Religious Beliefs and the English Language Teaching Profession: Metaphors of Teachers’ Self-understandings

Document Type : Original Article


School of Humanities, Languages Department, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, Bogotá, Colombia


The relation between English language teaching and religion has not been given sufficient attention. Most of the existing explorations of this relationship have tended to reify Western-biased outlooks of this phenomenon, which rightly highlight serious moral dilemmas derived from a focus on Christian evangelization, neo-imperialist dynamics attached to the spread of English, and valid questions about the quality of teaching while proselytizing (e.g. Edge, 2003; Pennycook & Coutand-Marin, 2003). This body of work, however, fails to consider other possible and multiple ways in which religious values come to bear in ELT considering, for instance, non-Western, less globalized, and less diverse contexts such as rural locales in a South American country. This paper presents an alternative outlook, drawing on a narrative study of the current state of ELT in rural Colombia. The analysis uncovers religion-informed metaphors that illuminate how the spiritual values of eight teachers intersect with their professional identities. It suggests that spirituality plays a central role in helping teachers navigate the complex sociocultural conditions of teaching English in rural areas, influencing their roles beyond language instruction.