Alastair Pennycook is Distinguished Professor of Language, Society and Education at the University of Technology Sydney and Adjunct Professor at the MultiLing Centre at the University of Oslo. He has been involved in language education in many parts of the world for 40 years. He is the author of numerous books, four of which have won the BAAL Book Prize: The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language (now a Routledge Linguistics Classic), Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows (Routledge), Language and Mobility: Unexpected Places (Multilingual Matters) and Posthumanist Applied Linguistics (Routledge).
Teaching English in unsettling times
As the dominant language of the current era, English is caught up in processes of globalization, inequality, and discrimination. At a time of increased mobility and migration, people in desperate need are being met by walls, fences, and xenophobic exclusion. When inequality is on the rise, justifications of inequitable conditions are increasingly normalised. As a new class of mobile, impoverished insecure workers grows, their capacity for joint action is steadily removed. As climate change and environmental destruction pose serious threats to the planet itself, many in power are still in denial of the need for immediate action. With news and science being challenged, equality no longer seen as a worthwhile goal, resettlement no longer viewed as a right, and abuse and discrimination becoming normalised, we live in unsettling times. As English language educators, we need to find ways to teach that do not merely provide access to the grammar and lexicon of English, but also seek to develop students as critically engaged translingual activists. For our students to become resourceful speakers, we need to help them move between languages, use their communicative resources flexibly, and become aware of the global disparities in which English is involved.