American university students and the global hegemony of English

This abstract is for a paper published in the journal World Englishes that examines the ways in which more than 100 American college undergraduates reflect upon their own linguistic privilege vis-a-vis the global hegemony of English. The students reflect as well upon the ways in which being at the center of the global linguistic configuration of power also hurts them inasmuch as it reduces their incentive, and chances, to learn a non-English language. The global hegemony of English is central to American Cultural Insularity in the Center (ACIC) as it ensures that while billions of other people around the world learn English, the dominant language in the United States, precisely because billions of others are learning English, very few English-mother tongue speakers in the U.S. learn other languages to any meaningful degree of fluency.

Linguistically privileged and cursed? American university students and the global hegemony of English


This paper analyzes written discourse generated in response to an open‐ended questionnaire administered to 136 students at two different universities in the southwestern United States and to 15 non‐American students at a large Danish university. The questionnaire aimed to inspire reflection about the impact of the global rise of English on American mother‐tongue speakers of English as well as on those who do not have English as a mother tongue, especially with respect to the question of mono vs. multilingual practice. Most American and non‐American respondents represented the learning of a foreign language as something American mother‐tongue speakers should do but as something which is not necessary. There was widespread, though not unanimous, agreement that English is necessary for non‐mother‐tongue speakers. Responses are also grouped, discussed, and analyzed in terms of the instrumental, multicultural, or mix of multicultural and instrumental logic used. The author is especially concerned with the intersections between the global hegemony of English and the learning of foreign languages. The study and analysis conducted here offer insight into these intersections. Given that so much is at stake in terms of the relationship between the global expansion of English and foreign language learning, the author concludes that further research into this relationship is needed.

Link to full-length paper in World Englishes ==>