In this era, colonialism is understood as a historical paradigm, almost non-existent today. Or is it?
By definition, colonialism is the the increase, imposition and support of one country (predominantly Western – in history) that influences culture and language. Globalisation, however, is defined as having the spread and assimilation of combined cultures and languages. By these definitions, colonialism may not be seen in principle, but if one culture has leverage and advantage over another – measured by scales which are understood by the modern world, such as economic power, military strength and academic advancement – does this entail an underlying essence of colonialism?
One example would be that of Hong Kong, a former British colony, handed over to China in 1997. Near the end of the twentieth century, many foreigners still remained in Hong Kong, which evidentially influenced the city’s international relations as well as English (language) education. In this globalised era and society, English is undoubtedly a vital language to learn, but the method of enforcing its education in Hong Kong can – and in many ways, has – lead to the following social and psychological dilemma.
The method of teaching often requires students to use only English during NET (Native English Teacher) lessons, and students (or even teachers) are penalized for speaking Chinese during these classes. Though immersion is necessary when learning a second language, this is only effective if the student is immersed for at least a few hours a day, every day of the week. However, granted that in local Chinese schools NETs are floaters with no fixed class, students don’t experience the immersion necessary to bring their English to a standard demanded by parents and required by companies.
The mentality and methodology provokes the following predicament: having no Chinese (or their mother tongue) in the classroom psychologically eradicates students’ sense of identity as their feel that during those lessons, their own native language is inferior.
This underlying psychological embellishment results in the following:
- Kids, especially young learners, form the impression that NETs feel their own language – English – is more important than the students’
- This ideology is supported by the majority of Hong Kong parents who push and drill their kids to learn English fluently, which gives children the impression that everyone believes the English language is more important
- This impression then carries into adulthood: the formation of society and continuation of “traditional values”
- As follows, parents of forthcoming generations will perpetuate this mentality
- The example is evidenced by learning centres and educational companies in Hong Kong that refuse to include or use Chinese in their notes as parents believe it looks “cheap” and “tarnishes the companies’ reputation.” Bilingual textbooks – which is more productive for young learners and those with a weaker English background – are sold at a much lower cost, sometimes up to ten times less than English-only textbooks
Thus, is it necessary for students under the age of ten – without immersion- to use ONLY English during lessons?
By definition and historical examples, this form of Western domination is still controlling former colonies, both First World and Third World. Though the sociological argument can be made that the spread of the English language is a stepping stone towards globalisation, the psychological impact slowly abolishing students’ perception of the West is essentially a form of cultural suppression through linguistics: is this not cultural colonialism wearing the mask of globalisation?