The Vicious Triangle: CLT, Native Speakers, and “English-Only” Classrooms

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Rob McGregor, University of Birmingham

The vicious triangle is a pervasive discourse structure within Japanese ELT, in which native English-speaking educators, immersive “English-only” classrooms, and newer, more student-centred teaching approaches such as communicative language teaching (CLT) are conflated to form a single, unified triad. In this paper I define these elements as commonly understood and present a critical discourse analysis of key policy documents, media reports, and previously unpublished qualitative data to explore how the links along each side of the triangle are construed as axiomatic and the separate elements reified as a mutually dependent group. The vicious triangle is shown to centre on and exacerbate widespread pedagogical misunderstanding of CLT and so limit educators and damage students’ learning. These impacts are highlighted and suggestions for mitigation are offered.