Anglicizing Polishness. A Report from the ELT Front in Post-communist Poland
Abstract: Uncritically applauded since the political changes of 1989, the constantly expanding domain of English in Poland calls for some appraisal of the cultural influences involved. Educational policy has secured the position of English in the school curricula, extending the period of compulsory learning and lowering the starting age. The massive exposure to the language expressive of different cultural norms frequently transforms ELT classes into a cultural battleground, with predictable outcome. Without neglecting the obvious benefits of the enabling powers of the global language, there is the need for the accompanying debate on the cultural forces at play, increased sensitivity to unequal balance of power, and celebration of cultural variety.
Keywords: language and culture, national identity, language policy, linguistic imperialism, ELT, foreign language teaching, linguistic rights
After years of severely restricted and strictly controlled access to the ‘corrupted western world’ in communist Poland, the 1989 collapse of the political system brought the largely uncontrollable inflow of the long-awaited western culture, often encoded in, and thus inseparably linked to the English language. The compulsory learning of Russian, generally perceived as an instrument of political oppression rather than expansion of linguistic resources, was to come to a symbolic end and leave the country together with the Russian army. English was in many ways synonymous with freedom, opportunity, choice and material wealth. The popular cry was for more, and the only obstacle—the shortage of qualified teachers. The policy makers reacted accordingly, eager to use every help...
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