Working Papers in Educational Linguistics (WPEL)


David H. Hanks


For over a century the Ainu language has been threatened with disappearance as a result of language policies imposed by the Japanese following colonization of Ainu Mosir (now known as Hokkaidō), the Indigenous Ainu homeland. With recent legal and political victories, the Ainu have begun to reclaim their Indigenous culture and language within local communities, on the wider national stage, and internationally. However, while Ainu revitalization efforts continue, discourses of globalization in Japan have contributed to a dramatic increase in the status of English-as-a-foreign-language education, eclipsing other foreign and minority languages at all levels. Examining current policies, both de jure and de facto (see, e.g., Johnson, 2013; Schiffman, 1996), this paper explores how the disproportionate focus on English in contemporary Japanese education, reflected in societal and policy discourses regarding language and globalization, may be contributing to the closing down of ideological and implementational spaces (Hornberger, 2002, 2005, 2006; Hornberger & Johnson, 2007) for Ainu language education, thereby negatively impacting the continued revitalization of the Ainu language. The paper concludes by implicating opposing discursive orientations to globalization within Japanese society, and Japanese educational language policy specifically, in the lack of explicit attention to Ainu language revitalization efforts in national policy, and suggests that more critical examination of the role of English in Japanese education is needed if these efforts are to continue to succeed.