Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts – Education

School or Department

Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures



Faculty Mentor

Maria Bustos Fernandez

Faculty Mentor Department

Modern and Classical Languages


Linguistic Imperialism, Neo-colonialism, economics, political science, Latin America, bilingual education, sociolinguistics

Subject Categories

Latin American History | Political Science


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 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 supremacy 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-colonial[1] practice is a commonly called “colonization of the mind” by indigenous rights organizers with whom I worked with in Guatemala and it is my assertion that volunteer English teaching is a major component of this psychological process. Latin Americans are motivated to learn the language in hopes of becoming part of the global economy, 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 form of linguistic imperialism[2] or a necessary part of an inevitable fate, i.e. globalization. Through personal testimonies and research, I have come closer to understanding this complex dichotomy that is deeply entrenched in American history and foreign policy. To understand the implications of Americans teaching English abroad we must take a historical approach.

Honors College Research Project




© Copyright 2017 Sarah K. Hamburg