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Speaking American: A History of English in the United States

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Language, Literacy, and Technology

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Academic Paper


Title: Promoting social inequality by supporting cultural diversity in second language learning
Author: BĂ©atrice Sylvie Boufoy-Bastick
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of the West Indies
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: This paper demonstrates that supporting cultural diversity and not jeopardising educational attainments in second language learning for all cultural groups in a multi-cultural context are in fact conflicting goals. It argues that culture is a major determinant of teaching practices and that differing culturally-determined practices yield differential attainments in second language education. This major research finding has emerged from a four-year ethnographic study on English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching conducted in Fiji secondary schools. This finding is of significance because language learning is promoted as a means of preserving cultural diversity; yet this valued diversity can carry the penalty of lower attainment. Two alternative solutions to the problem are discussed./L//L/Two controversial orientation options are suggested to align the ESL curriculum with cultural expectations: (i) a philosophically humanistic culturally-sensitive orientation and (ii) an economically-driven social development orientation. The first orientation supports cultural diversity and advocates that the ESL curriculum should reflect cultural values. For kinship groups, this orientation is not compatible with international educational standards and hinders socioeconomic progress. The second orientation is to instil culturally-antagonistic educational values of the dominant economic groups. This option endangers cultural - and linguistic - stability of indigenous societies. It promotes cultural normalisation and the adoption of western capitalist values for the purpose of increasing material wealth at a national level. Hence the dilemma is, to what extent should cultural diversity be supported for social and cultural well-being when protecting cultural diversity may condemn some cultural groups to lower attainments, which in turn, are associated with lower socioeconomic gains and material inequality. Whereas, supporting a culturally-destructive standardisation may facilitate development of a country's material well-being while widening social inequalities within the country.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Paper presented at the XXth FIPLV International Congress, Paris, July 22-26, 2000.


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