English in the era of globalization: The conceptualization of English in Korean students in American higher education




Kim, Woosung

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Rhetoric is the study of the power of language. In the age of globalization, English has become a global language and its dominant status has become even stronger. In South Korea, globalization is the critical catalyst for the spreading of English. The purpose of this study is to identify the conceptualization of English by Korean students in the age of globalization. More specifically, this study investigates the attitudes of Korean students toward English in six different environments: social/cultural, economical, linguistic, pedagogical, technological, and globalizational environments. This study uses mixed methods research, which is the combination of quantitative and qualitative study. The quantitative portion of the study is composed of 98 surveys, and the qualitative portion is based on 10 personal interviews. The data collection was conducted from April 2005 to October 2005.

The findings of the study show that English is the most dominant foreign language in Korea. In a social/cultural context, English has been recognized as the most influential language, and the Korean government's systemic support of English contributes to the popularity of English and the fervor of Koreans for the English language. In an economic context, the participants agree that having English fluency can be a significant means for the empowerment of self. Also, corporations and individuals critically connect English competency to one's competitiveness. In a pedagogical context, English has established institutional power, and it has continuously reinforced its prestigious status in all levels of education. In a linguistic context, the influence of English in Korea has caused a concern for the purity of the Korean language. Also, participants connect their linguistic understanding of English to the prevalence of American cultural elements in Korea. Participants acknowledge the popularity of English in technological environments, and especially agree with its dominant status in cyberspace. Finally, in relation to globalization, English in the 21 st century is and still will be the most dominant foreign language in Korea, but participants also stress concerns for 'Birth Tourism,' 'Early Study Abroad,' and 'Problems with Native English Instructors.'

Investigating the popularity of English in a globalized world will be not only a topic of great importance to Koreans, but also to all global users of English under the influence of globalization. Also, the rhetoric of globalization and its relationship to English has become an inevitable thesis for all global citizens.



Education, Language, literature, and linguistics, English, Globalization, Higher education, Korean