A1 Journal article (refereed)
Ambivalent English : What We Talk About When We Think We Talk About Language (2020)

Saarinen, T., & Ennser-Kananen, J. (2020). Ambivalent English : What We Talk About When We Think We Talk About Language. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 19(3), 115-129. https://doi.org/10.35360/njes.581

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsSaarinen, Taina; Ennser-Kananen, Johanna

Journal or seriesNordic Journal of English Studies



Publication year2020


Issue number3

Pages range115-129

PublisherGöteborg University

Publication countrySweden

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessOpen Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/72159


The ambivalence of English manifests itself in the discourses that surround it. English may be a resource and consume resources; it empowers and oppresses. The dichotomous discussion around the usefulness or dangers of English as a “global” or “world” language erases problematizations of the layered societal implications of English in localised contexts. English needs to be analysed not (only) as a language but (also) as the ideologies and societal structures intertwined with it. We examine English in two higher education contexts. Our first case deals with the so-called Accent Reduction courses offered for international students in US universities. The second one analyses English as a language political catalyst in a nation state context. We conclude with a discussion of the nativist and nation-state-centred role of global English. We argue that to discuss English as a language oversimplifies the societal implications of the debate. When we think we talk about English, we are, in fact, talking about the various societal, political, economic, cultural and historical power dynamics that accompany it.

KeywordsEnglish languageambivalenceuse of languagesocietal effectslanguage policyideologiesnation-state

Free keywordsEnglish; internationalisation of higher education; nation-state centeredness; language as societal structure; language as ideology

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2020

JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-22-04 at 13:44