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Teaching English to young learners

Developing Resources for Primary
A. Cant and W. Superfine
Richmond Publishing 1997 95pp. 12.20
ISBN 84 294 5066 1
An I ntroduction to Teaching English to Children
S. House
Richmond Publishing 1997 96pp. 12.20
ISBN 84 294 5068 8
Teaching Very Young Children - Pre-school and
Early Primary
G. Roth
Richmond Publishing 1998 93pp. 12.20
ISBN 84 294 5446 2
Creating Stories with Children
A. Wright
Oxford University Press 1997 135pp. 11.15
ISBN 0 19 437204 9
Very Young Learners
V. Reilly and S. M. Ward
Oxford University Press 1997 197pp. 11.15
ISBN 0 19 437209 X
The field of Teaching English to Young Learners
(TEYL) is a rapidly growing one, yet there is a
dearth of valuable and useful books for teachers in
this area. Young learners are generally regarded as
those learners who are still in full-time school
education and somewhere within the 6-16 age group.
Teaching a language to young learners involves
understanding not only the learners linguistic
needs and learning goals but also their cognitive
and social needs. Anything written for teachers of
young learners has to reflect all four.
To be involved in TEYL one needs to know how
different teaching English to younger learners is
compared to teaching adults. Teachers and mate-
rials writers, particularly, need to understand how
the cognitive and physical development of young
learners is central to teaching and learning, and
then base their choice of materials and suggested
approaches on this knowledge.
Many teachers of young learners are enthusiastic,
and care greatly about the job they are doing.
They need access to extremely knowledgeable and
flexible materials and to ideas that will make their
very complex task a little easier. There are, at
present, a great many teachers of young learners
who are not particularly specialized in the field,
though many are in the process of becoming
specialized. Teachers of young learners tend to
come from a variety of backgrounds; native
speakers who enjoy working with young learners,
but who are not necessarily qualified in this area;
native speaker English Language teachers who
are trained to teach English to adults; non-native
speaker teachers who may be in a similar position
to either the above, as well as those who are trying
to be/become fluent in English.
Teachers books for this market, therefore, have
to be extremely flexible to cope with the various
demands of the different needs of young learners
teachers. There has been a dearth of books for the
TEYL market because of the difficulty of the task
and the need for in-depth knowledge and under-
standing of the learner and teacher. With the
exception of some titles from such publishers as
Longman (including the former Nelson and
Collins lists), Penguin, and Macmillan there have
been very few resource books published for
teachers of young learners. Oxford University
Press and Richmond Publishing have decided to
fill some long-empty gaps in this market.
Any teachers book for TEYL really needs to be
extremely large to cover all the issues that are
pertinent to the learner and teacher. Usually this
is not possible, so writers and publishers have to
decide how to approach the broad span of issues.
Do they do a general guide and ideas book that
gives readers a rough but not very detailed
account of how, why, and what, or do they
concentrate on just one small aspect of teacher
support and cover this in a very thorough way?
All five titles under review seem to be trying to do
the latter, i.e. take only one aspect and develop that.
With the Richmond Publishing titles, each of the
first two books has an introduction, followed by
several chapters with umbrella headings, so that in
An I ntroduction to Teaching English to Children two
chapters, Teaching children English and Under-
standing your course materials, are in the section
Starting Out. I really liked the layout and size of
these first two books, and particularly the opening
Map of the Book. All three titles encourage the
readers to be reflective, and to interact with the
regular tasks throughout the book.
In An I ntroduction to Teaching English to
Children, Susan House pragmatically sets out to
begin helping teachers of children interact with
198 ELT J ournal Volume 54/2 April 2000 Oxford University Press 2000
reviews welcome
whatever published course materials they might be
using. The author then extends this by discussing a
whole range of practical classroom issues within the
sections Basic teaching procedures; Establishing
the right atmosphere; Running an efficient class;
Resources and activities; Dealing with correcting
and testing, and finally Dealing with wider issues.
This will be a useful initial handbook to those
teaching children for the first time.
The terms very young children, young children,
and primary are used rather indiscriminately in
the Richmond titles. Sadly they are not sufficiently
defined or used, so that Teaching Very Young
Children has an introduction entitled Working
with young children. There is no very here
which rather conflicts with the book title. It also
defines these children as between the ages of 3
and 9 years of age, and adds that this range could
even extend to 11 (see below). This is not what I
would define as very young children or even young
children. The EFL world does not have a clear
view of how old children, young children, and very
young children are. This is why the term young
learners is often used to make use of the idea of a
continuum along which there are different lan-
guage starters. Further narrowing down of the
Young Learner categories needs to be carried out
with care in order to arrive at clear definitions.
There are a number of cognitive and learning
stages within the 3-9 age range, I was rather
disturbed that this range is extended by the
suggestion that most of the activities can be
used with children with a low level of English, up
to the age of eleven. This shows little respect for
developmental differences across a crucial nine-
year age span. As discussed earlier, it should not
be the language level only that defines the way to
choose a suitable activity for children learning
English. Sadly, there is no guidance for teachers
to suggest which age or developmental group each
activity will benefit most from. Instead the author
leans heavily towards the structures for defining
the activity.
Each of the three Richmond books begins with
general guidelines for working with young lear-
ners, followed by a wealth of activities. Developing
Resources for Primary, as the title would suggest,
contains rather less advice of this nature, although
many of the activities are very useful and valid,
although, for some less experienced teachers these
collections may be rather confusing and difficult to
use, as there is little indication of which of the
various age groups they can be used with. For
experienced teachers, though, these activities will
provide a valuable resource base. I particularly
like the examples of things teachers can actually
say within the activities, for instance in the three
in a group activity (Teaching Very Young
Children, p. 33).
Once the reader has ploughed through the rather
daunting contents pages of the Resource Books
for Teachers series, in Very Young Learners and
Creating Stories with Children the activities do say
which target group they are intended for, and this
helps the teacher a great deal.
Creating Stories with Children is a very useful
focus on story, which is a very important aspect of
the language and learning classroom for young
learners. It is clearly structured, and provides a
very useful and supportive resource book. The
illustrations are very clear and easy to use, and I
am sure it will be a particularly useful resource
This book also gives the teacher the language for
carrying out the activities. In 4.6 Pass the Story
(oral) the teacher is given the opening of the story,
for instance (p. 68). Each activity is well set out,
with a very clear introduction.
Very Young Learners clearly indicates which age
the activities are for. This is enormously helpful
for the not-so-experienced teachers, or for those
who are new to young learners teaching, though
the focus of these activities is still only listed as
I do find some parts of the introduction to this
book a little vague at times, and full of con-
troversial statements such as Learning a new
language is a traumatic experience Yes, learning
a new language can be a traumatic experience, but
is not the point of such books as this to ensure that
it does not become the case? I am also a little
concerned by other statements, such as One of
the main bonuses for the teacher is that there are performance objectives to meet. (pp. 7 and
13); and the use of anything in the statement
Anything the children learn is a gain and this
absence of pressure means that the classes can be
an enjoyable experience for both teacher and
pupils. (p. 8). It would have been better to have
explained both of these more fully, since the
message they convey could be rather negative.
There are also numerous colloquialisms within the
text that may not be very clear to the readers, such
as jabbering, change tack, and goodies.
All five books will be useful for teachers of young
learners as they will help to create a rich resource
base. Many of the activities in each book can also
be developed by each teacher according to the
range of ages they are working with. The activities
will also teachers may also wish to use the
activities as in order to and develop their own
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The reviewer
Annie Hughes is Assistant Director of the EFL Unit,
University of York, which is well known as a TEYL
specialist centre. It runs the first MA in TEYL
studied by distance. The annual British Council
Summer School on English for Young Learners is
also held in the EFL Unit each summer. She is a
trainer trainer, teacher trainer, and consultant, and
has worked in many countries around the world. She
is co-author of Carousel 1 and 2 (Longman),
Treasure Trail 3 and 4 (Penguin), 100 Plus I deas
for Children (Heinemann), and Carnival of Song
Affect in Language Learning
J. Arnold (ed.)
Cambridge University Press 1999 346~~. $15.99
ISBN 0 521 65963 9
With the growing emphasis on the learner and the
learning process, it is not surprising that research-
ers are beginning to look in more detail at the
ways in which emotions influence our capacity to
learn. That feelings have a powerful influence
over learning is something we have all experi-
enced, either as students saying Im just not in the
mood for this today or as teachers trying to create
the right atmosphere in the class in the hope that it
will speed up the process of acquisition. In this
sense, researchers are arriving on the scene
relatively late in the day, and there is a danger
that they will attempt to tell us things that
instinctively we already know. There is a need,
however, for research which supports our intui-
tions about the importance of learners feelings,
and Affect in Language Learning provides a good
start in this direction.
With a total of 19 contributors, the book is able to
cover a wide range of topics concerning the role
of affect in learning it is divided into three
domains, each dealing with a different area:
the learner, the teacher or the interactional
space (the materials, methods, and exercises
used in the classroom). A list of questions and
tasks are provided after each section to encourage
the reader to engage with the text and to apply
what they have read to their own contexts. These
are perhaps best discussed in groups, while
individual chapters would provide a good basis
for in-service teacher training sessions.
Chapter 1, written by Arnold and Brown, provides
an overview of the area and makes the case for
renewed interest in the role affect plays in
learning, arguing that factors external to the
learner are recognized as influencing affect. A
brief summary of some of these is given.
200 Reviews
In Chapter 2, John Schumann describes the neural
basis for stimulus appraisal in the brain. He
hypothesizes that any event we perceive activates
an emotional appraisal system in the brain which
operates along five dimensions: novelty/familiar-
ity, pleasantness, goal/need significance, coping
potential, and self/social image. Positive evalua-
tion along these five dimensions enhances learn-
ing, while negative evaluation inhibits it, so that
each of us will tend to learn what we believe is
worth learning. This may sound obvious, but no
serious attempt has been made before to account
for this in neurological terms. That such a system
should exist, however, is not surprising: the brain
is bombarded with sensory information of which
only a tiny proportion can be stored for later use,
and it must have mechanisms for dealing with this
data efficiently. Models of the brains role in
language learning in the past have implied that
memory retention has to be worked hard at, that
information somehow has to be forced in. What
Schumanns model implies, though, is that when
his five dimensions for emotional appraisal are
satisfied learning can be almost effortless. The
practical implications of this, again, might sound
obvious: dont do unpleasant things in the class-
room; dont interfere with students language
goals; dont use materials above or below what
learners can cope with, and avoid activities which
could diminish students self or social image. In
addition, with every individual appraising activ-
ities according to their own criteria, it is unrealistic
to imagine any classroom activity being appraised
positively along all five dimensions by all learners,
which suggests that the search for the perfect
method is indeed a fruitless one.
In Chapter 3, Earl Stevick takes a closer look at
the relationship between working memory (what
he terms the worktable) and long-term memory.
This is seen as a two-way interaction, with a
stimulus from outside triggering the retrieval of
connected images from long-term memory. On
the worktable, new connections can be made
between old and new information, equating to
learning, and this can be re-stored for use at a
later date. Stevick proposes that affective data is
stored along with other information in long-term
memory, is retrieved in a similar manner after an
appropriate stimulus, and made available on the
worktable to form new connections. This invests
affect with a powerful role in the workings of
memory, where it influences the shaping of
networks as well as the ability of the brain to
access information stored in long-term memory
-explaining why our minds can go blank in
moments of intense emotion. Affective data may
also trigger the recall of information from long-
term memory which then clutters the worktable
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and reduces the efficiency of the connection-
forming process. Stevick deliberately distances
his ideas from Krashens language acquisition
device and affective filter which, although along
the right lines as far as they intuit a relationship
between affect and memory, do not attempt to
align themselves with current neurolinguistic
models. The metaphor of a filter, for example,
suggests that stimuli are somehow blocked out on
their way to the memory depending on our
emotional state, but how this relates to events
occurring at the level of the neurone is not
explained. Similarly to Schumann, Stevick advises
teachers to pay attention to learners feelings in
the class as well as their linguistic needs in order to
create an effective learning environment. He
cautions us, however, not to become overly
obsessed with either, since this can lead to
sentimental manipulation at one extreme and
mere mechanical manipulation at the other
(P. 56).
In Chapter 4, Rebecca Oxford investigates the
impact of anxiety on language learning. It is seen
to have a negative effect either indirectly through
worry and self-doubt or directly through reduced
participation or avoidance of the target language.
She lists factors which can have a detrimental
effect on anxiety levels, and identifies ways of
recognizing anxiety in learners. Although inter-
esting, the practical implications suggested are
unremarkable, including ideas such as boosting
learners self-esteem or helping them to recognize
symptoms of anxiety.
In Chapter 5, Madeline Ehrman aims to identify
differences between learners in terms of the way
they process experiences. Two types are
described: those with thick ego boundaries tend
to rely on conscious processes for learning and are
meticulous and orderly, while those with thin ego
boundaries are motivated by establishing rela-
tionships, tending to be more tolerant of ambi-
guity, and trusting their own intuition. Not
surprisingly, these two types of learner respond
best to different sorts of activity in the classroom,
with thick boundary personalities preferring
clearly structured activities and conscious
approaches, while thin ego boundary personalities
prefer a non-linear methodology. This seems to
equate roughly with Krashens distinction
between learning and acquiring, with thick
boundary learners learning and thin boundary
learners acquiring, although contrary to Krashen,
Ehrman suggests that both approaches can be
. equally successful, and depend on the learning
style of the individual. Methods are described for
identifying thick and thin ego boundary students
in the class, although it is recognized that most
teachers have neither the time nor the facilities to
do this formally. A balance of more or less
structured activities in the classroom is offered
as an approach which will cater for both types of
In Chapter 6, Veronica de Andres focuses on the
importance of enhancing self-esteem in children
in order to maximize their learning potential.
This corresponds to Maslows pyramid of needs,
which stated that self-actualization can only be
achieved if more fundamental needs of belong-
ing, security, and self-esteem have been satisfied
first. Two qualitative classroom research projects
are detailed which attempt to answer the ques-
tion: can a childs self-esteem be enhanced, and
are there benefits with respect to their ability to
develop social relationships and to perform
academically? The results seem to suggest that
the answer is yes on all counts. One boy in the
study, Nathaniel, showed a marked improvement
in his attitude to classes, his willingness to
become involved, and also in his reading and
oral skills, after being told by a fellow student
that he was a talented artist. It is sobering to
think that such apparently insignificant happen-
ings in the class can have a profound effect on
learning. Of course, adult learners have similar
needs for self-esteem as children, although the
activities described in this book would be highly
unlikely to work with them-The Car Wash (p.
95), for example, asks learners to line up in two
rows facing each other while one student walks
through the middle. As they do so, they are
stroked, touched, hugged, or told nice things
about themselves, and in this way children learn
to express affection both physically and verbally.
It would be interesting to see whether similar
activities could be developed for adults, although
how acceptable they would be to students is
In Chapter 7, Claire Stanley deals with the use of
reflection in teaching as a tool for teacher
development, and the inhibiting or stimulating
role affect can play on our ability to reflect. In a
report of results from a qualitative research study,
Stanley describes how negative emotional experi-
ences in the classroom can either encourage or
discourage teachers to reflect on their lessons.
Those who avoided reflection after things went
wrong were unable to process the experience and
use it to develop professionally. This serves to
highlight the fact that teachers emotional
responses to their lessons have an important role
to play, and that teachers need to become more
aware of their own feelings as well as those of
their students, and find ways of processing them
which allow for development.
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In Chapter 8, Adrian Underhill identifies three
general types of instructor: the lecturer, the
teacher, and the facilitator. With each successive
move along these three types, there is an
increasing depth in the level of awareness. At
the level of the lecturer, only the knowledge
transmitted is important, while the teacher has
an understanding both of the subject and the ways
of teaching it. Finally, the facilitator, with the
deepest level of understanding, not only has
knowledge of a subject and a methodology for
teaching it, but also pays conscious attention to
the inner processes of learning. Some excellent
practical steps are suggested to enhance teachers
awareness of what is really taking place inside the
classroom and to move them closer to the model
of the facilitator. For any teacher who is beginning
to feel stale, these activities provide a good way to
rediscover the complexities of the teaching/learn-
ing process.
In Chapter 9, Naoko Aoki describes her experi-
ences of developing learner autonomy in Japan,
which is interesting bearing in mind the extent to
which this approach is at odds with more tradi-
tional methods in this country. She aims to show
how affect plays a role in the development and
practice of learner autonomy, but concentrates
more on quoting the opinions of experts in the
field than on describing her own experiences in
detail, and this is a pity since it gives her work
more the feel of a literature survey.
In Chapter 10, DGrnyei and Malderez discuss the
importance of group dynamics in producing an
effective learning environment. They describe the
typical stages groups go through between forma-
tion and dissolution, and most importantly provide
practical suggestions for the teacher to strengthen
group cohesiveness. Many of their suggestions are
already common ingredients in EFL classrooms,
for example-encouraging pair-work activities or
the use of ice-breakers and warmers, but it is
encouraging to see these aspects finding support
from researchers, too.
In Chapter 11, Moskowitz retreads familiar
ground in waxing lyrical on the value of humanis-
tic activities in the classroom. She describes five
studies she has conducted into the effects of
humanistic activities which involved using self-
report questionnaires before and after to gauge
changes. Her results are encouraging, giving
evidence of a positive effect on learners attitudes
to themselves, to others, and to the target
language. They also showed a positive change in
the attitudes of teachers towards their classes. At
this point you might be crying out for these
activities which have such a remarkable impact on
the class. Could this be the solution for that
202 Reviews
difficult group of businessmen you teach on Friday
evenings? A glance at some of the suggested
activities quickly provides an answer: I like you,
youre different (p. 190), for example, asks
learners to think about what makes them special,
and write their ideas on cards to be read out to the
whole group; in Fortune Cookies (p. 190),
learners write fortunes for each other, i.e. some-
thing they believe would make the other people in
their group happy. Call me a cynic, but I just
cannot see activities like these working in my own
teaching context. Although this does not detract
from the underlying philosophy guiding the
activities, in my opinion Moskowitz overestimates
their usefulness: Through the years of working
with these techniques, I have made a very
rewarding discovery-that they also transcend
cultures and work with all kinds of people
(p. 192). I wonder what kinds of cultures and
people she has been working with? They must
certainly be very different from those I am
familiar with, since in my own sphere of influence
activities such as these would be a turn-off,
wallowing as they do in the sentimental manipula-
tion Stevick warns against in Chapter 3.
In Chapter 12, Rinvolucri continues with the
theme of humanistic activities in the classroom,
and argues for the need for activities which
involve the whole person. He illustrates how
many of the semi-communicative exercises used
in course books in recent years still only go part
way towards providing opportunities for genuine
communication on a human level. He goes on to
show how truly communicative humanistic activ-
ities can transform classrooms, allowing learners
to discover more about themselves and their peers
through the language, and encouraging them to
stretch themselves to their linguistic ceilings. The
problem at the moment is that these activities are
of the bolt on variety, and have yet to be fully
integrated into a curriculum. Rinvolucri argues,
however, that it is possible to do this-for example
he describes how a class of lCyear-olds were
asked to step inside a circle of rope which was
gradually pulled tighter and tighter until they were
all squeezed together in the middle. This led on to
a (now animated) discussion on the feeling of
being in tightly packed situations, and finally into
a reading activity describing kids being crushed at
a concert.
In Chapter 13, Grethe Hooper Hansen explores
the role emotion plays in learning, viewed from
the perspective of Lozanovis theories and sugges-
topedic methodology. Hansen argues that creating
the right emotional climate in the classroom is
fundamental to the success of the activities
exploited. Carefully induced thoughts and emo-
reviews welcome
tions triggering a biochemical response in the
brain which conditions behaviour and thought.
Recent scientific research seems to be supporting
Lozanovs methods, and although not easy to
adopt in their entirety, they do suggest ways
forward in terms of improving the emotional
climate in the classroom.
In Chapter 14, Crandall investigates the use of
cooperative learning activities in the classroom as
a way of increasing motivation and decreasing
anxiety, thereby enhancing the learning experi-
ence. In this sense, it echoes many of the
arguments extended in Chapter 10, supporting
the use of small group interaction to develop
social skills and foster a climate of positive
interdependence. Examples of cooperative activ-
ities such as pair work, group work, jigsaw
exercises, and process writing are given, and it is
rather disappointing that these are passed off as
somehow innovative, when any teacher likely to
read this book will probably already be familiar
with these concepts. Atkinsons (1989: 269) criti-
cisms of some humanistic writers come to mind
here: in some cases widely accepted axioms based
on common sense are presented as if they were
fresh, original, revolutionary insights of the writer
in question. This kind of scenario obviously needs
to be avoided if researchers are to avoid distan-
cing their readers.
In Chapter 15, Herbert Puchta introduces the
concept of neurolinguistic programming, which
aims to help students access affective states that
are more efficient for learning. It is based on the
assumption that all learners have different inner
maps, and therefore react differently to the same
situation. They all, however, have the internal
resources needed to cope with difficult situations,
and it is the teachers role to facilitate access to
these resources. If learning patterns are inefficient,
the teacher can help students to find new, more
successful patterns of behaviour.
In Chapter 16, Jane Arnold provides a fascinating
insight into the way in which imagery is intimately
connected with emotion and language and is
therefore of critical importance in learning. A
word such as mum or school uttered in the
classroom will bring forth a multitude of images in
the students minds which, in turn, evoke an
emotional response. This relationship is circular,
and by working more on imagery in the class
teachers can encourage a greater emotional
response from learners which, in turn, demands
expression in words and leads to richer and more
detailed work. This effect can be easily demon-
strated by asking students to close their eyes and
imagine themselves in a room . . . What does it
look like? What colour are the walls? What is
outside the window? After a few minutes of
questions such as these, learners open their eyes
and share their thoughts with each other. The
discussion is inevitably more animated, bringing
forth a wider variety of vocabulary and encoura-
ging students to reach their linguistic ceilings. An
activity like this could lead into a writing exercise
where learners describe their rooms, and this is
more likely to be successful after the imagery
work has been done. The really good news for
teachers is that this sort of exercise deepens the
learning experience without requiring extra pre-
paration time.
In Chapter 17. Kohonen argues that an accep-
tance of the importance of affect in language
learning demands a change towards more affect-
sensitive forms of evaluation which measure what
we value. He suggests a variety of authentic
assessment strategies such as teacher observation,
oral interviews, project work, or construction of
individual portfolios by learners. Kohonen accepts
that evaluation of this kind requires a recognition
of the individual in the classroom and a conscious
effort by teachers to collect data on each learner;
something which is obviously more time-consum-
ing than more traditional product-based forms of
testing. However, because of the backwash
effect, the type of evaluation adopted in a
curriculum has a powerful influence on classroom
events, and if we truly value the individual as a
human being with ideas and emotions, our
assessment procedures have to reflect this.
In the final chapter, Joy Reid gives a personal
account of the problems, politics, and pragmatics
of affect-sensitive approaches to language learn-
ing, and poses questions that need exploring in
future research. She suggests, sensibly, that the
answers to many of these questions will come
from teachers working with their own learners in
the classroom.
Affect in Language Learning is quite heavy
reading at times, and I certainly would not advise
reading it from cover to cover unless you have a
particular interest in the subject. A better idea
would be to pick out relevant chapters, since with
both theoretical and practical issues given con-
sideration, there should be something for every-
one. The value that I see in this book is that it
encourages us to consider the role emotion plays
in language learning as well as the language itself.
However, there is at times a little too much focus
on affect at the expense of language learning. In
our enthusiasm to incorporate this new dimension
into our classes it is important that we do not
forget our ultimate aim: to equip learners with the
language they need to go about their business
independently and effectively. As Gadd (1998)
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points out, in much of the discussion of humanis-
tic teaching the language being taught is given
little consideration, and we risk limiting ourselves
to friendly, informal registers which inadequately
prepare students for any role in the public sphere.
Having said that, the main point of the book-
which aims to convince us of the crucial role of
affect in the language learning process-is an
important one, and if a balance can be found
between the two extremes of emotional manip-
ulation and mechanical manipulation (Stevick
p. 56) language learning in the future holds the
promise of being a richer and more satisfying
experience for teachers and students alike.
Atkinson, D. 1989.l Humanistic approaches in
the adult classroom: an affective reaction. ELT
J ournal 4314: 268-73.
Gadd, N. 1998. Towards less humanistic English
teaching. ELT J ournal 5213: 223-34.
The reviewer
Alex Giiore is currently working at the Centre for
English Language Education at Nottingham Uni-
versity where he is also studying for a PhD. His
interests lie principally in the areas of materials
design and discourse analysis.
English and the Discourses of Colonialism
A. Pennycook Routledge 1998 239~~. f15.99
ISBN 0 415 17848 7
There is a widely held belief that although the
global spread of English had its roots in colonial-
ism, the language has outgrown these roots to
become a neutral means of wider communication
for the world (e.g. Seaton 1997, Rajagopalan
1999). However, despite constructive postcolonial
debates across a wide range of academic dis-
ciplines and a growing body of literature ques-
tioning the consequences of the spread of English
(e.g. Pennycook 1994, Phillipson 1992, Tollefson
1991) there has been no postcolonial analysis of
ELT. In English and the Discourses of Colonialism
Alastair Pennycook endeavours to redress this
Pennycook examines the relationships between
ELT and colonialism, not to demonstrate the role
of colonialism in the global spread of English, but
to show how language policies and practices
developed in different colonial contexts, and to
demonstrate how the discourses of colonialism
still adhere to English (p. 2). In doing this, he
retains his stance of principled postmodemism
(Pennycook 1990) and a post-structural analytical
framework (derived largely from Foucault), which
privileges discourse over economic forces. He also
continues his quest for a critical pedagogy for ELT
204 Reviews
(Pennycook 1994) which would enable learners,
educators, academics, and other professionals
involved in ELT to resist colonial discourses and
build their own counter-discourses.
Pennycook begins by setting out why he has
chosen to examine ELT and colonialism, arguing
that the development of ELT cannot be under-
stood without tracing its colonial heritage.
[. . .] there are deep and indissoluble links
between the practices, theories and contexts of
ELT and the history of colonialism.
[. . .] The history of the ties between ELT and
colonialism has produced images of the Self and
Other, understandings of English and other
languages and cultures that still play a major
role in how English language teaching is
constructed and practised: from the native
speaker/non-native speaker dichotomy to the
images constructed around English as a global
language and the assumptions about learners
cultures, much of ELT echoes with the cultural
constructions of colonialism (p. 19)
It is these cultural constructs of colonialism
(detailed in Chapter 2) that provide the central
theme of the book.
Whilst acknowledging the real effects of economic
exploitation and political oppression on colonized
people, Pennycook argues that colonialism has to
be seen as a primary site of cultural production
whose products have flowed back through the
imperial system (p. 34). These products are a
series of dichotomous cultural constructions of the
(colonizing) Self and the (colonized) Other,
including white/non-white, cultured/natural,
industrious/indolent, adult/child, masculinelfemi-
nine, rational/non-rational, and clean/dirty, which
devalue the latter in each pair and disfigure both
colonized and colonizer. Rejecting economic
determinism, he sees these constructions not
merely as justifications for colonialism, but the
cultural conditions that both enabled and were
generated by colonialism (p. 47). He contends
that their origins may have pre-dated the colonial
period, but most importantly, they have existed as
cultural beliefs well beyond the formal end of
colonial rule in most parts of the world (p. 47: op.
cit.). Having been at the heart of colonialism
English and ELT remain infused with these
disfiguring discourses of the Self and the Other.
In Chapters 3 and 4, he examines the role of these
discourses in the formation of colonial language
policies in India, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. These
policies come out of a set of competing demands:
the position of the colonies within a capitalist
empire; local class, ethnic, racial, and economic
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