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The Sociolinguistics of Language Education in International Contexts

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Edited By Edith Esch and Martin Solly

In many parts of the world the language education scenario is increasingly dynamic, as demographic, economic and social changes powerfully influence socio-political agendas in the sphere of language education. These in turn impact on complex issues such as linguistic pluralism, multiculturalism, and marginalization. This is especially so in the sphere of second language education where local, national and regional concerns often dominate the objectives underpinning policy choice and prioritisation.
This volume brings together scholars and researchers from a wide range of different educational contexts and turns a sociolinguistic lens on some of the key areas of concern for researchers in language education: critical awareness of power and identity issues; competence in dealing with new sociolinguistic repertoires, modalities and literacies; ethical concerns for all who are involved. The ‘case study’ approach enables the reader to reflect on and critically engage with these issues in a rich variety of contextual situations, and the volume as a whole provides a useful overview of (second) language education in the world today.

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JIN HE The Myths of English Proficiency: The Socially Constructed Ideas about English in China 47

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JIN HE The Myths of English Proficiency: The Socially Constructed Ideas about English in China 1. Introduction From its genesis over a century ago English language education in China has been inextricably intertwined with changes in the political- economic field. The changing definitions of China’s development needs and her relationship with the Western world have led to a chang- ing status of the English language and changing conceptualisations of English from a so-called barbarian language in the late Qing Dynasty to a second language in contemporary China. While China used to have taken an inward-looking view, leaving the English-speaking world out of the boundary of a unified China, as alien to Chinese cul- ture and its spirit, after the advent of the Open-Door Policy, and with the increasing spread of English over the world as an international lingua franca, the Chinese government has started to see English as a symbol and an integral part of international literacy and assumes a relationship between the social development of China and the English proficiency rate among Chinese people at large. Since 1993, the policy to popularise English in China has expanded the definition of English proficiency to mass literacy, required at all levels of education and to a large extent in occupation as well. Given the ever larger role of educa- tional institutions as arbiters of personal, socio-economic opportunity, the new official attitude towards English provides the justification for the view that individual effort, socio-economic success, and the ad- vancement of English proficiency...

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