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Applied Linguistics Review

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English for sale: Using race to create value in the Korean ELT market

Christopher Jenks
Published Online: 2017-11-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0090


Using Marxist notions of value, this study examines how the commodification of language instruction skews understandings of who is deemed a legitimate teacher of English in South Korea. The study argues that neoliberalism incentivizes the Korean ELT market to create value in race and racialized images. For example, the analysis explores how skin color, nationality, ethnicity, and facial morphology are used to sell an “authentic” and “Western” learning experience, thus creating exchange value in characteristics and features that are not traditionally associated with good language teaching, such as the ability to communicate information effectively. Analyzing interviews, job advertisements, and immigration documents from a critical discourse analytic perspective, the analysis uncovers how a market-driven ELT profession contributes to, and represents, a nexus of racially-motivated ideologies that circulates the discourse that English in South Korea is an indispensable form of upward mobility. The paper ends by contending that scholars and practitioners must do more to understand how constructs central to markets, such as value and commodity, shed light on pressing critical ELT issues.

Keywords: race; ethnicity; Marxism; neoliberalism; commodification; language teaching


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-11-17

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0090.

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