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Academic Paper


Title: The biggest English corner in China
Author: Shuang Gao
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: National University of Singapore
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: ‘They all speak good English. So how come they are jobless?’ The Spring Festival Gala, broadcast alive on TV across China and among international Chinese communities, is one of the most popular and widely viewed performances for Chinese people on Chinese New Year's Eve. In a situational comedy at the 2012 Gala, one Chinese lady threw out the above remark to her friend with reference to the folk she had met in a foreign country she had just visited. The tone in which she said it was intended to invoke laughter at her sarcastic comment about the presumed almightiness of English. The audience, however, only reacted with a slightly audible mumble, which evidently reflected their ambivalence on this issue. After all, many in the audience – like the general population – are currently convinced that gaining a command of English is a very good thing, if not a national pursuit. To mock their pursuit of English is almost equal to mocking their view of life. This article takes a glimpse into this national craze towards English by presenting a brief ethnography of a new form of English learning in China: ‘English educational tourism’, that is, traveling for the purpose of learning English. By doing this, it explores the relationship between English and political economy, noting how English, the language of imperialism, at its current stage (re)produces new subjectivities among Chinese people as a semiotic form of modern/cosmopolitan imagination. Before outlining this argument and introducing the specific evidence upon which I base my claims, however, it is necessary to position this article with reference to previous theorizations relevant to the English language and the Chinese context.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN English Today Vol. 28, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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