[lg policy] dissertation: Language Policy and Planning for The 2008 Beijing Olympics: An investigation of the discursive construction of an Olympic city and a global population

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 28 16:38:32 UTC 2012

Language Policy and Planning for The 2008 Beijing Olympics: An
investigation of the discursive construction of an Olympic city and a
global population

Institution: Macquarie University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Jie Zhang

Dissertation Title: Language Policy and Planning for The 2008 Beijing
Olympics: An investigation of the discursive construction of an
Olympic city and a global population

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Ingrid Piller
Kimie Takahashi

Dissertation Abstract:

This study situates language practices and ideologies within China's
broader social, economic and political changes, and in particular, the
preparation and hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In recent years
increasing empirical evidence has been presented indicating the use of
sport for creating a positive national and/or regional image. However,
little research has been conducted to investigate the language policy and
planning endeavors undergirding the construction of national identity in
large-scale sporting events, including the Modern Olympic Games. In this
study, I attempt to present a multi-dimensional critical perspective on the
link between English language learning and identity politics in the context
of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In doing so, the study aims to provide
insights into the persistent identity dilemmas recurring throughout China's
English education history and presents some broader implications for
current and future Chinese language policy makers, educators and learners.

This study employs a multi-method qualitative methodology with
constructionist epistemological orientations. It reports on a range of data
collected through multi-site fieldwork before, during and after the Beijing
Olympic Games. Specifically, the study is based on four sets of data to
present a holistic picture of language practices and language ideologies
observed in the context under investigation: language policy documents and
reports on English learning and popularization, photographs of Beijing's
linguistic landscape during the event, English teaching materials designed
specifically for Olympic purposes, and interviews with Olympic volunteers,
teachers and BOCOG staff about their attitudes toward English learning and
the Olympiad.

The central argument of this study is that ideologies of English language
learning and teaching need to be understood as local, social and political
constructions in a particular society. The learning of English in China has
been driven by a simplistic view of complementary language use: English for
yong - modern uses and international communication; Chinese for ti -
national cohesion and harmony. However, the internal paradox of the ti-yong
conceptualization has produced persistent identity dilemmas in China's
English language education. In contrast to legitimized 'benefits' of
English in China's mainstream discourses, Chinese learners of English have
complex, nuanced, and sometimes ambivalent reasons for participating in
English language learning. Furthermore, the spread of English in China is
inextricably linked with political decisions that benefit some groups at
the expense of others, which has concomitantly contributed to various forms
of social inequality. The findings of my study suggest that English is the
symbolic capital for stakeholders who share a vested interest in the
English training industry. At the same time, English may provide little
practical application value for most Chinese EFL learners who learn English
only for the sake of showing proof of possessing it rather than actual
competence; and in some contexts, the need to learn English can even
constitute a serious disadvantage for members of minority ethnic groups who
may lack access to English teaching resources. Uncritically oversimplifying
Chinese people's desire for English in terms of "inherent benefits" will
not only mislead Chinese learners of English but also threaten the language
and social rights of disadvantaged groups.


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