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Ton Vallen Award 2017

The jury of the 2017 Ton Vallen Award is happy to announce that this year’s winner is

Gao Shuang

Interactional straining and the neoliberals self: Learning English in the biggest English corner in China

This article appeared in Language in Society, 45(3): 397-421 (2016). In this excellent ethnographic study, Dr. Gao Shuang highlights and critically examines some of the core issues in globalization and language learning today. Observing informal but organized adult English learning practices in an "English corner" in China, she engages with the complex dynamic of neoliberal commodification of English, identity desires to acquire it, and obstacles to it in the form of hierarchies of legitimacy of use. The article highlights a field of language education often neglected in educational-linguistic research: the growth of large "markets" of global language acquisition depending on individual investment and governed by unpredictable, but often economic, rules.

Exceptionally, the jury also wishes to congratulate Orhan Agirdag and Gudrun Vanlaar (University of Leuven, Belgium), for their article "Does more exposure to the language of instruction lead to higher academic achievement? A cross-national examination" (International Journal of Bilingualism 1-15, 2016). Their research shows an extraordinary sensitivity ‒ and offers, consequently, an extraordinarily relevant contribution ‒ to ongoing language-political debates on language and education in increasingly superdiverse educational environments

Gao Shuang obtained her joint PhD degree from the National University of Singapore and King's College London and is currently working as a lecturer at the Department of English at the University of Liverpool (UK).


The Ton Vallen Award is supported by Multilingual Matters, Bristol, and the jury emphatically reiterates its gratitude to Tommi Grover of Multilingual Matters for his continued interest in the Award.