The construction of language attitudes, English(es), and identities in written accounts of Japanese youths

PhD Thesis


Saito, Akihiro. 2013. The construction of language attitudes, English(es), and identities in written accounts of Japanese youths. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

The construction of language attitudes, English(es), and identities in written accounts of Japanese youths

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorSaito, Akihiro
SupervisorO'Neill, Shirley
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages256
Year2013
Abstract

This dissertation reports on a study that explored the discursive parameters that construct a cultural context of English language learning and teaching (ELT) as it relates to Japan. The study draws on data elicited as written essays about the English language spread in and outside of Japanese society. The essays were written by 32 Japanese university students who were studying on an English language and culture program hosted at a regional Australian university. By tapping into their written essays or 'discourses' around the English language spread, the dissertation presents a perspective upon how the English language comes to be constructed in the discursive dynamism of evaluative practices in participants’ language, and their discourses in turn shape their stakes and positions vis-à-vis the spread of English and ELT in a social landscape that they are a part. In the event, it is shown that these discursive practices bring to light the cultural context in which socio-cultural practices pertaining to the English language spread and ELT, which give rise to the people’s attitudes and/or evaluative practices, identities, and moral values, inter alia.

A review of the literature indicates that there abound research narratives about the English language spread on the global scale, yet there remain corners that warrant further exploration in the cultural context of ELT in and relating to a periphery, such as Japan. Whilst those professional narratives about English and ELT provide important insight about the context in which teaching practices take place every day, any attempt at a global perspective on the issue can neglect a range of nuances and subtleties that construct contours of a particular, more local-level context. In pursuit of an insight into the landscape of English and ELT relating to Japan, the present dissertation places an emphasis on the grass-roots’ perspective by examining the discourses produced by Japanese youths learning English overseas in line with discursive psychological theory of attitude (among other psychosocial constructs) about English and English language learning.

In concert with the proposition for a methodological reconsideration in applied linguistics (Hyrkstedt & Kalaja, 1998; Kalaja, 1995), two discourse-analytic methods which had been informed by a paradigmatic shift in social psychology are used. The first thematic discourse analysis method works to identify the recurring themes in the participants’ discourses about English and ELT. In doing so, the dissertation highlights the key cultural and socio-political artefacts that enable a visualisation of the macro-micro and/or structure-agency relations implicated in ELT as it relates to Japan. The second analysis chapter investigates the practices and resources used to construct the participants’ discourses. It uses an eclectic of several analytic concepts such as, interpretative repertoire, positioning and subject position.

Unlike mainstream applied language research under the tacit rubric of positivism, the dissertation applies a qualitative, interpretative approach, which draws upon social constructionist thought, to language attitudes research in the context of English as a foreign language in Japan in particular. In this way, the dissertation explores an application possibility and reinforces the confidence of discourse analytic methodology in a culturally different context. It concludes that future research requires a more modal variation in data elicitation and interpretative framework in order to gain an extended insight into the complexity of discourses around the English language spread and ELT in Japanese and other contexts.

KeywordsEnglish language learning; teaching (ELT); Japan; Japanese society; discourses; evaluative practices; English language spread; Japanese youths; language construction; language attitudes
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470307. English language
470306. English as a second language
470399. Language studies not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Education
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