English and globalization: Perspectives from Hong Kong and Mainland China

English and globalization: Perspectives from Hong Kong and Mainland China. Ed. by Kwok-kan Tam and Timothy Weiss. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2004. Pp. xxvii, 276. ISBN 9629961849. $35 (Hb).

Reviewed by Liwei Gao, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

This volume collects fifteen papers that examine the different cultural and pedagogic aspects of English as an international language, and the effects of Englishization in Hong Kong and Mainland China. The papers in this book address the issue from a broad variety of perspectives, which include culture, communication, and the classroom; standards and variations; diversity and plurality; computers and linguistic fashions; interrelationships among language, literature, and culture; English language education and intercultural competencies; and interrelationships among linguistic standards, international communication, and linguistic imperialism. Papers about the context in Hong Kong precede those about Mainland China.

In Ch. 1, ‘World English(es) in the age of globalization’, Kwok-kan Tam provides a theoretical and historical overview of this issue. He argues that language cannot be conceived of as being independent from cultural formation in the process of globalization. In Ch. 2, David Parker discusses the relationships among English, culture, and modernity and stresses that students in Hong Kong need to be literate in the cultures where English is the major medium of communication via the study of English literature. In Ch. 3, Timothy Weiss argues that English study is a creolizing event in that it is done through readers with diverse cultural backgrounds who interpret, fragment, and transform the texts that they read through different cultural lenses. In Ch. 4, ‘Linguistic imperialism and the history of English language teaching in Hong Kong’, Joseph Boyle notes that English now actually mostly serves a pragmatic means of globalization. In other words, it has largely transcended its colonial heritage. In Ch. 5, Stuart Christie discusses Maxine Hong Kingston’s The woman warrior and observes that Hong Kong students tend to use cross-cultural imagery to interpret the cultural issues in this work.

In Ch. 6, ‘Globalization, tribalization, and online communication’, Suying Yang remarks that globalization does not necessarily lead to the end of diversity in the modern society. Instead, globalization and localization will coexist and interact with each other. In Ch. 7, ‘Globalization and English language teaching in Hong Kong’, George C. K. Jor describes how internationalization affects the teaching of English in Hong Kong and suggests that new information technology and global resources be applied in English teaching. In Ch. 8, ‘The English language and Chinese people’, Phillip Shu-yue Sun discusses the disadvantages inherent in the communicative approach to language teaching and argues that one’s mother tongue may actually be an asset for learning foreign languages. In Ch. 9, ‘When English becomes big business’, Labao Wang points out that English in China has now become a trendy commodity and cautions people against the potential corrosion of the Chinese culture in the process of excessive consumption of English. In Ch. 10, ‘Globalization and intercultural competence’, Qiufang Wen points out the inadequacy in present models of English teaching in China and proposes a new model, a model of intercultural communicative competence.

In Ch. 11, Ming Li (Suzhou) discusses the issue of standard and variation in teaching English as a foreign language and suggests that educators should not be teaching one and only one so-called standard variety. In Ch. 12, Liyan Ma emphasizes the important role of empathy in intercultural communication and contends that students will be able to be engaged in more effective intercultural communication once they understand the role of empathy. In Ch. 13, Hong Ye calls people’s attention to the significance of cultural literacy and stresses a cultural approach to teaching literature to Chinese students. In Ch. 14, Ming Li (Guangdong) demonstrates how the integration of language and culture will help Chinese students to improve their intercultural communication. In the last chapter (Ch. 15), Agnes Lam and Kathy Chow review English language education in China and conclude that both ideology and economic needs provide the impetus for English learning in China.