Title

Linguistic Imperialism and Volunteer English Teaching in Latin America: A Neo-colonial Practice?

Presenter Information

Sarah Hamburg

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Colonial era tactics of oppression may seem obsolete, however the United States continues to exploit the same peripheral nations that it, and other world superpowers, have dominated for centuries. In Latin America, the influence of the American hegemony world penetrates every aspect of life. Unable to escape the grip of the capitalist system, Latin America has become culturally subservient to the United States, whose hegemony has, over time, led to the extinction and endangerment of hundreds of indigenous languages and cultures. Through years of exposure to American mass culture (i.e. television, music, media, and consumer products), and an unyielding economically dependent relationship, Latin American cultures have become increasingly assimilated with that of their colonizers. This neo-imperialistic practice is a commonly called “colonization of the mind” by indigenous rights organizers with whom I worked in Guatemala and it is my assertion that volunteer English teaching is major component of this psychological process. Latin Americans are motivated to learn the language in hopes of becoming part of the global economy, learn English to fulfill dreams of migrating north to make a better life (as seen on TV), to find a job within their own countries, or to simply communicate with tourists that visit their communities.

My research culminated in an analysis of the role of English in Latin America and a critique on American volunteer English programs. Last summer, I filmed a documentary in Guatemala and Costa Rica interviewing students, teachers, and parents, both local and foreign, about their views on learning or teaching English and whether they believed it to be a neo-imperialistic practice or a necessary part of an inevitable fate, i.e. globalization. Through personal testimonies and academic sources in the field of sociolinguistics, I have come closer to understanding the characteristics and effects of colonization on the mind and continue to contemplate whether awareness of this colonizer versus colonized dichotomy can help create a relationship that is complementary to the existing languages and cultures.

Category

Social Sciences

 
Apr 28th, 2:20 PM Apr 28th, 2:40 PM

Linguistic Imperialism and Volunteer English Teaching in Latin America: A Neo-colonial Practice?

UC 326

Colonial era tactics of oppression may seem obsolete, however the United States continues to exploit the same peripheral nations that it, and other world superpowers, have dominated for centuries. In Latin America, the influence of the American hegemony world penetrates every aspect of life. Unable to escape the grip of the capitalist system, Latin America has become culturally subservient to the United States, whose hegemony has, over time, led to the extinction and endangerment of hundreds of indigenous languages and cultures. Through years of exposure to American mass culture (i.e. television, music, media, and consumer products), and an unyielding economically dependent relationship, Latin American cultures have become increasingly assimilated with that of their colonizers. This neo-imperialistic practice is a commonly called “colonization of the mind” by indigenous rights organizers with whom I worked in Guatemala and it is my assertion that volunteer English teaching is major component of this psychological process. Latin Americans are motivated to learn the language in hopes of becoming part of the global economy, learn English to fulfill dreams of migrating north to make a better life (as seen on TV), to find a job within their own countries, or to simply communicate with tourists that visit their communities.

My research culminated in an analysis of the role of English in Latin America and a critique on American volunteer English programs. Last summer, I filmed a documentary in Guatemala and Costa Rica interviewing students, teachers, and parents, both local and foreign, about their views on learning or teaching English and whether they believed it to be a neo-imperialistic practice or a necessary part of an inevitable fate, i.e. globalization. Through personal testimonies and academic sources in the field of sociolinguistics, I have come closer to understanding the characteristics and effects of colonization on the mind and continue to contemplate whether awareness of this colonizer versus colonized dichotomy can help create a relationship that is complementary to the existing languages and cultures.