Travel to China with Dr. Eric Henry

At a time when many of us are missing international travel, the next Faculty Author Series event might help fill that void.

On March 25 at noon, travel via Zoom to Shenyang, China, with Dr. Eric Henry, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology. Dr. Henry will discuss his new book, The Future Conditional, and his twelve years of research on the globalization of the English language.

In particular, the book explores why and how English has become so important in China, and what effect this fascination with learning English has had on Shenyang, the largest city in China’s Northeast.

“I taught English in China after my masters as a way to learn Mandarin and make a bit of money,” explains Dr. Henry. “Everyone wanted to talk about English and treated me as an expert. I started to wonder, why is it a national project to teach everyone English? Why is it such an important part of people’s lives, even for people who don’t need it?”

While this phenomenon is often studied from a linguistics lens, Dr. Henry’s approach is from an anthropological perspective. What does learning English mean to Chinese speakers? What does the ability to speak English represent in contemporary China? How has English become a lucrative commodity?

Dr. Henry also notes that there are lots of types of English in China, including words and phrases that are unfamiliar to native English speakers. According to Dr. Henry, this raises questions about how languages evolve within cultures, and which “versions” are considered “right”: “Correctness is really the result of perspective, position, and authority”.

The Future Conditional will be available through the SMU Library later this year, and is currently available for pre-order.

Register for this event.

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