Journal of Sociolinguistics

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English and discourses of commodification among tourism workers in the Himalayas

In this article, I investigate commodification discourses and ideologies of English from the perspective of Nepali tourism workers. Drawing data from interviews with porters and trekking guides in Nepal, I argue that English is not seen as merely a transactional means to convey meaning; it works in combination with the traditional form of labor and care in the local economy, establishing itself as a powerful tool to establish closer interpersonal relationships, enhance such interpersonal relationships for economic gains and commodify local identities and cultures in the tourism market. The interview and ethnographic details show that language learners are agentive and capable of making sense of their actions by positioning themselves variously in terms of ethnicity, economic class and job category. These workers think that tourists' linguistic and financial resources are the empowering tools that enable them to travel to locations that they want. They also want to empower themselves with English skills and translocal imaginaries to travel and see the world beyond their immediate reach. Repertoires in English are considered as instruments to mediate their imaginaries and the foreign worlds they want to be part of.

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