Gazing into the Dragon's Mouth: the Precarity of Language Work
The title is a reference to an episode in the classical Malay work, the Hikayat Hang Tuah (Story of Hang Tuah). Hang Tuah is considered by many the culture hero par excellence. Although invoked mainly for his courage and loyalty, I argue that his is a story of negotiating the linguistically diverse world circa the 16th-17th centuries: as an emissary from both the Malay world and India he learns the languages and customs of many countries and travels from Constantinople to India, China, Southeast Asia and the Nusantara archipelago; he encounters also the Dutch and the Portuguese. One of the tasks he is given is to gaze into the mouth of the dragon (in which is hidden the emperor of China, whose face no stranger is allowed to see). This episode reveals the danger inherent in language work, and I use it as an extended metaphor for the crucial yet precarious nature of language teaching in academia today.
E-mail Dr. Tiwon: email@example.com
COTSEAL/SEASSI 2014 Conference Information