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English has become the language of choice for global economic, political, and cultural exchange. Many developing countries (and, notably, many former Soviet bloc countries) have little choice but to "buy into English" as a path to ideological and material betterment. As Catherine Prendergast reveals, however, investing in English has not always been easy and has often disappointed expectations.Based on extensive fieldwork in Slovakia, Prendergast assembles a rich ethnographic study that records the thoughts, aspirations, and concerns of Slovak nationals, language instructors, journalists, and textbook authors who contend with the increasing importance of English to their rapidly evolving world. To chart this evolution, she examines globalization's past as well as its present. Through personal histories, she offers a rare glance at how the communist regime was forced to reckon with English's growing global stature. Prendergast contrasts these accounts with chronicles of adept multitaskers learning English during Slovakia's exhausting fast-track incorporation into the European Union and Western capitalism. She reveals how the use of English in everyday life has becomes suffused with the terms of the knowledge and information economy, where language is manipulated for power and profit."Buying into English" presents a fascinating study of how language lives in the imagination as much as in the world, an astute analysis of the factors that have made English so prominent and yet so elusive, and a deconstruction of the myth of guaranteed viability for new states and economies through English.
University of Pittsburgh Press
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