18 December 2009
Setting the record straight on the language policies of JALT
Well, I've waited over ten years to get a serious response from Oda or Braine.
Message 2: Response to Masaki Oda's chapter in Braine's new book
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 16:49:03 +0900
From: Charles Jannuzi <[e-mail deleted]>
Subject: Response to Masaki Oda's chapter in Braine's new book
[On Monday, June 28, LINGUIST posted a review of George Braine's new book Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching (Review by Mae Wlazlinski, LINGUIST Review, 10.999.) We received several messages with comments concerning the chapter by Masaki Oda and its topic of English centrism in Japan, specifically in JALT. The messages are included here and we open up discussion on the matter.] I am interested in this title--specifically in the Oda chapter. I have not read his chapter or the rest of the book yet, but I was involved unwillingly in forming Oda's scholarship on the languages of JALT.
There was a debate in the pages of 'The Language Teacher', JALT's monthly magazine, that Oda instigated. The discussion actually started when Richard Marshall pointed out that should JALT change to a bilingual (English and Japanese) official language policy, there might be a concern about JALT's international status in its publications and conferences (to some extent dominated by anglophone scholars who do not live and work in Japan).
It was a coherent argument put forward by Marshall, at least in my opinion, calling for caution on a switch to an official two-language policy, especially in light of the fact that not that many people are going to volunteer to translate and interpret for free and JALT doens't have the money to pay for it. JALT did enact a two-language policy. Oda responded to Marshall in the pages of TLT, accusing Marshall and the leadership of JALT of "linguistic imperialism" and "linguicism".
I responded in support of Marshall to this extent: I agreed that JALT should have a two-language policy, but that Marshall and the leadership of JALT were not linguicists or linguistic imperialists. I also pointed out that, since English-speakers are a clear minority in Japan and there are other language minorities here, a two-language policy of Japanese and English would not eliminate the language bias problem or other forms of prejudice ( many of such problems stem from English's minority status in Japan, in fact).. In other words, Japanese was potentially as much a language of discrimination as Oda perceived English to be.
Oda then reponded in this manner: he attempted to paraphrase both Marshall's views and my views as one conflated set of views and called me too a linguicist and linguistic imperialist. What's more, he seemed upset that I would call him a linguicist and linguistic imperialist because I had pointed out how Japanese had been a language of colonial, imperialist aggression and oppression. I never directly accused Oda of being a linguicist or linguistic imperialist (the terms are far too problematic for me to fling them around like that). I was myself upset that I had to continue this debate just to defend myself from such misrepresentation and abuse in print. I think had the editor of TLT read the entire exchange upon receiving Oda's second response, that response would never have been published.
My concern now here is that Oda has created some sort of fiction in the pages of Braine's book because he was upset and embarassed over the exchange in TLT. I will try to find time to buy and read the book, and if I find that Oda has done something that approaches a one-sided, skewed version of the debate in JALT about language just to serve himself and some sort of personal vendetta, I will seek recourse in print and possibly with legal measures.