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The Religion of Learning English in English: A Language Educator’s Reading

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This essay is my reading of English, a novel based on author Wang Gang’s experiences in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Northwest China during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). As a language educator, I was particularly interested in the way that Wang describes learning English in the novel. The essay focuses on three aspects of learning English in the novel: the representation of learning English as a spiritual experience, the appeal of English for Love Liu as an adolescent learner and the portrayal of Second Prize Wang as an English teacher. The novel depicts learning English as a spiritual adventure and a religious experience in which Liu regards English as gospel and Wang, the English teacher, as the Messiah, who will lead him out of the chaotic and dehumanising world. The novel indicates the need to explore how individual learners in particular contexts appropriate the English language to pursue locally meaningful objectives.
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Keywords: English; appropriation; imagination; the Cultural Revolution

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of Education,The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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