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English Language Learning Through Caribbean Literature? Why is it a doubly challenging proposal?
The Breaking of a Twofold Taboo: • The mixofLanguage & Literature • The mix of Language & PostcolonialLiterature
Better to stay with the reassuring English Language Course book: at any cost? Two examples: t • Headways Advanced (2008) • The Handbook of World English (2006)
Example1: ‘Dear Mr Winchester, I just want you to know that meeting you that day was one of the most extraordinary events of my life. […] Nothing happens here. There is no one here who speaks English. Occasionally there is some sort of migrant worker… but one day I met this man who not only can speak English, but is English and, my passion is Trollope. I was able to speak about Trollope. He knew all about Trollope and it was like… you were like an angel from heaven.’
Caribbean Iconic reminder MirandaAbhorred slave, I took pains to make thee speak… calibanyou taught me language; and my profit on’tis I know how to curse. The red plague rid you for learning me your language
Iconic reminder “Friday began to talk pretty well, and understand the names of almost everything I called for and of every place I had to send him to.”
Example 2 They thought they were exploring or transporting breadfruit to the profit of slave-owners. The British Empire is now gone; the breadfruit tree never became profitable crop. What remains is a “way of speaking, a mouth” to many people who would not be able to express themselves if not for English, one natural means by which gifted writers express themselves in countries under British rule. And when they write, they doubtless do not stop to reflect on how it came about that it is English their instrument of choice.
Walcott on Trollope’s language • “The tone of judgement in the travel journal of Trollope. These travellers carried with them the infection of their own malaise, and their prose reduced even the landscape to melancholia and self-contempt. The Antillean archipelago was there to be written about, not to write itself, by Trollope, in the tone of a compassionate outsider, distancing himself from the place even while enjoying it.”
Walcott on the breadfruit tree From this thick tree issues miraculous bread. The breadfruit makes itself from copious shade, a voluble, invaluable dome, a library, where all the town’s talk is stored, and in whose core is coiled – a tempest, a rising sea in wind, the spinning pages of remorseful texts, Bligh’s logs and cannonballs
Our general assumptions about ELT? • E is best thaughtmonolingually • The ideal teacher is a native speaker • The earlier E is taught, the better the results • The more E is taught the better the results • If other LS are used much, standards of English will drop. (R. PhillipsonLinguistic Imperialism, 1992)
So how to proceed? • by knowing the history of our assumptions about English and ELT • by seeing that a submerged history and paradigm do exist, as exemplified by Caribbean culture and experience.
The history of our assumptions about English and ELT in 2 points: Europe’s Monolingual Orientation & The ethnicity of the English Language
Basic ideas: • L=community=place • 1L=1 identity • L as a self-standing system • Ls as pure and separated • The locus of L is the mind (cognition) rather than social context • Communication is based on grammar rather than practice
Key intellectual movements • Romanticism: the L-C-P triad • The Enlightenment: the mind as site of L • Structuralism: L as self-standing system • Colonialism & Imperialism: superiority of European LS
Romanticism & the L-C-P triad: • L defines the essence and values of a C • each L is stamped with the values of a C and a P: L gets territorialized • L and P make a C pure and homogenous; no other L can express them better; • the L-C-P triad causes Ps to be colonised for one L; • the invention of standards causes Ls to become fixed codes; • L overlaps with one’s identity>the NS as natural authority.
Structuralism: • L is a self-standing system > L are permanent, closed and isolated from other semiotic systems; • L is isolated from social life and uses; • L is transparent and neutral, detached from any political discourse.
Colonialism &Imperialism C&Itake off from these above discourses: the European nations full of pride in their superiority and in the ways in which their Ls serve a scientific and technological progress, feel legitimated to to impose their Ls on other communities.
The ethnicity of English From the second half of the 19th century the British develop a different version of the triad L-C-P: E becomes a WL, the British a mixed cosmopolitan race and their nation transnational, as wide as the empire
The rise of the mixed race “Those who pride themselves on the racial purity and invincible character of the conventional Briton, will receive a shock on becoming acquainted with the history of England. The British islands have been invaded and conquered so frequently, that their present inhabitants must be considered as either the most mongrels of races or a mélange […] Who are we English? […] Are we an amalgamation or are all these types found pure on our soil?”
The Saxons become Anglo-Saxons: • The previous idea of the Saxon ethnicity had excluded the British of Celtic origins; • the need to include the British scattered all over the empire; • the empire at home: migration to and from the colonies was visible
Consequences: Ideological:the British C was re-conceived as mixed, open-up to include a whole range of ethnicities whose id stretched beyond national borders; the British became a globalised race;Concrete:1) the L-C-P triad is globalised; 2) a deep sense of belonging kept it together; 3) Greater Britain was divided into settlement colonies (home abroad) and dependencies (alien possessions, such as India or the WI).
The emerging history and paradigm of EL & why it applies to the Caribbean English experience
Two key-principles: • Communication involves more than one language • Communication involves several semiotic systems
How do these key principles apply to the Caribbean? • Caribbean English is originally trans-lingual • Caribbean English is based on the music and motions of Creole
Work songs handed down through the local music made of African and European rhythms
The type of English emerging from the Caribbean: two examples VS Naipaul Lorna Goodison