The current global orthodoxy holds that learning English is good: individuals who know English are supposed to have an advantage in the job market and countries with large English-learning populations are supposed to be “developing” and “modernizing.” Critical sociolinguists have, of course, for a long time pointed out that it doesn’t quite work like that. They tend to argue that, while the spread of English has certainly made things easier for international elites, it has also served to exacerbate internal inequalities within many countries. However, even within the critical camp, I’ve never come across the argument that, in some circumstances, a competitive advantage may actually result from NOT knowing English. So, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered precisely this in the facts put forward in a recent article about the global spread of temping agencies (Coe, Johns, Ward, 2012).
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- 200401 applied linguistics and educational linguistics
- 200405 language in culture and society (sociolinguistics)