to what has been called "liberation linguistics" a philosophy or movement that has much the same spirit as "liberation theology."

With the growing power of indigenized varieties of English in many regions or the world, it is clear that we cannot continue to focus solely on native speakers and cultures for our models. Of course people will not be free to say anything they want and call it "English," but stable indigenized varieties will ultimately develop differences, just as American and Australian English did, and those differences must be respected regardless of whether the speaker was born in the shire, the barrio, the outback, or the kampong.

Human Linguistic Rights and Multilingualism
But not all peoples and cultures have been so successful in fighting the hegemonic influence of English. At the time of Captain Cook's arrival in Australia, there were about 250 aboriginal languages spoken. Today, less than 20 are being taught to the next generation.
In response to linguistic imperialism, linguicism, and linguistic genocide (and here I'm referring not just to the influence of English), a number of individuals and organizations have risen to address the issues of language rights and language ecology (See for example, UNESCO Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, 1996). The fundamental problem is, however, is that the languages of the world are not equally represented by the billions of people on the planet. Of the more than 7000 languages now spoken, 5% of them are spoken by 94% of the world's population. The remaining 95% of languages are spoken by only 6% of the world's people. Sadly, these 6% feel just as passionate about their languages as we do about ours, but their voices are but a faint whisper to us who are so far distant from their perspectives and their homelands. Like the tiny inhabitants of Fern Gully, indigenous peoples everywhere are being bulldozed out of existence by the overwhelmingly destructive power of modernization.
The Japanese scholar, Yukio Tsuda, who spoke on this campus several years ago, contrasted the current "Diffusion of English" paradigm, fueled by capitalism, technology, modernization, monolingualism, globalization, and homogenization, with the "Ecology of Language" paradigm, defined by fundamental human rights, multilingualism, maintenance of languages and cultures, and protection of national sovereignties (1994, p. 58-59). The choice is before us.

The LDS Church
So where do we stand as a worldwide church on these matters? From its earliest years, the Church has been international, and comprised of speakers of many languages. Thus, linguistic and cultural challenges are not new, nor are the Church's efforts to address them.
First of all, it must be said that teaching English as a second language is one of the Church's oldest activities. With converts from around the world being encouraged to assemble to Zion, the streets of Nauvoo, Salt Lake City, and elsewhere were filled with any number of languages for many years. Helping these immigrant converts assimilate and become self-sustaining members of their respective communities required some ability to communicate. President Brigham Young became frustrated at one point with the difficulty people were having in learning English. Never one to stand still and accept defeat, he appointed a 3-member task force to create a new phonetic alphabet that would eliminate the inconsistencies of spelling, thus making literacy in English an easier task. When the committee was finished, it had created the Deseret Alphabet (See sample page from primer below).


(Deseret First Book (1868), Reprinted 1996, Buffalo River Press.)

Brigham Young went before the Territorial Legislature in 1854 to appeal for government funding to print materials in his new alphabet, saying:

While the world is progressing with steam engine power and lightning speed in the accumulation of wealth, extension of science and dissemination of letters and principle, why not the way be paved for the easier acquisition of the English language . . .? (Carter, 1940, p. 264)

Although the Deseret alphabet and the reading materials created with it did not long survive (for political reasons among others), it represented one of the earliest and boldest attempts to make the teaching and learning of English more effective.
Those familiar with church history here in Hawaii know that saints from all the islands were encouraged to gather to Zion, beginning first on the island of Lanai. Missionary journals indicate that teaching English was part of the plan from very early on (Carter, 1944). Elder Ward E. Pack, one of the early missionaries, was given charge of educating the pioneer saints on Lanai. In an early report published in the Deseret News newspaper he said, "I am assigned to take charge of a school to teach Hawaiians the English language and also teach them how to till the earth. We shall learn them English during 4 hours, and how to work during 2 hours in each day of school" (quoted in Woods, 2004, p. 19).
Later, the following year, he recorded in his journal, "I commenced school with 26 scholars. I am trying to learn the islanders to speak the English language. I also commenced an evening school for adults and have 52 scholars and I find it quite difficult having them" (Woods, 2004, p.19). Elder Pack succeeded in making some money from the venture however. The evening school lessons were free for the pioneer saints, but 25 cents each for non-members.
English was used as an effective tool in the early days of the missionary efforts most everywhere in the South Pacific, as elsewhere in the world. Early records indicate that when Elders Smoot and Butler arrived as the first LDS missionaries in Tonga, they were invited to teach English to the noble families' children (Henrichsen, 1997)
To quote from Samuel Fakatou (referring to the early part of the 20th century), "All elders at this time became schoolteachers of English in the various branches of the mission. This seemed to be the best lead the elders had of introducing the gospel to our people" (Grant, 1966, p. 406).
In today's world, however, the teaching of English in order to convert people to Christianity has become a highly controversial issue. Here is one example, taken recently from an evangelical missionary website: "Use ESL to help plant churches among unreached Muslim peoples. Work with Muslims in one of 38 countries in Asia, the Arab world, and Africa as part of a church planting team."
It sounds like a covert operation--and it is. Conversion is against the law in many Muslim nations. This practice of using ESL to proselyte is hotly contested in many places and the reputation of Christianity is being hurt as a result. The practice is seen as just one more way by which the Western world is trying to colonize the minds of others.
The LDS Church is one of many Christian churches whose missionaries often use the popularity of English as a way to contact people. There is great potential for abuse here, as there was decades ago when some mission presidents used sports programs to bring youth into the Church. Anytime something like sports, music lessons or ESL is "used" with an ulterior motive, the potential for poor instruction and insincerity runs high. And in a world where the teaching of English has become a highly politicized and emotional issue, official representatives of the Church, whether they be retired professionals or young missionaries, must remain pure in the intent of their service. In doing so, they will make friends for the Church naturally, gain a few converts perhaps, but most importantly, raise, not lower, the Church's reputation among the peoples and governments of the world.

Translation Efforts
The Church's efforts have not been one-sided. Despite the growing influence of English, the Church remains determined to provide the word of God and the counsel of prophets in ever more of the world's languages. As of November 2005, the Church employed nearly 1500 translators and was translating nearly a half million pages of text a year across thousands of projects in over 100 languages, with an additional 90 languages already pre-approved and prioritized by the First Presidency (Hart, 2000; Seymour, 2006)
To clarify just how important the work of translation is, allow me to quote from those who created the King James Version of the Bible:

How shall men meditate in that which they cannot understand? How shall they understand that which is kept closed in an unknown tongue? . . . Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water . . . Indeed, without translation into the common tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob's well (which was deep) without a bucket, or something to draw with. (Bishop & Van Orden, 2005, p. 140).

To put a more personal touch to this, one Navajo speaker said, "I have two college degrees and speak English very well, but when I hear the gospel in my own language, I get a feeling I never get in English" (Howard, 2004, p. 170).
In conjunction with translation of the written word, with regard to temple ordinances, where exactness is fundamental and understanding crucial, most every temple in the world now has access to about 80 languages for the presentation of the endowment, with more surely to come.2

In addition, the efforts of LDS-related organizations like the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts demonstrate a clear respect for the languages and traditions of others and have made many friends thereby. And make no mistake, like-minded friends are increasingly important these days in our ecumenical efforts to wage battle in common causes and against a common adversary.

English or . . .
Despite its highly structured translation efforts, the Church realizes that it will never be able to fully meet the challenge of translating all instructional and training materials (let alone historical and educational materials) into English. Many works, such as Jesus the Christ, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, and The Miracle of Forgiveness will only be read in a handful of other languages. One or more steps removed we have works like the Discourses of Brigham Young, scholarly publications by the Religious Studies Center and the F.A.R.M.S. organization, President Hinckley's Way to Be, and Stand for Something, books by Oaks, Maxwell, and Nibley, historical fiction like The Work and the Glory, and inspiring personal odysseys like Saints and Soldiers and The Other Side of Heaven, that will probably never see much translation, if any. For practical reasons alone, therefore, church members have often been encouraged to learn English.
In the absence of divine direction or a formal overarching language plan individual church members, as well as leaders at various levels, have at times expressed opinions and instituted practices which have not always been consistent, and which have reflected a greater or lesser degree of understanding and sensitivity.
As a brief example, beginning in the 1970's, the Church Educational System began sending out their materials all in English. To quote Lowell Bishop, former manager of the translation services office in Sydney, Australia, "Members in countless Pacific Island settings received material in English that could be put to little or no use, especially when attempting to teach the gospel in the home." (Bishop & van Orden, 2005, p. 137)
Even closer to home, soon after my former professor, Dr. Alice Pack, arrived in Laie in the early 60's, she and her husband decided to take Samoan 101 here on campus, to better understand and appreciate the prayers and testimonies that were offered in church. To her surprise, a neighbor told her, it was absolute nonsense to learn their language-"they should learn ours." Another professor asked her why they were wasting their time learning a language that had no literature."
Some English-speaking church members have referred to English as the "language of the restoration of the gospel" However, when you look at recent church membership growth, the common and equally insightful response could be, "True, but Spanish will be the language of the second coming!"
"The language of the restoration" - is an interesting phrase, but I believe we might learn something from Joseph Smith, the key instrument in that restoration. Despite having very little formal education, Joseph was an eager student of many subjects, with foreign languages being among his greatest passions. His journal contains numerous references to his excitement in learning German, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. One particular entry reads as follows: "I am determined to pursue the study of languages, until I shall become master of them, if, I am permitted to live long enough" (Tanner, 2005, p. 29).
The institutional challenge has always been determining how to support the need to worship in meaningful ways, while at the same desiring all members to feel as if "they were no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19). We face the same challenges as the primitive church in the days of the apostles. George A. Smith, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in a conference address:

It appears that God in His divine wisdom revealed the gospel in the English language, which is the native language of the majority of the Saints . . . . It is very desirable that all of our brethren who are not acquainted with the English language should learn it. We do not wish to blot out the original languages that they may have spoken, but we want them all-men and women, old and young-to learn the English language so perfectly that they will be able to thoroughly understand for themselves the teachings and instructions and the published works of the Church, as well as the laws of the country." (Journal of Discourses 12, p. 138)

This general encouragement to learn English was extended in modern times, by President Harold B. Lee in remarks he made at a multilingual regional conference in Munich, Germany in 1973:

Think how helpful it would be if every one of you now speaking in your own native tongues would all learn to speak English. I would like to challenge you to do that; then you would be able to talk with us more clearly and we could understand you better than we have today. (Jensen, 1987, p. 275)

In November of 2001, while speaking on our campus, Elder Merrill Bateman said, "We wouldn't mind if the Church learned English. We want everybody to be bilingual, well, trilingual-fluent in the language of the spirit, their native language, and English."
On the other hand, as late as 1955, D. Arthur Haycock, then President of the Hawaii Mission, published a comprehensive study guide to the Hawaiian language for his missionaries and encouraged them to speak Hawaiian at every opportunity (Jensen, 1987). In a similar vein, in 1958, Spencer W. Kimball, while visiting branches in California and Arizona, wrote in his diary, "THE CHURCH MUST NEVER ASSUME THE ROLE OF FORCING THE SPANISH SPEAKING PEOPLE TO LEARN ENGLISH. The Church is for the people and not the people for the Church." (quoted in Jensen, 1987, p. 288. Capitalization is Elder Kimball's.) A few days later he wrote again:

It appeared that there had been a disregard or a lack of understanding or an unsympathetic feeling toward this {Spanish-speaking] minority on the part of some of the stake people who seemed to assume the attitude of superiority and of lending their principal efforts to helping the Anglos rather than the minority group who needs their help so much. (Jensen, 1987, p. 289)

When Kimball became President of the Church, he made language needs a priority. A priesthood training manual published in 1975 even encouraged home teachers to learn the language and the culture of non-English-speaking families to whom they were assigned (Jensen, 1987). While meeting with regional representatives in September of 1978, he said, "When we are ready, the Lord will use us for his purposes. There are almost 3 billion people now living on the earth in nations where the gospel is not being preached." On another occasion, he asked the General Authorities of the Church, "How are you doing in learning Mandarin Chinese?" (Kimball, 2005, p. 129).
In addition to individual opinion and effort, major world events have also played a significant role in molding church policy and practice from time to time and from place to place (Embry, 1997; Jensen, 1987). World Wars I & II were both devastating to the language wards and branches in the U.S. In March of 1942, just 3 months the United States entrance into the war, the First Presidency, despite its long-standing support of language branches, newspapers and the like, announced the discontinuation of all church-sponsored foreign language activities in the U.S. "for the duration of the war" (Jensen, 1987, p. 281).
As a further example, church leadership in New Zealand, despite being very supportive of the Maori language in the early days, began to push for the use of English in all church activities beginning around World War II. However, the renaissance of te reo Maori and Maoritanga in general in the last few decades, has resulted in a number of sociopolitical changes, including the Maori Language Act of 1987, which made te reo Maori an official language in every legal sense, and resulted in church policy moving back to a position of being more supportive of the use of the Maori language in various settings.3

Due to the heavy immigration of Hispanics to Utah, the Church launched in 2002 a program called the "Hispanic Initiative." It has five components which include legal, economic, social, medical and other self-sufficiency programs, as well as a survival English course called the "Daily Dose." The Church also has called hundreds of language missionaries to work with the Spanish-speaking branches of the Church in the area (Stack, 2006).
Despite vascillation among church leaders over the years on these issues, language resources in general have increased, and there remain hundreds of language wards and branches throughout the world. You can attend worship services in Samoan in California and in Korean in Shanghai, in Spanish in London, and in Mandarin in New York City, just to name a few.
In summary, our church, like any other international organization, struggles to meet all of the many challenges that naturally come with diversity. In the words of one LDS Japanese-American, living in Wisconsin, when asked about the Church's efforts in this realm, "It's a work in progress" (Rummler, 2004, p. 128). It certainly is, and hopefully, the operative word is "progress."
Though the Church does not have a general language policy, it strives to fulfill the charge recorded as revelation in Doctrine & Covenants 90:11 " . . . that every man shall hear the fullness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language." To quote from Lowell Bishop, long time manager and supervisor in the Church Translation Division, "We are of the opinion that more of the children of men will come unto Christ as the Church puts forth the necessary efforts to provide these materials in the mother tongue of those persons it seeks to attract. Furthermore, we feel that 'every kindred, tongue, and people' will progress more toward becoming a unified Zion people when we realize that in the sight of God every temporal language has equal validity with the Church's host language, English" (Bishop & Van Orden, 2005, p. 134).
Elder John H. Groberg said it well: "Our prime role . . . is not to teach people English or how to become American. Gospel standards and the message of the Atonement and the Restoration don't vary from language to language. We declare Christ, not English" (Florence, 1992, p. 36).
To this we might add a final bit of wisdom from Elder John Karmack:

We must work hard at creating unity in diversity. We must push on that door with active and strong leadership. Unity in diversity will not happen if we let nature take its course. Isolation and discrimination are still capable of surfacing in every location of the Church. We each need to assign ourselves as a 'committee of one' to create the attitudes of inclusion, acceptance, and unity wherever we find ourselves. . . .We especially need leaders to show the way by precept and example. (Carmack, 1991, p. 9)

Implications for BYU-Hawaii
What are the implications for our campus? First of all, thinking about and participating in the world of teaching English as a second or foreign language is not new to BYU-Hawaii. Several faculty on this campus were active participants in some of the very first meetings and conferences of the early 60's when the field of ESL was just being born and our participation has never ceased. Since the inception of our EIL and TESOL programs on this campus in the 60's, our university has enjoyed an international reputation. The B.A. in TESOL was the first such undergraduate program in North America and remains atop the leader board in several repsects. The EIL program has always been seen as progressive, leading the way on several issues including the offering of college credit ; something most reputable programs have seen fit to emulate. Similarly, many faculty (and some of our former students) have, over the decades, contributed an impressive array of ESL teacher resource books and textbooks which have been published by major publishing houses.
Interestingly, in response to Pres. Lee's comment in Germany about the importance of English, Pres. Rhee Ho Nam of the Seoul, Korea Stake requested that the Church send English language materials to his members. Alton Wade, a CES Administrator in the Pacific at the time, offered the opportunity to several faculty at BYU-Hawaii (then CCH) to develop a customized program for the Korean Saints. This project was only one of several major ESL programs which faculty on this campus have developed for the Church at one time or another. Other projects have resulted in ESL programs for other parts of Asia, Mexico and most recently, the development of materials for the TALL program, headquartered in Provo, which hopes to service virtually any saint, anywhere. CITO, as we speak, is piloting some of these materials on our campus and elsewhere.
In President Kimball's Second Century address in 1975 at BYU-Provo, he said, among other things, "There is no reason why this University could not become the place where, perhaps more than anywhere else, the concern for the teaching of English as a second language is firmly headquartered in terms of unarguable competency as well as deep concern" (Kimball, 1996, p.73). EIL and TESOL faculty on this campus have always taken this charge personally.
More recently (Feb 26, 2003), Elder Richard G. Scott, chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees said the following in an address to the university faculty and staff:

My hope is that BYU-Hawaii, as successful as it is in teaching English as a second language, will become the premier learning environment for English communications, and that the successes of the past in this important endeavor will be augmented, even surpassed, by your successes in the future.

A Way Forward
In sum, the charge is clear, as are market expectations and employment criteria. So where does this leave us? How can we continue to excel in ways that do not further injure, divide, or exclude others? In response, I offer the following:

1. We must first realize that the teaching of English, and our university's priority on it, is not a neutral policy or practice. Indeed it is a goal of critical pedagogy in general to help all teachers and students understand that education of any kind is never free from assumptions, histories, balances of power, and interests.

2. We must teach English in such a way that promotes respect for the learning and maintenance of all languages, cultures, and peoples, and we must graduate TESOL majors in particular who are sensitive to how English is being used to maintain social and economic inequalities, and who are committed to critical pedagogies that counter this trend (See Canagarajah, 2005 for an insightful discussion).

3. We must realize that most learners will use English mostly with other non-native speakers, marketing their own ideas and cultures, products and technologies. English instruction ought to be less concerned with English culture and more focused on intercultural skills (See Baxter, 1983 for an insightful discussion).

4. Our language faculty must look not just at the professional variables which result in more effective teaching and learning (e.g., materials, methodology, and psycholinguistic theories), but at the larger cultural, sociopolitical and economic variables which surround the teaching and use of languages worldwide. To quote several critics, "The over-celebration of methodological rigor and the incessant call for [positivist] objectivity and neutrality support the false claim of a scientific posture . . . indifferent to how findings are used, even uninterested in considering for whom or for what interest [they] are working" (Macedo, Dendrinos & Gounari, 2003, p. 3). Increasing numbers of learners, including our students, are learning English as a third, fourth or fifth language. The realities of the sociocultural, sociolinguistic, and sociopolitical milieux surrounding this learning must become of more concern to those of us who investigate and carry out the teaching and learning of English as a global language.

  1. If we are to have more than a miniscule effect upon the nations in our target area, and have an influence for peace internationally, we must produce graduates who use their language and intercultural skills, along with their professional training, to raise the quality of life not only for themselves and their families, but for the larger communities in which they live. The English instruction we offer, and the values we inculcate while doing so, must not merely promote the individual, but liberate the many. English proficiency must never become merely an individual passport to a better job, or new citizenship. This university cannot afford to underwrite an education that only reinforces current inequities. In the words of Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time, we do a great disservice to our students if we graduate them without the ability or inclination to address the central issues of our times, and it is only when "we connect with our fellow human beings in common causes that we find within us our wisest and most humane instincts" (1999, p. 2).

 

To our future graduates I say, your academic skills, business savvy, multicultural sensitivity, work ethic, and leadership skills will only find their greatest outlet or purpose when they are applied, not just to the satiation of your own personal goals and appetites, but to the betterment of all around you. No graduate can claim to be an individual who "cannot be bought or sold" unless they have become filled with a deep appreciation for the fact that with great opportunity comes great responsibility.
There are ways in which the professional training of any one of our major programs, combined with effective communication skills and intercultural understanding, can lead to the kinds of leaders who can make a difference---through entrepreneurialism, political office, education, social advocacy, scientific invention, health and wellness, or environmental and consumer protection, to name a few.

A Caveat
And while we go about these tasks, the other languages of the world, particularly those of our students, must be both maintained and respected--indeed, consciously improved, as Marcus Martins has often reminded us--for our graduates must return to their homelands able to work and socialize in their own language as educated adults, not the teenagers they were when they first came here.
This point can be brought home by a story told by the great African writer, Ngugi wa Thiong'o. The story tells of a girl from Ngugi's village in Kenya who went to England for two years' training to become a nurse. When she returned to the village, she had to speak to the community through an interpreter.
This story is no doubt a bit exaggerated, but that is irrelevant because whether foreign-educated students remember their native language or not, they often return home unable to relate with those they left behind. There are serious implications for us on this campus in terms of return-ability and institutional mission.
As anyone in the world of business will tell you, English may be useful, but not always sufficient. Former German Chancellor Willy Brandt said it better: "If I'm trying to sell you something, we can speak English, but if you are trying to sell me something, dann mussen Sie Deutsch sprechen!" (Figel, 2005, p. 20).
There is another price to be paid for losing languages, for language is not just about communication. It is also about identity and ways of knowing. Ngugi explained it this way "In doing things over and over again under similar circumstances . . .certain patterns, moves, rhythms, habits, attitudes, experiences and knowledge emerge. Those experiences are handed over to the next generation and become the inherited basis for [the people's] further actions on nature and on themselves. There is a gradual accumulation of values which in time become almost self-evident truths governing a people's conceptions of what is right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, courageous and cowardly, and . . . . over time this way of life becomes distinguishable from other ways of life and results in a distinctive culture or history, as well as a conception of a people and their perceived place in the world." (1986, p.14-15).
For this reason, ethnobotanists, like Dr. Paul Cox, understand the importance of sustaining linguistic diversity because language is the storehouse of much of the world's understanding of the environment around us, and some of that knowledge may yet prove very useful in the cure for many of today's diseases (Maffi, 2001; Muhlhausler, 2001; Wollock, 2001). Unfortunately, for us and our children, most of the world's endangered languages are located in the world's most biodiverse and least understood regions.
This nation we live and work in professes to be interested in foreign languages from time to time, but suffers by and large from a severe case of xenoglossophobia. Moreover, it appears to see little possible use for foreign languages outside the narrow fields of military endeavor and homeland security. We at this university must have better motives. To the students of this university I share the following wisdom which a father once shared with his son:

. . . even if only badly learned, another language still has something to tell about people who are different from yourself . . .When we learn languages, or teach them, we need to believe that that difference counts in the world, that it reflects fundamental differences among people -- not their easily agreed upon commonality, but their profound difference from one another. And just maybe our awkward steps with another language can help us embrace the idea that there are people out there who are fully human and still not us." (Germano, 2004, p. B16)
Let us then, I pray, dedicate ourselves, as faculty, staff and students, to becoming the multicultural, multilingual citizens of the kingdom who possess the skills and sensitivities that will make us effective instruments in bringing to pass the fulfillment of President David O. McKay's vision for this school and its graduates.
It is in that spirit that I feel impressed to say:
God save the Queen's English! Vive le francais! Kong Hokkien 'uay la!
E ola mau ka 'olelo makuahine 'o Hawaii, a, na ke Akua e hoopomaika'i i keia kulanui, a me ko kakou hana pono a pau . . . amene.

 

--------------------------------------------------------

Endnote 1: The English were not the first to recognize the political aspects of language. For example, when Antonio de Nebrija presented Queen Isabella of Spain in 1492 with a copy of Grammatica, an analysis of the grammar of Spanish (the first ever in Europe), she reportedly asked him, "What is it for?" To which de Nebrija replied, insightfully, "Language, Your Highness, is the perfect instrument of empire" (Wollack, 2001, p. 251).
Likewise, Lee Kwan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore, used the promotion of English in his country's school systems during the 60's and 70's, ostensibly as a tool of modernization and development, but it was just as much his goal to weaken if not destroy his most powerful political rival party, which was very much pro Chinese and communist in philosophy.]

Endnote #2 The work of translation for the endowment did not begin until quite recently. The first non-English endowment session was conducted in Spanish in the Mesa Arizona temple in 1945. (Skousen, 1999, p. 254)]

 

Endnote #3: In 1981, Polynesian-speaking wards in New Zealand were disbanded in an effort to assimilate these members. However, some of the Samoan members were so upset that they set up their own Samoan church. Two years later, under the influence of Elder Monson, the language wards were reinstated and the flock united once again (Kimball, 2006, p. 273)]

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