If English is indeed the first truly international language, it is also a subject of controversy. English has been recently described as both an “alchemy” (Kachru, 1986) and a “Trojan horse” (Cooke, 1988). For Kachru, “knowing English is like possessing the fabled Aladdin’s lamp, which permits one to open, as it were, the linguistic gates of international business, technology, science, and travel. In short, English provides linguistic power” (p. 1). For Cooke, on the other hand, English is a language of “cultural intrusion… in a very real way, English is the property of elites, expressing the interests of the dominant classes” (p. 59).
This debate is important for teachers of English internationally: If we are implicated in producing and perpetuating inequalities in the communities in which we teach, we are accountable for our actions. Clearly, as Judd (1983, 1987) and Walters (1989) argue, teachers of English should be aware that teaching is a political act. Judd argues that the teaching of English as a second or foreign language can (and should) raise moral dilemmas for teachers. Are we contributing to the demise of certain languages or linguistic communities? Does the teaching of ESL or EFL serve to entrench the power of an elite, privileged group of people who may have little interest in the welfare of the majority of the people in the country? Do teachers of ESL sometimes participate in a process that “nurtures illusion” (Judd, 1983, p. 271)? Cooke (1988) is less tentative than Judd in his conclusions:
Faced with the doubts that seem to me to characterize English as a world language, I would argue that as teachers of EFL we need to be very aware of the potential dangers of English, and take them into account in preparation and teaching. (p. 60)