In this section, I shall review the current conceptualizations of globalization, culture and EIL, in particular how Chinese conceptualize these notions in relation to the spread of English in China, and the development of Chinese ELT materials.
Globalization is an ongoing process that permeates almost all societies. Many scholars (e.g., Blommaert 2010; Eriksen 2007; Garrett 2010; McKay 2002; McKay & Bokhorst-Heng 2008; Mufwene 2010; Schneider 2011; Scholte 2000) have explored the meanings and implications of ‘globalization’. It is essential to understand the process of globalization in order to examine cultures and ELT materials in China, where an increasing number of people learn and use English for both intra- and inter-cultural communication. Globalization has been closely associated with global communication and mobility. However, people from different cultures conceptualize globalization differently, and their attitudes towards globalization also change over time.
One of the connotations of globalization, to an average Chinese, is Americanization. Since late 1970s, when English was re-introduced into the Chinese school curricula, Chinese learners of English have been increasingly influenced by American cultures, and become one of the major consumers of American cultural products, including Hollywood movies, Radio and Television programmes, fast food chains, American English teaching materials, and American English speakers as language instructors. Garrett’s research (2010, p. 456) on the East-West contrastive analysis of globalization shows that people from different nations hold different views towards globalization, with China and the USA leaning towards more ‘positive orientations’ while the UK, New Zealand and Australia leaning towards more ‘negative orientations’. According to Garrett (2010, p. 458), while people from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan perceive globalization as ‘global unity’, Chinese tend to see it primarily as ‘opportunity’ coupled with ‘cooperation’ and ‘change’. To a certain extent, the Chinese conceptualization of globalization as opportunity renders an explanation to the Chinese craze for English. English learning in China implies opportunities for geographical (going overseas) and social upward mobility (i.e., professional development and promotion), and it also symbolizes the removal of imposed territorial and ideological restrictions in the sense of ‘liberalization’ as defined by Scholte (2000, p. 16). Globalization as opportunity for a Chinese is also closely associated with progressiveness, modernity, and positive changes at an individual level and that of China as a developing nation.
Current literature on globalization reveals a wide range of connotations, including mobility (i.e., the flow of populations, commodities, and ideologies) (Blommaert 2010; Eriksen 2007; Garrett 2010; Mufwene 2010); blending and mixing of local, translocal and global cultures (Blommaert 2010; Eriksen 2007; McKay and Bokhorst-Heng 2008); ‘local functionality’ (Blommaert 2010, p. 44), ‘super-diversity’ (Blommaert 2010, p. 7), ‘polycentricity’ (Blommaert 2010, p. 60), and ‘micro-hegemonies’ (Blommaert 2010, p. 62); and the paradox of standardization (Eriksen 2007). I shall review these major connotations with a focus on Chinese cultures and ELT materials in China.
Globalization as mobility
Mobility has been identified as one of the key features of globalization by Eriksen (2007). Migration, tourism, domestic and international conferences have thrust people to move around and settle either temporarily or permanently in new communities. Although these people bring with them their own languages and cultures, they also adjust themselves both linguistically and culturally in order to survive and thrive in the host communities. Blommaert (2010, p. 6) views migration as a ‘change in the spatial organization of one’s life in an enduring way’. It is ‘enduring’ in the sense that the nature of migration (i.e., the separation from the land of origin and one’s own linguistic and cultural belongings) is likely to ‘bring pressure to accommodate to the host society’. What adds to the endurance nature of migration is that in the context of globalization, according to Blommaert (2010), language forms are more mobile than before, patterns of use become less predictable, and all of the processes of mobility appear to display complex connections with language.
English learning in the context where English is not widely used is comparable to embarking on an enduring journey of migration. It is common for a Chinese to conceptualize globalization as mobility. To an average Chinese, ‘mobility’ that is associated with English learning may not exclusively mean migration, but it also means social or professional upward ‘mobility’ in terms of joining social elite groups, or seeking political, administrative and academic promotions. ‘The Chinese, especially educated adults and university students, are motivated to learn English because they believe it will enable them to join an educated elite group and to have access to better jobs, more opportunities, and a wider world’ (Xu 2010, p. 172). This connotation of ‘globalization’ also reflects Blommaert’s ideologically ‘acquirable imagery of the self as being in the world’, because English learners in China are not simply learners of English, but symbolically they add a global element to their Chinese identities and become Chinese ‘global’ citizens.
Another aspect of mobility is closely related to the notion of space and time, which is subsequently related to issues of cultural ‘dis-embedding’ and ‘re-embedding’ (Eriksen 2007, pp. 8-9), ‘deterritorialisation’ and ‘territorialisation’ (Blommaert 2010; Scholte pp. 45-46; Scholte 2000, pp. 15-17), and ‘supraterritoriality’ and ‘transnationalism’ (Garrett 2010, p. 449). Cultural ‘dis-embedding’ and ‘re-embedding’ are two of the key features of globalization identified by Eriksen (2007, pp. 8-9). Dis-embedding ‘includes all manners through which social life becomes abstracted from its local, spatially fixed context’, while re-embedding is a countervailing process to territorialize a mix of local and global cultures through ‘strong networks of moral commitment, concerns with local power and community integration, national and sub-national identity politics’ (Eriksen 2007, pp. 8-9). Cultural dis-embedding and re-embedding processes are also closely related to deterritorialization and territorialization. The former stands for ‘the perception and attribution of values to language as something which does not belong to one locality but which organizes translocal trajectories and wider spaces’, while the latter refers to ‘the perception and attribution of values to language as a local phenomenon, something which ties people to local communities and spaces’ (Blommaert 2010, pp. 45-46). With globalization, the notion of language (de)territorialisation can become relative and fluid due to the increased velocity of movement of people and the unprecedented engagement of people in the virtual online world. ‘Interaction across large distances enters into a complex relationship with local activity’, therefore, the local has never been more closely connected to the global through the ‘compressed time and space’ in terms of ‘supraterritoriality and translationalism’ (Garrett 2010, p. 449). In the Chinese context, Xu’s research (2009, pp. 123-124) shows that it can be hypothesized that there are varying ‘micro-linguistic markets’ co-existing in China, including a ‘global linguistic market’ where English is used for transnational communication; a ‘supra-local market’ where cosmopolitan Mandarin Chinese (often code-mixed with English) is used for trans-regional interaction among Chinese elite groups, and a ‘local linguistic market’ where dialects and vernacular Chinese are used in local communities. It should be noted that the ‘micro-linguistic market’ is not a geographical concept, but a conceptualization in relation to mobility, and dynamic communities of multiple language users in contemporary China. One implication of globalization as mobility for learning and using English in China is that ELT materials should reflect the dynamic linguistic and cultural complexities of a mobile world both in a global sense and the local reality. In other words, ELT materials should facilitate Chinese learners of English to raise their awareness that English has increasingly been used as an international language, and to cater for their needs of using English both locally and globally for intra- and international communication.
In addition, it should be noted that ‘mobility’ does not necessarily imply global symmetrical flow of populations and commodities. According to Mufwene (2010, p. 31), ‘the players or partners involved in the relevant world-wide networks of interconnectedness and interdependence do not hold equal economic powers; it is the more powerful who control which populations and commodities (including languages) are transported more freely, and in which directions’. ELT materials as a carrier of cultures and ideologies play a crucial role in China, as learners of English generally have undiscerned access to English and its associated cultural content in their ELT classroom. The cultures and ideologies that the learners are exposed to may well determine how they perceive the language they learn. If the cultures are exclusively about the Inner Circle (Kachru 1982), then the learners tend to view English as a ‘foreign’ language. On the other hand, if the ELT materials are inclusive of a variety of cultures, and the texts include a variety of Englishes, then the learners may increase their awareness of EIL. In other words, English can be utilized as a tool to express different cultures and enhance multicultural identities of the learners. Eriksen (2007, pp. 8-9) points out that one of the consequences of globalization is the vulnerability in terms of protecting certain communities of people against unwanted flows. In the Chinese ELT context, English learners may not be empowered if they are only exposed to ‘foreign’ cultures and non-local linguistic forms through their ELT material. Such unwanted ‘flows’ of linguistic items and ideologies may demotivate the learners, and put them in a vulnerable position both as learners and users of English. To cater for the needs of Chinese learners of English, it is essential to be aware of the Chinese conceptualization of globalization as mobility.
Globalization as cultural blending
Blommaert (2010, p. 60) points out that ‘an important feature of globalization processes is the fact that they blend the local and the translocal in complex networks’. This blending involves both language and culture. In terms of language blending, people code-switch and code-mix when they communicate with others. In addition, they also transfer linguistic forms from their local languages to English. Cultural blending results from the increasing ‘mutual dependence and transnational connections’ and the ‘instantaneous exchange of messages characteristic of the information era’ (Eriksen 2007, pp. 8-9). McKay and Bokhorst-Heng (2008, p. 2) view globalization as a ‘reformulation of social space in which the global and local are constantly interacting with one another’. They also argue that ‘neither one should be afforded a dominant position’. This globalization as cultural blending implies that the English-speaking world that the ELT materials present should contain a blending of cultures, both local and international, so that learners can naturally blend their local experiences and cultures with those that are presented in the ELT materials.
Globalization as local functionality
It cannot be assumed that globalization is about everything-going-global. There has also been a concurrent localization process focusing on how a language operates at a local level. According to Blommaert (2010, p. 44), a language functions in a community precisely because it ‘provides local meanings: meanings that provide frames for understanding the local environment, to categorize and analyse the (strictly) local world.’ Even deterritorialized languages, e.g., English in China, should adapt to local functionalities. Blommaert (2010, p. 45) argues that ‘when another language is introduced in a particular environment, it may as well be dysfunctional for it does not articulate the particular local meanings required for the sustenance of this environment’. If English in China is viewed exclusively as a ‘foreign’ language, then local cultures can hardly be encoded in English, e.g., using English in its Anglo-American sense to encode the Duanwu Festival, commonly known as the Dragon Boat Festival, and its associated cultural activities including making zongzi (angular rice balls wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves), drinking xionghuang (realgar) wine, and racing dragon boats. This conceptualization of globalization as local functionality implies that ELT materials should be developed to provide sufficiently localized English input to enable Chinese learners of English to function locally, e.g., describing and expressing their own local cultures and experiences for intra- and intercultural communication.
Mufwene (2010, p. 47) argues that localization can be regarded as globalization at a local or a regional level. He argues that ‘however global the English language has become – in the sense of being a language that is spoken almost anywhere on our planet and permeates so many diverse domains of modern life – it will continue to indigenize everywhere, acquiring local characteristics in the same way it has done to date’. To incorporate texts of local cultures in local varieties of English into ELT materials is aligned with the process of globalizing English at the local or regional level. This localization process can sometimes go so far as to adopt local linguistic forms as in the case of McDonald’s going local to adapt to local taste buds and using local languages for product marketing.
Globalization as super-diversity
Globalization is the driving force for a global lingua franca, and English has been widely adopted as one. However, globalization does not necessarily lead to monolingualism or a monolithic ‘global English’. Instead, Mufwene (2010, p. 50) argues that ‘the differential evolution of English appears to be substituting a new form of diversity for an older one’. This new form of diversity also includes blended linguistic forms and cultures. Blommaert (2010, pp. 7-8) points out that ‘super-diversity poses descriptive as well as theoretical challenges’. The descriptive challenge involves the spatial reconfiguration of the local and translocal, as well as real and virtual. ‘All of this has effects on the structure and development of language repertoires and patterns of language use’. The theoretical challenge involves the stretching of ‘the limits of existing frameworks for analysing and understanding multilingualism and the dynamics of language change’. In the context of ELT in China, this conceptualization of globalization as super-diversity can also be interpreted as the diversity in the needs of the learners, the demands for a variety of teaching pedagogy, e.g., grammar translation, communicative teaching, bilingual education and immersion, and the diverse ELT materials both for classroom use and extracurricular utilization, e.g., textbooks by different publishers, various reading and multimedia English learning materials, and super diverse preparation materials both in terms of quantity and quality for public tests, e.g., College English Test (CET) Band 4 and Band 6, Test for English Majors (TEM) Band 4 and Band 8, IELTS, TOEFL, and GRE.
The notion of super-diversity is also closely connected to micro-hegemonies, poly-centricity, and normative complexes. Blommaert (2010, p. 62) defines ‘micro-hegemonies’ as a notion of ‘restricted, niched hegemonies that co-exist with others in polycentric environments’. Taking the Chinese linguistic market (Xu 2009) as an example, the local, supralocal and global markets operate in a way that certain varieties of language(s) evolve and co-exist in super diverse communities in China. A localized variety of English co-exists with cosmopolitan Chinese in the global and supralocal linguistic markets, formulating micro linguistic and cultural hegemonies in relation to polycentric environments. Within these micro-hegemonies, certain beliefs, values and norms are shared and practiced. An example of such a micro-hegemony is the Chinese white-collar community in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, where ‘white-collar workers actively utilize resources from multiple languages (such as Standard English, Standard Mandarin, Chinese regional dialects, and Internet language), and the multimodal functions of the digital technologies’ (You 2011, p. 409). The existence of micro-hegemonies implies poly-centricity. A polycentric context, according to Blommaert (2010, p. 61), is a ‘context in which multiple normative complexes are simultaneously at work, but are of a different order’. Chinese ELT context is polycentric in the sense that English learning and teaching in China are contextualized in a heterogeneous society comprising multiple ‘normative complexes’ including local cultural norms, norms of the greater Chinese diaspora, and norms that have been introduced through ELT materials and other media forms. Blommaert (2010, p. 60) points out that ‘given the intense polycentricity of learning environments and the fact that globalization processes develop at several different scale-levels, the issue of normativity becomes quite complex’. This suggests that ELT materials should not be oriented towards a monolithic norm mindset, but raise the awareness of the learners that multiple normative complexes have become the norm.
Globalization as heterogeneity
Another connotation of globalization is standardization. A common misperception about globalization and standardization is that globalization has led to a global village with a global English, and that commercial products and manufacturing processes have to go through various forms of standardization in order to achieve uniformity. To some extent, this can be true, because globalization entails a wide spread of English, and other notions, including ‘internationalization’ (the growth of international exchange), ‘universalization’ (the spreading of common objects and experiences to everyone) (Scholte 2000, pp. 15-17), and ‘comparability and shared standards’ (Eriksen 2007, pp. 8-9). However, Eriksen (2007, p. 10) also points out rightly that ‘globalization does not entail the production of global uniformity or homogeneity. Rather, it can be seen as a way of organizing heterogeneity.’ Indeed, in World Englishes, standardizing (or codifying) different varieties of English has been operating as a counteracting process leading to the heterogeneity of English . According to Mufwene (2010, p. 50), the heterogeneity resulting from the changing ecology of English features in: ‘1) the extent of the interactions the new speakers have had with speakers from the Inner Circle; 2) the specific languages English has come in contact with; and 3) the particular uses to which it has been put’. This conceptualization of globalization as heterogeneity enables Chinese to understand that the spread of English in China does not necessarily produce Chinese communities of uniform speakers of RP (Received Pronunciation) or GA (General American). Instead, it enables the local variations of English in China to continue to thrive. English is increasingly seen as either a ‘local practice’ or a language for ‘translingua franca’ communication (Pennycook 2010, pp. 682-684). The ‘worldliness of English’, in Pennycook’s terms (2010, p. 681), may not simply be ‘a matter of grammatical or lexical variation’, but of ‘cultural and ideological difference’. As far as ELT materials are concerned in the Chinese context, pluralizing cultures and Englishes can only be the first step towards addressing issues of super diversity under new conditions of globalization. A further step will have to be considered in terms of how the teachers and learners make use of the ELT materials so that their own language ideologies, cultural identities and local language practices also play an integral part in decoding and encoding the additional language of EIL both locally and globally. Situated and contingent ways of compiling ELT materials to address the heterogeneous nature of Chinese learners, teachers, and ELT pedagogy are what globalization as heterogeneity implies for English language education in China.
Cultures, ELT materials and English as an International Language
Globalization has various connotations, as discussed in the section of 'Globalization as mobility', however, according to Garrett (2010, p. 457), ‘it is the culture category that is the most salient’. Byram (1988, p. 82) defines culture as knowledge which is ‘shared and negotiated between people’, and ‘much of that knowledge is symbolically expressed in artefacts and behaviours and is formulated as rules, norms, expectations, as moral and legal codes, as proverbs, as parental injunctions to children’. Sharifian (2011, pp. 8-11) interprets culture in terms of schemas, including ‘event’, ‘role’, ‘image’ ‘proposition’ and ‘emotion’ schemas. Event schemas are abstracted from our experience of certain events, e.g., funerals and weddings; role schemas include knowledge about social roles which denote sets of behaviours that are expected of people in particular social positions; image schemas are iconic images that are readily imagined in relation to physical or social experiences, e.g., the image schema of a ‘building’ associated with the ‘foundation of a nation’, or the ‘path’ image associated with a straight path mapped onto ideologies as in ‘the path to God’; proposition schemas are abstractions which act as models of thought and behaviour, e.g., marriage is enduring; and emotion schemas are complex configurations of feeling states and scenarios by reference to certain events or situations, e.g., ‘shame’ and its associated circumstances can be culturally specific. This notion of culture as schema renders a practical framework for textbook material analysis.
Fang (2011, pp. 27-31) has reviewed different paradigms of culture including ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ paradigms. The ‘static paradigm’ assumes that 1) the complex phenomenon of culture is captured through simplification; 2) nationality or nation state is adopted as the basic unit of analysis; 3) cultural differences, cultural clashes, and cultural collisions are seen essentially as a problem; 4) cultures can be analysed in bipolar cultural dimensions along which each national culture is given a fixed indexing; 5) value is the most crucial component of culture, and 6) culture is concepturalised as stable over time. Fang (2011, pp. 28-29) points out that this static paradigm is essentially a ‘pre-globalization and pre-Internet phenomenon’, and it is incapable of capturing cultural dynamics in a globalizing society or dealing with intra-cultural diversity as well as cultural change over time. The ‘dynamic paradigm’ of culture centres around intercultural interaction, and it focuses on ‘negotiated culture’, and ‘multiple cultural identity’ (Fang 2011, p. 29). In the dynamic paradigm, cultural differences are seen essentially not as a problem but as an opportunity for learning and knowledge transfer, in which cultures are ‘negotiated, compromised, embraced, and transferred’ (Fang 2011, p. 30).
In light of the dynamic paradigm, Fang (2011, p. 31) has also proposed a Chinese ‘Yin Yang’ perspective on culture.
According to the Yin Yang philosophy, all universal phenomena are shaped by the integration of two opposite cosmic energies, namely Yin and Yang. Yin represents the ‘female’ energy, such as the moon, night, weakness, darkness, softness, and femininity; while Yang stands for ‘male’ energy, such as the sun, day, strength, brightness, hardness, and masculinity. The white dot in the black area and the black dot in the white area connote coexistence and unity of the opposites to form the whole. (Fang
, p. 31)
The Yin Yang principle suggests the underpinnings of 1) co-existence, 2) mutual reinforcement, and 3) dynamic and paradoxical unity (Fang 2011, p. 34). The implications of the Chinese notion of culture as yin and yang for ELT materials for Chinese learners are likely to be that 1) texts about different cultures can co-exist; 2) they can be used locally to the advantage of the Chinese learners to reflect on their own cultures; and 3) they provide Chinese learners and teachers opportunities to reinforce their dynamic multi-cultural awareness and identities.
There are two views regarding the impact of globalization on culture. One is the homogenization and the other is hybridization of cultures. Garrett (2010, pp. 448-449) associates cultural homogenization with ‘cultural imperialism, westernization, or Americanization’. He summarizes that some scholars hold the view that the global distribution of television programs, cinema, and other western cultural media products ‘carry and spread the ideology and values of their creators and will ultimately replace the cultures in which they are distributed’, while other scholars hold the view that western cultural commodities become ‘localized or hybridized, and adapt to local tastes’ so that their associated ideology and cultural value systems can be ignored or perceived differently in their new contexts. Over the past three to four decades, Chinese ELT materials have been developed to reflect the homogenization view, with a recent propensity towards the hybridization of cultures in the English texts for Chinese learners.
Taking culture as ‘an endlessly recursive process of meaning making and meaning taking’, Gray (2010, p. 715) views ELT textbooks as ‘cultural artefacts’, which serve to make English mean in particular ways. Gray (2010, p. 730) also points out that ‘as with all cultural artefacts, textbooks are products of the cultures which produce them’. Yuen categorizes cultures that are represented in ELT material into four aspects, including products, practices, perspectives, and persons. ‘Language can be considered an artefact or a system of code (products) used, to signify thoughts (perspectives), for communication (practices), by different people (persons)’ (Yuen 2011, p. 459).
English has evolved into different varieties, and it has become distinctly English as an International Language. According to McKay (2002, p. 5), EIL is ‘a language of wider communication both among individuals from different countries and between individuals from one country’. McKay (2006, pp. 120-121) points out further that ‘cultural knowledge often provides the basis for the content and topics that are used in language materials and classroom discussions. Which culture to use in instructional materials needs to be carefully considered in reference to the teaching of an international language’. Sharifian (2009b, p. 2) regards EIL as ‘a paradigm for thinking, research and practice’ and he emphasizes that ‘as a paradigm, EIL calls for a critical revisiting of the notions, analytical tools, approaches and methodologies within the established disciplines such as sociolinguistics of English and TESOL.’ Matsuda (2012, p. 7), on the other hand, conceptualizes teaching EIL as ‘preparing English learners to become competent users of English in international contexts.’
As far as the shift from teaching EFL to teaching EIL is concerned in the Chinese context, Xu (2002, pp. 233-237) proposed six changes over a decade ago regarding Chinese ELT perceptions and practices. These include (1) EIL should equally be associated with the cultures of all speakers of English; (2) Chinese English learners should incorporate their own Chinese norms and values and use EIL for local as well as international communication; (3) multilingual competent users should be regarded as models in the Chinese ELT classroom; (4) Chinese learners and teachers should be exposed to varieties of English to raise their awareness of EIL; (5) Chinese ELT classroom should be closely connected to the Chinese societies in terms of the use of English; and (6) Professional ELT teachers of multilingual backgrounds, both local and international should be employed for classroom teaching. Some of these changes have already taken place in the classroom. In terms of ELT materials for Chinese learners of English, the current textbooks that are used in senior secondary schools have shown new tendencies of involving Chinese learners as integral participants of a global EIL community, but in its virtual (imagined) sense. A number of scholars, e.g., Matsuda (2012), McKay (2012), have researched on the EIL teaching materials, curricula and principles. In terms of ELT material development for TEIL, the following criteria have been discussed, (1) the localization of English materials for local learners; (2) the exposure of the learners to different varieties of English, (3) the intercultural awareness of the learners in relation to the use of English and the learners’ needs for English; (4) the promotion of multiculturalism; (5) the opportunities provided for the learners to associate their own needs and cultures. The following section will adopt the conceptualizations of globalization and culture that have been outlined above, and the criteria for EIL material development to analyse the current Chinese senior secondary school English textbooks. The main purpose of this analysis is to find out whether currently adopted English textbooks reflect the current conceptualizations of globalization and culture, and whether they meet the criteria for EIL material development.