Reformulating Language Identity and Effecting Social Change

An evaluation of the intervention to convert the ‘parabhasha’ to a ‘swabhasha’ in Sri Lanka


  • Hemamala Ratwatte Postgraduate Institute of English Open University of Sri Lanka



Language Planning, Counter Hegemony, Sri Lankan English, English-Our-way, English-as-a-life-skill


The most recent (2009) policy intervention in English language teaching in Sri Lanka – the ‘Speak English-Our-Way’ movement attempts to ‘indigenize’ English and teach it as a Life-skill. This paper will examine the ideological underpinnings and goals of this movement, what is meant by ‘nationalization’ and the rationale for ‘nationalizing’ a language that has been used in the country for over two centuries. It endeavors to understand and critically interpret the forces driving the movement against the larger context of historical associations with English and contemporary events. Since there are no formal policy documents and academic discussion, the statements issued and the interviews given by the authors of the movement, and the views expressed by its advocates and detractors in the media were used as data. The analysis demonstrates how extralinguistic factors such as the desire to transfer power to the counter-elites and to create a neo-national post-conflict ‘Sri Lankan’ identity impinge on language policy planning.

Author Biography

Hemamala Ratwatte, Postgraduate Institute of English Open University of Sri Lanka

Director Postgraduate Institute of English Open University of Sri Lanka


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How to Cite

Ratwatte, H. (2016). Reformulating Language Identity and Effecting Social Change: An evaluation of the intervention to convert the ‘parabhasha’ to a ‘swabhasha’ in Sri Lanka. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 11(1), 107–131.