David Graddol: Five Megatrends Shaping the Future of TESOL: Thursday, 27 March 2014,TESOL Conference,2014
Meeting David Graddol, the internationally acclaimed applied linguist, writer, broadcaster and researcher is always a source of joy, listening to him is a source of enlightenment and interacting with him is a source of academic and personal enrichment. The soft spoken David with his bright eyes and emphatic voice widens your horizon whenever you meet him and listen to him. It was indeed a pleasure to meet him during his visits to Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad in connection with ELT conferences and book launches. I was always impressed by his deep understanding of the ELT scenario affecting the future of English in India.
David’s scholarship is amazing and his interpersonal skill in any social gathering is captivating. It is no wonder that during the hour long key note address entitled Five Megatrends Shaping the Future of TESOL given at TESOL 2014, Portland, Oregon, David kept his audience captivated and spell bound. The dramatic suspense unfolded towards the end of the speech was indeed in David’s unique style. Though the title of the talk was five megatrends, David spoke on four trends and kept the audience wondering what could be the fifth!
David had a nice and unobtrusive takeoff. He quickly and briefly recapitulated how he had tried to study, analyze and understand the growing importance of English as a Global language. In The Future of English? (1997), David said, he tried to understand the growing importance of English as an international language and its role in globalisation. In English Next (2006), he positioned English in global education. English Next India (2010) was David’s exploration and analysis of the changing status of English in India. In Profiling English in China: The Pearl River Delta (2013) David examined public discourses and the linguistic landscapes of a part of China. His next book would be English Next, Brazil, David told the audience.
Out of the five mega trends shaping the future of ELT, David mentioned four: demography, economy, technology and politics and said that he would try to analyze how they interact with one another. What about the fifth? We wondered.
The world is fast changing demographically, David reminded the audience. People are living rather too long and there is a mismatch between the people in the workplace and the people who are not in the workplace.. Referring to the ‘dependency ratio’, David pointed out that we are in a very new kind of demographic environment which has an implication on the future of English as a global language. Demographic and economic trends in the Twenty First-Century are affecting Global English and language policies worldwide, David pointed out.
David stated that people in the non-English countries are no longer interested in learning English as a foreign language, they want to learn it as a basic skill and this has a very important implication for the future of Global English. What we find in the world today is that there are increasing numbers of English users, not English learners, David pointed out.
Do we need English teachers to teach English as a basic skill? Private players and corporate publishing houses are already ready with standardized ELT packages which cater to the needs of the new generation of English users across the globe.
How about the influence of politics? Showing videos of the Primary English Project in West Bengal, India, David pointed out how a very effective ELT project got discontinued due to political apathy. He referred to the Delhi success story of ELT. But again, politics can undo everything.
The paucity of time hunted David towards the end of his talk. He had so much to say, the listeners also wanted so much to know. But all good things must come to an end and David’s talk was not an exception!
Oh yes, David did not forget the fifth mega trend shaping the future of TESOL. We are the fifth mega trend, David assured his audience. We are to decide and act. The future of TESOL will be propelled by our collective decision and action. What a brilliant conclusion, David.
PS. David Graddol also spoke on the diversity of the English language, Kachru’s three Circles, Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).