The dark side of TESOL

the hidden costs of the consumption of English

Ingrid Piller, Kimie Takahashi, Yukinori Watanabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Based on case studies from Japan and South Korea, this review paper explores the hidden costs of English language learning (ELL). In a context where English has become a commodity and ELL a form of consumption, we focus on the personal and social costs of (a) studying abroad as a much-touted path to “native-like” proficiency and (b) sexualization of language teaching materials in order to reach new niche markets. The hidden costs of ELL are embedded in language ideologies which set English up as a magical means of self-transformation and, at the same time, an unattainable goal for most Japanese and Koreans. We end with the call to expose debilitating language ideologies in order to shed light on the hidden costs of ELL.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-201
Number of pages19
JournalCross-cultural studies
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • English-as-a-global language
  • Korea
  • English Language Learning (ELL)
  • English Language Teaching (ELT) industry
  • language-as-commodity
  • language consumption
  • language desire
  • study abroad
  • English Language Teaching (ELT) materials
  • Japan

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