Many thanks to Prof. Matsuo Kimura for his great organizational skills and hard work in organizing AGU’s hosting of the JACET extravaganza.
From August 29th to the 31st, Aoyama Gakuin University held JACET’s 56th International Convention. Mitsue Allen-Tamai and I presented on EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) and the (25-year) history of our department’s IE (Integrated English) Program, respectively. Henry Widdowson and Barbara Seidlhofer, of the University of Vienna, and Dr. Phyllis Ghim-Lian Chew of the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), spoke on various aspects of ELF (English as a Lingua Franca).
It was an extremely well attended conference, with about 900 participants. It was good to see many old friends there and make some new ones. The plenary speakers were well chosen and productively provocative, especially Dr. Chew who challenged the mainly Japanese audience members to seriously consider how tiny Singapore could be at the top of PISA scores, GDP levels, overall English proficiency benchmarks, and university rankings, while Japan lags behind in so many domains.
She chalked it up mostly to the fact that English proficiency is closely tied to high attainment in all of these areas and, for Japanese, language is tied to identity so closely that English has always been “other” and something that the population is unwilling to embrace as their own. She stirred up some nationalistic sparring in the Q & A, with one South Korean co-panelist wondering out loud what the happiness index of Singaporeans might be. This spurred me to check it out. It seems that Singapore is ranked a respectable 16 (out of 155 countries listed), so Singapore—despite its caning and reputation of obsessiveness about cleanliness—seems to be doing a lot right. — Joseph Dias