''My quarrel with the English language has been that the language reflected none of my experience… Perhaps the language was not my own because I had never attempted to use it, had only learned to imitate it. If this were so, then it might be made to bear the burden of my experience if I could find the stamina to challenge it…'' (James Baldwin, in Mair 2003)
This special issue of Changing English (Issue 30(3), September 2023) invites you to reflect on the ways teachers and learners around the world might appropriate English for their own purposes, not narrowly pragmatic ones, like as emphasized by neoliberal policies, but for people to grapple with their experience through language. Our aim is to explore the potential of English to open possibilities for confronting and transcending the parameters of neoliberal blueprints, in both ostensibly Anglophone settings as well as contexts where English is a second/foreign/additional language. We are especially interested in accounts of pedagogic exchanges that explore potentialities that may be realised through 'resistance' to the colonial legacies of English and the uniformity of standards-based teaching.
Standards-based reforms attempt to compel English language educators to implement uniform pedagogical practices that compromise their capacity to respond to the interests of their students within their own world. They deny the legitimacy of students' efforts to represent their experiences by drawing on both English and the languages of their communities by imposing a sterile model of 'correct' English - the English of 'the idealised native speaker'. So, we are also inviting contributions that might tease out the complexities of the ideological work that English (Doecke, Mirhosseini, Al-Issa, and Yandell 2019) in enabling educators to be responsive to the languages and cultures of their students.
We remain convinced that the exchanges that occur in educational settings cannot be contained by reified traditions, prescriptions or indeed proscriptions. So, in addition to essays that explore the history and the larger sociocultural and political contexts of English around the world, we are also keen to solicit rich accounts of pedagogic 'praxis' (including teaching resources, educational policies, assessment practices, etc.), as well as narratives which explore experiences of the interface between English and other languages.
We are indebted to Christian Mair both for James Baldwin's reflections and for the title of this special issue, adopted from the first section of The Politics of English as a World Language (Mair 2003). By appropriating Mair's title, we hope that this special issue of Changing English transcends the reified categories and divisions (notably between EFL and English as a 'mother tongue') that have compromised educators' attempts to recognize students' efforts to appropriate English on their own terms and for their own purposes.
- 1 Aug 2022: Abstract
- 1 Dec 2022: First draft
- 1 Apr 2023: Final version