An Essay on Internationalism in Foreign Language Education

Keywords: nationalism in education, internationalism, citizenship, foreign language education


This essay is an attempt to introduce into the discourse of Foreign Language Education the concept and phenomenon of internationalism. It begins with an analysis of the ways in which education systems promote nationalism and "national citizenship," and suggests that an internationalist perspective would enrich this tradition in education. It continues with a discussion of the concept and the historical phenomenon of internationalism in its various forms, and the values it incorporates. Some approaches to defining notions of "global citizenship" and their limitations are identified and the essay then argues that internationalism offers a more comprehensive basis on which to build "global," "cosmopolitan" or other concepts of citizenship. This is then the foundation for presenting a way of thinking about Foreign Language Education as a means of promoting internationalism, which is illustrated by examples from recent practice. The essay ends with some thoughts about future directions in which the internationalist educational purposes of Foreign Language Education might be further realised.

Author Biography

Michael Byram, Durham University, United Kingdom

Michael Byram is Professor Emeritus at Durham University (UK) and Guest Professor at Luxembourg University.  He studied Languages at King’s College, Cambridge, including a PhD in Danish literature, and taught French and German in secondary and adult education. At Durham, he was involved in teacher training and research on languages and education. His monographs include From Foreign Language Education to Education for Intercultural Citizenship (2008) and he edited the Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning. He was Adviser to the Council of Europe Language Policy Division and is now working on its Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture.