In this article, Vo Dai Quang’s objective is to understand what is Critical Applied Linguistics (CAL) and to do so, he lists some concerns and questions that can bring a closer understanding of what critical applied linguistics means.
Quang’s concerns have to do with: “the scope and coverage of applied linguistics,” “the notion of praxis as a way of going beyond a dichotomous relation between theory and practice,” “different ways of understanding the notion ‘critical’,” “the importance of relating micro-relations of applied linguistics to macro-relations of society,” “the role of critical theory,” “critical applied linguistics as a constant questioning of assumptions,” the importance of self reflexivity in critical work,” “the role of ethically argued preferred futures,” and “an understanding of critical applied linguistics as far more than the sum of its parts.”
The article starts providing us with two definitions of Applied Linguistics by The Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics: “the study of second and foreign language learning and teaching” and “the study of language and linguistics in relation to practical problem, such as lexicography, translation, speech pathology, etc. ” The applied linguistics that critical applied linguistics deals with, explains Quang, is one that has a wide coverage, is interdisciplinary and has a certain degree of autonomy; it is not merely an application of linguistic knowledge.
Along with applied linguistics, critical applied linguistics are concerned with praxis, being critical, micro and macro relationships, critical social inquiry, critical theory, self reflexivity, preferred futures and heterosis. Critical Applied Linguistics, writes Quang, is a way of thinking and doing a continuous reflexive interaction of thought, desire and action. Critical thinking brings more rigorous analysis to problem solving or textual understanding.
A key challenge of CAL is to find ways of understanding a relation between concepts of society, since it views social relations as problematic. CAL uses analysis as a part of social critique and transformation; it is skeptic toward assumptions and ideas that are no longer questioned, it continually questions itself and is concerned with raising plenty new and difficult questions about knowledge, politics and ethics. Quang ends this section interpreting heterosis as a notion that opens the possibility of creating something new and implies a hybrid model of research and praxis.
Quang then moves on to the domains of critical applied linguistics, he point out that the domains exposed in the article are not exhaustive nor definitive but they arise from the constant scepticism and the constant normative assumptions of applied linguistics. The domains he presents are the following: critical discourse analysis and critical literacy, critical approaches to translation, language teaching, language testing, language planning and language rights, and language, literacy, and workplace settings.
After reviewing the concerns and domains of critical applied linguistics, Quang suggests that they may give us ways of dealing with some of the most crucial educational, cultural and political issues of our time. To finish his article, Quang writes: “the notion of ‘critical’ may lead to the understanding that critical applied linguistics deals with come of the central issues in language use to the extent that it may also signal a point at which applied linguistics may finally move into a new state of being”; how does that affect the relation between linguistics and applied linguistics?