Introduction

Reflection, Research, and Innovation: New Horizons in English Language Studies

The English language has been part of Sri Lanka’s history, both colonial and post-colonial, for over two centuries. However, its status, its role, and its functions within Sri Lankan society are by no means unproblematic. Just as the two main local languages, Tamil and Sinhala, have gone through many shifts in the politics of ‘place’, so has English. It still does. From being a foreign language or the language of the colonizer, through being a kaduwa, to being a language that is extensively used in many areas of life from governance and administration to commerce and technology, the shifts of ‘place’ taken by the language are many. In our multicultural environment, English has developed and changed into a language that is distinctively ours even though a greater part of our population does not own it even today. It is in such a context that we – the facilitators, the researchers, and the academics who work in the English language teaching/ learning field – work. The challenges faced by us are not limited to the classroom and the effectiveness of what we do. We also face the challenge of the ignorance, to a greater or lesser degree, with which our task is perceived by many who have a stake in our work.

It is with this context in mind that the language studies symposium is being organized. The English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) of the University of Colombo has sought, over the years, to bring new thinking about language learning/ teaching into its classroom. It strives, equally hard, to produce new thinking about the most effective ways of increasing the competence of the learner through experience gained in the classroom and from research undertaken in other contexts. Many crucial questions remain unanswered. The answering of most requires us to push existing institutional and knowledge boundaries and look to resources that may remain as yet untapped. It is our belief that this symposium, exploring new horizons in English language studies, will bring about a sharing of the deepest thinking, research, and innovation that is being done in an attempt to answer the questions that continue to plague us.

Come join us and share your thinking. We hope the symposium will provide you a forum at which to share your insights and experience with those who are journeying alongside you.