Neoliberal ideology, discursive paradox and communicative language teaching

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This paper deals with the relationship between neoliberalism and communicative language teaching in language-in-education policy. Neoliberalism, or the deregulation of state based on meritocracy, or equal competition, gives rise to paradoxical discourses. On the one hand, sociolinguistic superdiversity shows us the unprecedented mixing and switching of languages by transnational migrants. On the other, language commodification requires us to use standard or monolingual language forms to access high-paying jobs in the global market. Parallel discourses in communicative language teaching pedagogy that distinguish between weak and strong forms also give rise to monolingual and multilingual language practices, respectively. This paper examines how language commodification and sociolinguistic superdiversity relate to the method-related problem of identity, a tension in the literature between the monolingual language practices of weak communicative language teaching, and post-structuralist language learner identities that are delineated by language. By drawing discursive and epistemic links between language commodification and sociolinguistic superdiversity and weak and strong communicative language teaching, I argue that language commodification emerges as a hegemonic discourse in weak communicative language teaching policy precepts, responsible for the method-related problem of identity. I attribute the discursive hegemony to a positivist epistemic framework that imposes preconceived language structures and identities on post-structuralist language learners in second and foreign language learning through monolingualism. This paper discusses important implications of sociolinguistic superdiversity as a counter-hegemonic discourse in superdiverse communicative language teaching contexts, as well as directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Early online date2 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Dec 2020


  • communicative language teaching
  • epistemic assumptions
  • language commodification
  • meritocracy
  • multilingual turn
  • Neoliberalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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