English in Japan in the Era of Globalization. Philip Seargeant (ed.) Palgrave

Macmillan, 2011. Pp:x+204+index.

Reviewed by Li Xin
Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai, China

This volume is an engaging addition to the body of scholarship which examines the increasingly globalized nature of English. Featuring contributions from distinguished scholars and covering a range of contexts, it offers concise summaries and insightful observations about how characteristics of English use in Japan continue to emerge and change.
The book consists of a general introduction by the editor and nine chapters divided into two parts. The first part “English in the education system” discusses the relationship between the English language and educational policy and practice, while the second “English in society and culture” examines the uses and meanings English has in popular culture and the public sphere. Altogether, the chapters look predominantly at the state and status of English in present-day Japan.
Part one begins with “Elite discourses of globalization in Japan: the role of English”. The authors analyze online promotional materials of several Japanese universities and examine two visions of globalization: globalization as opportunity and globalization as threat. They further compare the discourse of language and globalization in Japan with that of other countries and regions.
In Chapter two, “Not everyone can be a star:students’ and teachers’ beliefs about English teaching in Japan”, the researcher examines the gap between students and their English teachers in four key areas: the role of English as an international language (EIL), the importance of learning English, the goals of the required English class, and the assessment of each other’s contributions toward learning. The chapter also suggests ways to promote communication between students and teachers about course expectations.

The third chapter: “Parallel universes: globalization and identity in English language teaching at a Japanese university” explores teacher identity and student identity at a Japanese higher education context. Based on the interviews with curriculum planners, teachers and students, the study attempts to bring out salient identity positions in relation to globalization and internationalization.

Chapter four, “The native speaker English teacher and the politics of globalization in Japan” uses the narratives of five assistant language teachers participating in Japan Exchange and Teaching programme (JET) to address the difficulties faced by native speakers of English entering the field of ELT. The study hopes to bring to applied linguistics research further insight into the complex, and sometimes contradictory, mix of effects of the globalization of English.

The first part concludes with Chapter five, “Immigration, diversity and language education in Japan: toward a glocal approach to teaching English”. The author draws on her qualitative research in the city of Hasu in 2007 to investigate the perceptions and experiences of Japanese adults learning English outside of educational institutions. She proposes a glocal approach to teaching English as a foreign language, which she believes can raise students’ critical language awareness and develop border-crossing communicative skills. Thus they can actively and critically engage in diverse cultural, racial and linguistic contact zones.
Part II “English in society and culture” begins with Chapter six: English as an international language and “Japanese English”. First, the author tackles the native speaker syndrome/mentality of the Japanese people and calls for de-Anglo-Americanization of English. Secondly, he predicts that it seems unlikely to develop a variety recognizable as “Japanese English” with its own endonormative standards. However, the increasing incorporation of English expressions in daily Japanese use is bringing about various changes to the Japanese language.

Chapter seven “The position of English for a new sector of ‘Japanese youths’: mixed ethnic girls’ constructions of linguistic and ethnic identities” is an innovative piece. It studies the position of English in Japan by analysing the hybrid identities of early adolescent girls of mixed ethnicity. From the spoken data, the researcher identifies dominant discourses of language and ethnicity that affect this particular group.

Chapter eight: “The ideal speaker of Japanese English as portrayed in ‘language entertainment’ Television” reveals the psychology of Japanese English speakers and the characteristics of an ideal speaker of Japanese English. Different from the language education programme, the language entertainment genre of Japanese television can be seen to contribute to the development of Japanese speakers of English, by modeling yuuki (courage), jigyakui (self-effacement), genki (enthusiasm) and competence as personality traits that favour the successful use of English.
The final chapter, “The symbolic meaning of visual English in the social landscape of Japan” is dedicated to an in-depth analysis of the visual display of English in modern Japan. By interviewing informants with a diversity of geographical location, age and gender, it aims to show that such language use is not solely a means of relaying content meaning to a non-Japanese speaking sector of the public, but it has a localized symbolic value which draws upon the status and implications of English as a global language.
Despite the complex nature of the core concepts of the triad, “English”, “Japan” and “Globalization”, this book manages to offer a critical analysis and reflective thinking of what is understood by these terms, and how the concept of Japan and of Japanese culture is constructed in contemporary debates and discourses. As the chapters illuminate the unique aspects of English use in Japan and redress the unwarranted assumptions and overgeneralizations about English use in the Asian context, readers who are interested in EIL and want to be further informed will find this book particularly inspiring.