BEEDE Transcripts: Alistair Pennycook


Alistair Pennycook at the University of Technology Sydney

When I say colonial meaning and I’m surprised I said that in that way but I suppose I did.  Um it’s it’s to capture the idea that um it’s coming out I suppose out of two frame works one is to understand that English language teaching comes out of a long history uh it doesn’t just appear uh after the second world war or what ever it’s I mean it has several histories and one of the important ones is the colonial history um and in a strong version of that I’m interested something that I haven’t been able to quite argue because I don’t have enough support but that in a sense English language teaching was c--- I think in some ways formed in the British Empire and moved into Britain uh from that experience rather than being exported from Britain to the Empire which is the same  arguments can be made by uh gallery  --------(?) the literary cannon that it was developed in India and taken into England having worked in India um now I don’t really have the evidence for that but I’m uh it’s an idea um but never the less I think the if you look at who has been living English over a long time and it’s English teaching the big English teaching project was really uh in the the colonial context.  That for me then has probably ----(?)historical knowledge um the point then is how does that connect and I’ve been arguing that um because of that and because of that history if if you look in the  broader context of the effects of colonialism a-and the many effects of colonialism but I’m interested in the idea that um colonialism created European culture um rather then created by it and it’s the colonial project that produced um parts of what became Europe and European thought and so on and that that that means that a lot of what we do and say is not hasn’t disappeared I mean that colonial history’s not disappeared from that we’re still um hugely linked with all of that, that I suppose applies particularly to Britain and and European countries it also applies to the states and the states has it’s own colonial history in particular ways uh and with the Philippines and so on.  Um and I think that it is also that that colonial history through from Britain also filters in filtered in to the states in other ways.  So what I’ve been trying to argue is that English language teaching is full of uh certain images and ways of doing things um which are linked uh in in not in a straight forward fashion but over a long history and that that also applies to English um that’s not to say that you know the English language is colonial or that uh you can’t say anything that isn’t colonial English I mean those are extremely reductive arguments but what I’m trying to say that the the history and this is in a some way like people like Bactine(?) would argue that every utterance carries with it the history of the other utterances and say okay and clearly English has been articulated in particular ways in particular context over a long history and that part of that history is carried through now maybe to Colette(?) as what was the phrase that colonial that you know carries colonial meaning as used to possibly over state the case but it’s to try and make that point to say we have to understand that long history so I that’s roughly what I mean by that.

Um um I like to use that phrase um natural , neutral and beneficial to talk about assumptions about the use of English or the the not not necessarily English language teaching but the the global spread of English and to say that the  . . .

I suppose to get at the idea that the natural um it seemed to me that there’s if eh uh ah I mean  simplistic belief really is that somehow English has just spread I mean it’s just you know it just happened and you know and um um let’s in retrospect that’s probably not a very common belief you have to be fairly nieve just to see it as a natural thing um the but there is another sense of the natural which would be the argument that well all you know languages do spread or they change whatever so maybe was done for particular reasons but now it’s well there’s nothing you can do about it and so it’s there um I think that the important question about the reason for questioning  that for me is that the idea of of the natural is always have to questioned and that’s a common thing if you look a critical discourse analysis or look  _------(?) the the thing is to have you question what people believe is natural.  You know ideology uh the way things are, all those anything that we believe is always up for questioning in my view and the the idea that there’s something natural about the spread is a big problem and so I would argue that we need to see that as very deliberate for particular reasons assuming that the the the spread the spread of English was coordinated and that’s what Robert Philipson describes very well.  Um . . .

The the well I mean I don’t know if I would then call it the uh natural spread what I’m saying is that deliberate is not a natural phenomenon  um in that it it’s not as if um either I mean is one person’s one claim that the world chose English the world ------(?) all at once that is chose English.  You see well this is uh this is an odd idea that the world’s sort of turned around and said let’s all speak English.  Um the clearly it it spread as a result as a result of colonialism um though I think that there’s quite a misunderstanding about that that what I found when I researched the language policy under uh particular British colonialism that one of the major uh things that surprised me I mean my original idea was that English was around the world first of all because of British colonists what I found in in India uh particularly um Malaysia, it was Malaya then, straight settlements there.  Um and in and Hong Kong um was it a common statement very common was that we should not teach too much English.  You know do not teach English, it’s dangerous. You know if and and quite clear about this that is too many people learn English they’ll want better jobs they’ll be social unrest and so on so English was actually taught to very limited numbers of people for particular purposes we need a certain class of people who can speak English we do not need a larger English popu---English speaking population and so what was then offered was vernacular first language education to to a number of people and that was a predominant uh colonial education ----(?) there’s a lot of rhetoric about oh you know everyone should learn English, English you know there is people and this is often what is quoted but actually in terms of policy  um most of  ---(?)you know of course we know that really it would be really great if the world spoke English but actually locally it’s not going to work it’s risky and so on.  So it didn’t spread predominantly on the colonialism I mean there wasn’t expansion clearly I mean you have people suddenly speaking English in Nigeria and in India in in Singapore that’s because of colonialism but the the large spread is really  much more a post uh colonial post second world war spread um some of it before the the second world wars but more afterwards and that’s a result much more of the uh change in the economy the power with the United States um a whole lot of other factors but that was also quite carefully orchestrated uh the British council has been a big player um and various other you know American organizations and so on have been deliberately promoting English and if you look at British council documents they say you know uh English is our uh gold you know it’s our it’s our I think it’s our black gold they use to call that oil well something like this oil is our black gold and English is our something other gold , you know world gold or something I don’t know I can’t remember it exactly but it’s you know this is this is uh uh hugely valuable  plus they said very advertly in those documents that this is for British economic and political interest if you teach people English they’ll be more connected um you can get them to come study you get a whole set of connections and so on and the states are doing the same thing so English was very strongly promoted for deliberate reasons and Robert Philipson’s book Linguistic Imperialism I mean I can talk later about the problems with some of his arguments but for a documentation of how that worked it’s I mean it’s very clear I think that there’s not much question that people were out busy spreading English for a particular reasons and for self interest basically in English speaking countries.

The let me I’ll switch the the beneficial first um the what I was trying to question with that is the idea that uh the English language or learning English uh is inherently beneficial um I’m not questioning that it can’t be beneficial there are obvious  good reasons why you’d learn another language and why English might be that language.  But the problem is the idea that there’s something automatically beneficial, if you learn English it’s a good thing.  Um and there are all these arguments uh some uh what would be termed English language intrinsic that say well there’s something really good about English you know it’s a great language you should learn it.  Most people are suspicious about that so more of the arguments are extrinsic  would say is if you learn English it will give you access to all sorts of things uh you know social prestige economic gain um you know you’ll be part of global community all these things.  There’s some truth in some of that but a lot of questions that we asked um there was an article I was looking at recently which uh has a headline says something like um English uh can be an escape from poverty for third world children or something.  I was thinking well what does that mean and and what it’s arguing is really on some pretty dubious grounds anyway but saying that is art—the article arguing strongly that uh there should be more as much English language teaching primary and secondary schools around the world um because that will help people escape from poverty.  Now my I I  what interests me there in that particular argument is I mean there there are really a lot of dubious questions but the the issue is that what you have to look at is okay it it is quite possible that with in certain systems if you learn English you may get a better income and escape from certain levels of poverty um what does it do overall for class economic differences in that country uh for the education system for the ability to learn for the literacy levels in the first language?  Those are the other questions we have to ask and more English may not be beneficial for the large majority of people and and that’s one of the big problems.  So my question is y-yes of course English may be beneficial but uh in other cases it may not be and we have to always ask that question not assume that the -----(?) is beneficial.  So the third one is neutral um so I argue that we shouldn’t see it as neutral that that neutrality has a number of ways of being constructive um and the one of them I mean if we just ---(?) the language uh one of the things that comes up is the the issue of culture and is does the language carry cultural content.  Most people would tend to argue that languages are clearly strongly link to a culture and it’s cultural content then the argument  comes well but that’s not true of English because it’s no longer tied to Britain or tied to North America it’s no you know it’s the property of the world therefor it’s international language therefor it’s neutral and I would say wait a minute um of course it’s certainly true that it’s not tied to those particular cultural domains but since when is the international neutral um what is it tied to it’s clearly tied to um global capital uh it’s people of taught you know MacDonalization of the world the Cocacolaization of the world which in some ways we can see as quite simple simplistic constructs that you know there are a lot of MacDonald's around the world in other ways it’s trying to describe  a whole um system in which uh uh capital works in which industries work and in which jobs uh happen with in certain industries it’s it’s describing a you know particular type of work force and a type of food and a type of attitude and so on.  Um English is tied up with that uh global media and all of that um so that argument is neutral in that sense as a language is odd um and often you’ll see an argument that it’s neutral relative to other languages so if you’re looking at language choice in in India um -----(?)he says at some point that well English is is a neutral choice um because he’s comparing it with the struggle over Hindie, Hindie was less accepted by southern Indians because it was a northern Indian imposition on people who speak ------and ------ languages in southern India um so English is a bit neutral cause it is outside that context well at least it’s not it’s not other Indian showing impose their language on -----(?) but it’s not neutral and at the same time English is the language of an elite cast um access to education it’s the formal colonial languages it’s it’s a highly politicized  language um and so there’s a problem sometimes that it’s vaguely neutral relative to other languages it’s never neutral in a political economic social sense and then I think I mean there’s a lot of other ways in which you can look at that but there’s also this question of English language teaching that the neutrality of English language teaching um is it is this something neutral now my arguments about English have been that there’s nothing ever neutral about English it’s always you’re always involved in relationships with all language teaching um with English you’re involved with particular relationships with the language you’re teaching it’s if you’re in the United States um the moment you’re teaching English you’re doing something relative to national language policy towards to English only movement um all these things you’re you’re linked to that and Elsa Hourbach(?) has interestingly argued that you you need to understand what you’re doing in terms of language policy in your class if you say we’re only going to speak English in this class I don’t want to hear other languages this is a uni-lingual class that’s if English only says you know doesn’t that English only echo with you know English only in Arizona or some you know um these are the these are connections we have to understand um so I’ve I’ve argued that you you can’t you can never just teach the language there’s no such thing as well you know I’m just a language teacher, you’re always involved in the language in  a whole lot of other relationships and I’ve also argued that you can’t just teach um the when you teach you’re linked to uh social context , cultural context, economic context um and they the classroom uh is a sight uh that it has a dual social set of relationships one is the classroom is at some level an autonomous sight that that you know it’s okay this is we’re in the classroom now um and the but the rules as a social relations in the classroom and cultural relations uh people of uh most advertly when people come from different ethnic different language backgrounds but also all of us come with different histories and cultures ---(?) cultures uh socioeconomic cultures so we we’re always dealing with difference and social relations in a classroom um and it’s not isolated in anyway from the outside world either um that people don’t leave their social identity their beliefs their religions all of that at the door they come their right in there in the classroom and when you’re teaching English you’re teaching a language which has particular significance and particular ways we teach other languages and other relationships to the to the community to the possible futures of people going to have to particular ideologies and so on.  All of that is going on all the time um so my argument is we’re always involved in what I’ve called a cultural  politics of of teaching um and that you can never just teach English you can never just teach you’re always doing a whole lot else, uh it doesn’t mean to say that you stop or that you give up it just means that you’ve got to take on some more baggage that isn’t just how do I teach grammar it’s what am I involved in in part of a larger social world.

I think the idea that teachers I think it’s certainly true in the United States I think it’s true in a lot of places uh though not everywhere that we don’t see ourselves as political you know we are just teachers um I think that does have a particular configuration in in the U.S. where um it’s it’s probably a certain isolation the U.S. has and um you know if you’re if you’re teaching English um I remember just to give a brief anecdote that always amuse me um when ---(?) who’s someone I think everyone should read um and he was and in that’s his book um resisting linguistic imperialism through in English language teaching I think it’s called um and he was it was when he was giving one of his first talks I’ve heard at at Teesaw(?) 93 something like that and he um I was in the audience and he stood up and said said okay he said the really good thing we’ve had now is a number of people like Robert Philipson,  Alice -----(?), raised this issue that that language teaching is political um we have to understand English language teaching as political and so on so I think this is this is great we’ve someone you know finally some people are really putting on the agenda it’s being discussed and so on he said but I’ve known it since the age of four, you know I thought yeah that is an issue and he said you know it’s something the rest of the world knew already but I’m glad there you know I’m glad you guys have found it out you know I thought yeah you know exactly um you know if you’re an Indian or Malaysian you know this you know you don’t have to be told and sense it’s political um so I I think in some ways we have to see the the down playing of politics as partly linked to uh a particular agenda to sell English to a-and to make you know all move from governments whatever to make education seem like a neutral activity and knowledge it just you know imparting knowledge and so on um schooling is always about gaining control of or or a particular type of knowledge particular curriculum, particular ways of doing things.  If you look at the work on literacy you know who’s type of literacy who’s type of languages is allowed in who’s is and who’s his favorite who he see as valuable um Jim Jee’s(?)  work is interesting on this on looking at kids um coming to school and how they speak um or or Shirley Bryce Heath’s with how children take uh what you call take meaning from or ways the ways with words is the name of her book.  Um how they take meaning from text some ways are favored and some aren’t and and school excludes some and if you’re excluded you know it’s really hard to to get in if you’re not you know if you come from the right sort of background you’re parents will teach you in roughly the same way same type of language practices as kids as as you get in school you sail in and you walk into school and –(?) I’m kind of familiar with this you know this is the way we do stuff and you know the school’s happy and you know you speak the right way you behave the right way and you sail on through and if you don’t schools  are very exclusive and demand particular types of behavior and so on now we often then describe these other things as deviant as non standard as you know as inappropriate or what ever um when we look at some of those practices it’s not clear why I mean why is that inappropriate why is that wrong why don’t you allow them in.  um so I think I mean that’s a whole set of questions that teachers might want to ask themselves is what why do I see it as having to be like this what you know what are my rule what are my why do I think people should do that if you’re teaching English you know you got all these questions about grammar or you know you have to ask those questions why am I going to allow this and not that um and for what reasons um because kids are coming from different backgrounds they may have heard different bits of English and we have to much more attuned to saying okay I’m trying to teach a particular version of English with this kids something I want to why that is you know to know it’s wrong you know.  You say what what is that is that a different dialect you picked up somewhere or this a different version that so I think all those questions are there for teachers um in a broader sense I mean a lot of teachers think we need to ask what am I doing this for I mean who in who’s interests.  Um okay I you know it’s a job I need the money I’m doing it in order to you know have a house you know get some food um those kids are coming because they need English and so on.  But another level we need to say well okay what am I what am I doing for them or what what what do these people who are coming to my English class or what ever type of class what do they need um how might I start to put together curriculum uh give them ways of thinking about their role in this society that might be more beneficial for them that they can take a bit more charge of things that they can see um sometimes the problems that they haven’t see yet you know uh but to prepare them in other ways to say okay you know you’re gonna you’re uh I mean one interesting thing uh controversial sometimes is to um prepare people uh from different backgrounds for the fact that they they they’re going to have to struggle a lot they’ve got some difficult things out there and there was a teacher I was working with a little while ago who was doing dialogues um for how to um uh there I mean the one good thing that I liked them they were really practical she says uh you’re not doing the kind of general English curriculum I’m telling the people how do call the plumber you know and there’s this thing about you know little dialogues and you know vocabulary really nice class right and okay what do you call this and what how do you call that and you know what’s what would you do all right you call the plumber okay let’s do a little dialogue and you call the plumber and you know  hello this is so and so and you  know I’ve got a I’ve got a my tap in my in my bath is overflowing you know oh okay can you come right over okay sure you know uh here’s my address so that so we ---(?) can do this and you know I said yeah you know really nice class very useful and so on.  But the one thing we talked about after I see but you know think about when you call your plumber I said look I said I’m white I’ve got all the right things going I call my plumber you know if he doesn’t come round you know oh sure I’ll come over and fix the bath yeah no worries you know he’s like oh well I’m really busy you know I could probably do it tomorrow and he say well tomorrow’s kind of late you know I you know do do you know anyone else I could call no--- no way there’s no other plumbers oh okay come on this evening at at nine you know but but that will cost you double and and you know and I mean you know they never just say oh yeah sure I’ll come over and fix that you know I wasn’t doing anything.  Um I was in bed you know that’s me when I have most things going for me maybe not you know maybe I don’t speak kind of plumber talk well enough and they say oh yes some kind of you know probably academic ---(?) um but you know for uh for someone who’s uh speaks accented English um and and a good book is lif—ah Rosie –(?) Green’s book on English with an accent I mean that’s a really good book on on speaking English with an accent in the states um the implications of that people hear and say uh you know this person’s from here they you know they they don’t speak good English so that all the assumptions that come in with that um you’re calling the plumber a and who knows you know um they they you know I can charge this person a bit extra I can’t bother with that you now I don’t like dealing with you know Vietnamese oh god their you know all sorts of stuff and I was saying you know maybe we need to to design some dialogues that say you know it’s not just oh hi yeah here this is so and so the plumber can you come around five say well maybe have to give people you know a bit of exercise or how do you get a ---(?) plumber over who think god damn it not another Vietnamese with a broken sink you know that’s that’s a difficult thing to do I don’t know how to do it I don’t have to face quite those things and then other dialogues that can how do you get you  know how do you deal with someone at immigration and and you know for for people from uh different communities that’s a struggle every day um and how do we start to help people deal with those things is a uh it’s difficult and you working on very diffi—difficult ground but maybe if you get their help and say you know bring in some dialogue like how was that you know would anyone do any of those service encounters this week how did it go you know you know maybe record the next one bring it into class now oh now what happened here why did it go wrong you know how might we do this better um that might I mean get the students to research we often don’t know that you know we just we’ve got text books that say how to call a plumber um that’s not the same as what happens when you’re out in the world when you’re trying to get a plumber.

Okay trans  transformative pedago---(?) uh I do sometimes have some problems with the the term transformative um in that ------(?)that’s the way we should do it, transformative change you now let’s let’s say I I teach in order to keep the world the same I teach in order to change it I I think it’s uh it’s a messy screwed up world and you know I I think we should be trying to change that uh and that’s part of what I think I do in in teaching and whatever.  Um I I say I have a problem that sometimes I think people make rather something rather grandiose about you know transformative you know want to transform the world and you think oh yeah right um we need something that’s changes little changes doing something um but okay if we take transformative as ---(?) we want to change stuff um and I think we have to have that as part of of of pedoligical(?) frame work um and it’s um ---(?) argue that in a number of different ways of of what we need to uh I think we need to do but I think um we need to one of the interesting points you come up with at that is how do you on what grounds do you argue for a preferable state of affairs and I think you we have to think through that very carefully and work out what are you know why am I saying you know this is why what is should be like and we have to be very um and think very carefully and and do a lot of talking about why we’re trying to you know what directions we’re trying to change things.  Um some people would say well you know we shouldn’t ---(?) you know you mean you you change your students I was thinking well what do you do I mean are you trying to keep them the same I mean that sounds really dull you know I think yeah we should I think we should be trying to change um the question’s what the ---(?) I think most teachers are trying to change.  Some might just say well I’m trying to improve their English okay that’s change in some way, but I think the transformative vision is saying I actually want to uh you know a common term is empowerment which is another problematic term in that it seems to suggest some how we give this power or you know it’s an over used term that I think I pretty empty now.  Um but I think there are ways we say you say I want to give people uh a sense of agency uh a way in what that can a way in which they can feel they uh have a certain degree of control over the world um that they can take English uh can operated bi-lingually uh ---(?) the things in ways that are uh give them more control give them um possibilities of doing things differently.  Um that’s why a a very nice term uh that Roger Simon came up with and Bonnie Norton ---(?) taken up is that of a p---(?) of possibility.  Um it’s says the question is you know what possibilities do we present um and that schooling how typically do stuff doesn’t present that many possibilities we sort of believe that well education is good and if people learn what I’ve have on the curriculum therefor you know they’ll have more possibilities.  That’s just not often the case the question is how might you give people more possibilities um and my question’s been how might we do that through and how might you think about teaching English that says okay I’m going to try and create more possibilities for for a whole that is not just job possibilities that’s also in a sense something like cultural possibilities or ideological possibilities how might we think about the world differently through English and then what does this English teaching look like um to say um I’m trying to change and you’re trying to change in a way the the relationship in English and dominant discourses that suggest things should happen this way and that say I want to push those boundaries back and make that part of my uh English teaching and that’s transformative in a way possibilities you know ped---(?) possibilities quite a nice term uh I’ve always talked about uh preferred futures like what are what are our preferred futures that we might try to develop through English education.  So I that that’s that’s what I mean by that I mean.

Language rights is difficult area um on which I’m I’m mixed in some ways um at some level I think that the struggle for language rights is really significant struggle uh it’s trying to define um peoples right to language uh in that um frame work of rights which puts it really in a in a moral framework that there are um some moral and legal framework that says you have a right to use your own language um and it’s it’s ---(?) the work of people who are really pushing that their trying to get it encoded, ---(?) and UN documents and saying yeah people should be able to say I have the right to education in my first language and it’s not only first language there’s also I mean that a lot of the work has been of first language but people also say should also right to access to to other lan---national languages international languages not only first languages um and sometimes there’s confusion about that people will say okay if you’re promoting language rights then you don’t want to give people access to other languages people say no I’m just saying that the main issue is usually first language so that um a lan- a language right would be a-an encoded signed international documents and just as you could say um you have no right to imprison this person without trial you can not uh treat a prisoner in particular ways in prison you can not deny these people lan—education in their first language would be co-equal positions um that would have huge implications in the United States for example um English only would be um illegal in the international framework and you know people could take a a state I imagine to court in you know internationally and say we are not being given first language education.  Um and at the same time there are practical problems with some of that um how do you um is it enforceable uh is it uh is it practical I mean at what level would you say okay if the three people speaking that language in this community um you know we can’t actually give them you just can’t do it or or there’s languages which you don’t have teachers there are all sorts of difficulties and in in multi-lingual nations where you’ve got you know sixty, a hundred, two hundred languages um is not always clear quite how any of that would really work um though we can look somewhere like India which has very complex language policies from the national to the state and to local languages and you go to three plus one language policy I mean it works reasonably well although there’s still a whole lot of languages that are discarded from that um so I think language rights um on one level the discussion puts a lot of interesting things uh in place um whether to what extent I realizable is at some levels questionable and I think there’s some other interesting arguments about I mean this is getting into more technical arguments about rights but the issue  of putting individual and comm---(?) rights and can you argue for language rights at the same time as individual rights having access to languages and at another level I’ve also been interested in asking what vision of language do we put into play when we talk about language rights and mother tongue rights um we tend to possibly I would say to accentualize the no---(?) of language and and that there are certainly arguments that the the human rights discourse into which that fits is a particular western discourse about humanity and so on.  Um some people say yeah okay they’re okay arguments but you know the real work it to get language rights and at some level I would I would agree I think it’s a useful way forward um so I think language rights are certainly an important uh concept uh whether they’ll ever get written documents whether they’ll ever work I I is possibly questionable but certainly the raising of raising awareness about the possibility of defining um we’re not just talking about bi-lingualism uh or you know multi-lingualism as a well it’s kind of good to you know good for people to support language or you know diversity is good pluralism is nice you know um it’s ---(?) no I mean people actually have a fundamental right to that that’s not just a liberal society says yeah okay it’s kind of nice that people speak different languages you say that their absolute right to have education services and so on it’s a it’s an important frame work for thinking about things.

I think we’ve covered a lot of those issues I mean I I we’ve seem to have moved across enough areas um a lot of my work has been around the global spread of English the politics of English language teaching uh critical p---(?) critical applied linguistics um there’s a lot of arguments I’m glad you didn’t ask me about of critical discourse analysis and you know . . . . .I’m glad we skipped that one.  There’s argument’s  . . . . a lot of internal arguments about things I think are not that interesting for people you know if you’ve gone a long way into it it’s okay um there’s another area of mine which I do find interesting um which is the issue of plagiarism um I’m not sure if I wish you had asked me that but um for me plagiarism um became particularly an interesting topic uh so by chance I was teaching in Hong Kong and it came up in various meetings and there’s always this problem and that you know people say well this writing is too good I wonder did this student plagiarize no I think it’s okay no I think it’s too bad um and and suddenly you now you know people would say this writing is too good I’m going to fail this student and I was thinking god that’s weird isn’t it  I mean here we are we want our students to write well and yet it suddenly looks too good and we say I’m going to fail because I think they’ve plagiarized.  Um so what sort of fascinated me was the whole idea of what is plagiarism I mean how do we why is it a concept um so I I try to explore on a very broad field the whole question of um authorship ownership um and found out very interest in historically uh this emerged at a particular time of of the notion of ownership of language ownership of words you know these are these are my words you can’t you know I’ve copyrighted them and that that comes in a particular period in Europe.  Um and once you start to see that as historical period you say well maybe that that is only a passing moment I mean maybe you know do we have to believe in ownership of text in the same way.  Um so for me the whole the whole question of plagiarism um one one way of taking it up which is unfortunately I think the common way is is people say yes you know plagiarism is a problem how do we stop it and I said no let’s ask another question like how do we understand it and how do we understand what our students are doing because all second language learning is borrowing other people’s words you now this is another language I go to borrow some of those words and kind of try to make them my own.  What does it mean to you know we say write it in your own words when are they your own words and when I was in Hong Kong you know students well yeah but you know why why do I have to do it in English you know it’s the colonial language you know and some how it’s not anymore I say well it still is this is before ninety seven  um you know I they’re saying I don’t own English you know and you know you said it nicely why can’t I say it the same way and all some of those interesting ways that the students challenge also made me think think yeah what what is it why are we so obsessed about it um so so it raises a whole host of things plus that students often learn in particular ways they memorize uh you know that’s been  ---(?) in particular western views of education that memorization is bad and so on in fact you know huge numbers of successful learners of language and all sorts of other things do it my memorization and if you look at the interesting work on on some Chinese learning the point is there are different types of memorization there’s kind of this superficial and there’s deep.  You say so what is deep memorization well it when you come you know you do take it in and you understand it but you’re still memorizing and that it’s still available for you um all of that raises huge questions if you got a whole text available to you and most of now who’ve grown up in particular western cultures though English don’t have that we can’t say you know when people say you know that poem you know oh yeah I do you know most of us don’t maybe we know some songs we don’t have these test where as people from other cultures often have huge chunks of text available that they’ve learned and that may include English as quite a reasonable learning strategy.  Um so to me that question raised a host of other things about how we understand second language writing um how the students learned what they’re understanding of ownership of text is and these aren’t questions that are solved by saying let’s you know police the matter better let’s um teach people citation practices that another thing oh we’ve got to teach them to quote properly I think doesn’t get to the heart of the issue and now with the Internet it’s become really interesting because what we have is not just I mean before we could trace some of these practices you could actually you know get a text and you could see where it was high lighted  and it was back in their text and look you copied that you know why did you do that and actually ask them those questions you get all sorts of interesting responses from students.  Now we have down loadable text you can go on the Internet and you can say okay that’s good I mean you have the official sights like and you know there there’re places where you can just buy essays and that’s a whole other sort of practice which is um that’s something that you know we need to look at very carefully what’s going on but there’s also ----(?) and I think a lot of us do it who write you know we find you know you take bits of text and now that it’s all within our computers or within our reach and you can grab a paragraph um it seems to be unclear whether we really want to pursue greater policing of this or whether we need to say that’s it you know okay we’ve got to think differently about what writing means maybe this notion of authorship ownership and in your own words is just doesn’t make sense anymore and that I mean it’s scary and I think a lot of teachers are saying you know we can’t go down that route and I I’m not saying we necessarily should but I’m trying to open that question and say you know possibly authorship there’s a passing notion as Fucole(?) kind of said.  You know the author concept may have passed it’s time big challenges but that’s anyway that’s another interest that’s um another tricky area um I pick the difficult areas um but  it’s yeah something that I find fascinating that it raises all sorts of questions about writing and culture and education and so on so I still don’t know if  I have wished you’d asked me.