A responsible agenda for applied linguistics: Confessions of a philosopher

  • Albert Weideman


When we undertake academic, disciplinary work, we rely on philosophical starting points. Several straightforward illustrations of this can be found in the history of applied linguistics. It is evident from the history of our field that various historically influential approaches to our discipline base themselves upon different academic confessions. This paper examines the effects of basing our applied linguistic work on the idea that applied linguistics is a discipline concerned with design. Such a characterisation does justice to both modernist and postmodernist emphases in applied linguistics. Conceptualisations of applied linguistics that came with the proposals for communicative language teaching (CLT) some thirty to forty years ago propelled the discipline squarely into postmodern times. To account for this, we need to develop a theory of applied linguistics which shows what constitutive and regulative conditions exist for doing applied linguistic designs. A responsible agenda for applied linguistics today has as its first responsibility to free the users of its designs from toil and drudgery, as well as from becoming victims of fashion, ideology or theory. Secondly, it should design solutions to language problems in such a way that the technical imagination of the designer is not restricted but supported by theory and empirical investigation, and that the productive pedagogical fantasy of the implementers of such plans is set free. Thirdly, it must seek to become accountable by designing theoretically and socially defensible solutions to language problems, solutions that relieve some of the suffering, pain, poverty and injustice in our world.


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Author Biography

Albert Weideman
Albert Weideman is director of the Unit for Academic Literacy of the University of Pretoria. His main interest is in language testing, but he is also the author of the Academic literacy: prepare to learn, now in its second (2007) printing.E-mail: albert.weideman@up.ac.za