The problem of 'choice' and the construction of the demand for English in Cambodia


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This paper uses Cambodia as a case study to problematise the notion of choice in the spread of English. I explore specific historical contexts which were central to the construction of the demand for English and English language teaching (ELT) in Cambodia. The actions of a range of external agencies resulted in the close discursive articulation of English with Cambodia’s ‘reconstruction and development’ which was constructed along broadly neo-liberal lines. Alternative models of development were not considered, thus language alternatives were similarly ignored. One language alternative, a programme of mass literacy, was largely ignored, leaving the majority of Cambodians functionally illiterate. I conclude by arguing that the use of ‘choice’ in language choice theories as a form of agency often masks the fact that choice is a marker of socio-economic and political privilege.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-164
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • Cambodia Development and reconstruction English ELT International aid Language choice Language policy Language spread theories


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