WP137 De-securitising Turkish: Teaching the language of a former enemy, and intercultural language education

Rampton, Charalambous & Charalambous


This paper explores the fit between orthodox ideas about intercultural language education and situations of acute insecurity.? It begins with an account of securitisation theory, and sketches several contexts where language teaching is affected by an orientation to violent conflict and existential threats.? It then describes two linguistic ethnographies of the teaching of Turkish to Greek-Cypriots, an initiative introduced in 2003 by the Republic of Cyprus as part of a de-securitisation policy.? Although these Turkish classes were all optional, many of the students regarded Turks as the enemy, and after documenting hostility itself as one motive for learning Turkish, the paper describes three strategies that teachers used to deal with the powerful emotions that Turkish evoked: (a) focusing on the language as a code, shorn of any cultural association; (b) treating it as a local language, especially in adult classes where there was a significant level of trust; and (c) presenting it as a contemporary international language in a cosmopolitan ambience that potentially transcended the island-specific conflict.? In this way, the Cypriot case calls mainstream language teaching assumptions into question: exclusively grammar-focused pedagogies display acute cultural sensitivity, and images of language in globalised world look radical and innovative.? For intercultural language education more generally, it is the combination of language learning as a distinct cultural activity with the ideological plasticity of language itself that seems especially valuable.