Two processes of reproducing monolingualism in South Korea
AbstractThe spread of global languages and transnational movement of speakers constantly challenge the idea of monolingualism as the norm for modern nations. This paper discusses some ways in which language ideologies may work to deal with such challenges in reproducing the image of a monolingual state, with a specific focus on South Korea (henceforth Korea). Despite enormous emphasis on English language learning on the level of both the government and individuals, Korea remains predominantly monolingual in most aspects of everyday life. While both popular and academic discourses often treat this as a reflection of Koreans’ “incompetence” in English, such a view is in fact problematic, because there is ample evidence of appropriation of English in Koreans’ language use. In other words, monolingualism in Korea is not an absence of English, but an erasure of the presence of English, accomplished through language ideological work. In this paper, I outline two ideologies that frame Korean uses of English either as un-Korean (thus, as something in which “real” Koreans would not engage) or as “bad English” (thus, as not English at all), and explain how they are employed in Korean discourses of English to deny the possibility of Korean-English bilingualism in Korean society.
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