Why English? Confronting the Hydra Edited by: Pauline Bunce, Robert Phillipson, Vaughan Rapatahana, Ruanni Tupas

Hardback - 312 pages
Related Formats:
10 Jun 2016
Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights
Multilingual Matters
234 x 156


This book explores the ways and means by which English threatens the vitality and diversity of other languages and cultures in the modern world. Using the metaphor of the Hydra monster from ancient Greek mythology, it explores the use and misuse of English in a wide range of contexts, revealing how the dominance of English is being confronted and counteracted around the globe. The authors explore the language policy challenges for governments and education systems at all levels, and show how changing the role of English can lead to greater success in education for a larger proportion of children. Through personal accounts, poems, essays and case studies, the book calls for greater efforts to ensure the maintenance of the world’s linguistic and cultural diversity.


In stark contrast to the many books that celebrate uncritically the global spread of English, this thought-provoking volume explores and reflects on some of the more problematic aspects of this phenomenon. It does so innovatively in a variety of written styles and from a wide range of international perspectives. It will be of interest to the specialist and the general reader alike.

- John Gray, University College London, UK

This book demonstrates how a seductive ideology of English is built, by whom and for whose benefit. It also shows how a policy of using English alone in the school curriculum costs communities in multiple ways. The volume should create awareness among people, educators and policy makers about how to eliminate this enormous cost. This collection promotes a pedagogy that will add English to the language repertoire of people without them losing anything.

- E. Annamalai, University of Chicago, USA, and former Director of the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, India

The contributors to this volume expose the Orwellian overtones that mask the linguistic imperialism that is being peddled in terms of growth, development, partnership, volunteerism, and aid. The many examples of innovation and success stories they offer give hope that resistance is not futile after all. This volume is for anyone who cares about ethically sound and socially relevant pathways to (English) language education.

- B. Kumaravadivelu, San Jose State University, USA

Why English? Confronting the Hydra is a book with powerful messages and arguments that those involved in the English language teaching profession and educational policy-makers globally should be aware of. It is likely to stir their emotions as well as leading them to reflect.

- ELT Journal, September 2018 - John Knagg, former Head of Research and Consultancy for English and Global Head of English for Education Systems, British Council

As anyone at all familiar with the academic discourse in the teaching of the English language will immediately understand, this is the latest endeavour by people who have not accepted the hegemony of English without question: rather, they have chosen to make people conscious that English has become a hydra, in the sense that it is weakening the other languages of the world...Indeed, writers, like Robert Phillipson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, have been raising key questions about this hegemony for a long time. 

- Newsline Magazine, September 2017 - Tariq Rahman

At a time when the merits of globalisation are being questioned, this volume presents a wideranging and thought-provoking set of articles questioning the received wisdom of such widespread acceptance of the merits of English and reasons for choosing to embrace English in the first place.

- Training Language and Culture, Vol 1, Issue 2, May 2017 - Robert Williams, University of Westminster, UK

In highlighting the dangers of linguistic imperialism associated with English and other dominant languages in this volume, the contributors draw our attention to the insidious effects of monster languages and their destructive power. Such a spotlighting of issues surrounding language endangerment in diverse parts of the world and calls for multilingual education by various contributors to this volume are vitally important in an increasingly globalized world. 

- Current Issues in Language Planning, 2017 - Peter I. De Costa, Michigan State University, USA

The authors would doubtlessly view any irritation at the stridently polemical tone of this book as exactly what one would expect from the Financial Times, a prominent participant in the anglophone ascendancy. So we should say at once that Why English? has much to recommend it. With schools and universities in Latin America, continental Europe and Asia rushing to embrace English, it is appropriate to ask whether they are going about it in the right way and for the right reasons. A number of authors of this collection have taught English and have classroom experience of what is and isn’t working.

- Financial Times, September 2016 - Michael Skapinker

A book that must be read by each and every educator in Pakistan.

- Dawn, November 11th, 2016 - Zubeida Mustafa

The varied styles, voices, and experiences of these authors across six continents show both the breadth of the ELT Hydra’s reach and the power of local peoples to resist its seemingly inevitable spread. I look forward to a third book in the series.

- AlterNative 2017, Vol. 13(2) 131–135 - Traci L. Jordan, Indiana University, USA

This volume would be a great text for both educators and students to explore the multiple ways and means English has impacted on indigenous language loss.

- TESOLANZ Journal, Volume 24, 2016 - Patrick Coleman, Lincoln University, New Zealand

Author Biography:

Pauline Bunce is an Australian teacher who has worked in Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Her doctoral research examined the reading challenges posed by an alphabetic script for Chinese learners of English in Hong Kong.

Robert Phillipson is an Emeritus Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and was awarded the UNESCO Linguapax Prize in 2010. He has published extensively on language learning, linguistic imperialism, linguistic human rights, multilingual education and language policy.

Vaughan Rapatahana is from New Zealand and has taught in a number of international locations. He has been published extensively in a variety of genres and his PhD was in Existential Literary Criticism.

Ruanni Tupas teaches at the National Institute of Education, Singapore and was the Linguistic Society of the Philippines’ 2009 Andrew Gonzalez Distinguished Professorial Chair holder. 

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional

Table of Contents

View PDF Table of Contents

Book Preview