Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Colonial Imposition or Linguistic Empowerment?: Voices from the Outer Circle

Associate Professor Dr. Su Kim Lee.

Does the global spread of English pose a threat to other languages and cultures? What are the perceptions of non-native speakers of English towards the English language as they are swept by the overwhelming tides of globalization and the inevitable need to acquire English? Pennycook (1995) argues that we cannot reduce language spread to a form of imperialism parallel to economic or military imperialism. Rather, we should be more involved in examining the effects of the spread of English, how people take up English in their daily lives, and what is being done “with the world language that history has forced down our throats”( Achebe, 1995).

This paper will discuss the findings of a research study on the identities of young adult ESL speakers in the post-colonial, multicultural society of Malaysia and responses towards the spread of English. The findings reveal that they do not view English as a major threat to them in any way. The acquisition of the English language is viewed with a great measure of pragmatism and in several cases, indifference. Some concerns were raised that with the ever increasing dominance of the English language, the participants may stand to lose if they distance themselves too much from their native cultures and languages. There are expressions of cultural dissonance and identity conflicts. The paper will conclude with pedagogical implications on how to deal with the complexities in the learning and acquisition of the English language in non-native speaker settings


Associate Professor Dr. Su Kim Lee  (Malaysia)
Associate Professor
School of Language Studies & Linguistics, Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities
University Kebangsaan Malaysia

Dr. Lee Su Kim is Associate Professor of English at the School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Her areas of interest are in Applied Linguistics ( ESL Writing and Materials Design) and Intercultural Communication ( Language and Culture and Varieties of English) . Her recent publications include an article ‘Multiple Identities in a Multiple World’ in the Journal of Language, Identity and Education, Vol. 2, No 3, 2003 . She is the author of seven books including Malaysian Flavours and Manglish: Malaysian English at its Wackiest.

  • Identities,
  • Language learning
  • Cross cultural research

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)