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Multilingualism and English in Twenty-First-Century Europe

Recent Developments and Challenges

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Edited By Clive W. Earls

This book aims to tackle one of the most controversial and important linguistic, educational and societal debates in contemporary Europe. English is growing rapidly within, and spreading across, an increasing number of areas of society. This development is influenced by actions taken by national and supranational decision-makers, as well as global forces outside the control of any one state or political union. Europe’s founding principle of respecting and fostering diversity and equality of cultures and languages is being affected by the growing role of English across European countries, creating a de facto linguistic hierarchy and consequently a potential cultural hierarchy.

The essays collected here aim to examine existing debates and stimulate further discourse on the nurturing of multilingualism in Europe and the concomitant acquisition of English. By bringing together contributions focusing on multiple European countries and regions by researchers from a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds, this volume presents a snapshot of the current relationship between multilingualism and English and explores the challenges generated by this situation.

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Competing transformative forces and discourses: Multilingualism and English at higher education level in the knowledge economy of a globalizing Ireland

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Introduction

We live in an era of unparalleled interconnectivity with global migration creating widespread complex intercultural realities which necessitate greater multilingualism1 and intercultural awareness. Globalization can and has been variously defined with emphasis on both its positive and negative transformative potential. Nevertheless, it has become a dominant feature in world economic, political, cultural and educational spheres. In the twenty-first century, few places elude its influence and modern technology is accelerating the spread of innovations and practices (Altbach 2007: 122). Anchored in economic and cultural change, globalization involves the formation of worldwide markets in common financial systems and rests upon systems of communication and knowledge led by the developed world tending towards a single world community (Marginson and Van der Wende 2006: 5). Globalization discourses form the basis of moves within the Western world towards a knowledge-based economy to compete successfully in the global economic arena. This view of knowledge-production and idea-generation involving even greater levels of creativity ← 31 | 32 → and innovation, in contrast to the manufacturing of physical consumable goods, as the driver of economic growth has the potential to impact significantly on current views on the pursuit of multilingualism in unison with the pan-European acquisition of English. Considering the role that higher education institutions play in producing and disseminating knowledge, the higher educational sphere is of key importance in shaping society, its culture and, now more than ever before, its economy.

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