Learning French in Hong Kong : narrative perspectives on identity construction

Abstract : This doctoral research examines the relationship between language learning and identity construction, focusing on four Hong Kong adults and their experiences of learning French. The study adopts a poststructuralist perspective on identity (Norton, 2000; Bucholtz & Hall, 2005). From this perspective, language learning is a process of identity construction which reflects ‘the desire of learners to expand their range of identities and to reach out to wider worlds’ (Pavlenko & Norton, 2007, 670). Using a narrative methodology known as ‘narrative inquiry’ (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), the study highlights the personal experiences of learners and illustrates various aspects of language learning in the age of ‘superdiversity’ (Vertovec, 2007). Using data gathered from a range of sources including in-depth interviews and language learner histories, this inquiry aims to illustrate how even ‘minor’ languages (such as French in Hong Kong) can be significant in terms of identity. The four participants investigated in this study have all studied French in formal settings, but their engagement with French has also developed through workplace and travel experiences, as well as through online interaction. The study was able to highlight the unique and personal experiences of learners and illustrates various aspects of language learning and their significance for learner identity, aspects that are often overlooked from a conventional language didactic perspective. Two major findings are that, firstly, learning ‘minor’ languages can play a significant role in learner identities despite limited levels of conventional proficiency. Secondly, the process of language learning is revealed as being one of growing intercultural awareness, an awareness that is brought to bear upon the learner’s own cultural environment and also has relevance for identity. The study concludes by highlighting the need to acknowledge the ‘diversity or multidimensionality’ of language learners in curriculum and language classrooms (e.g. Byrd Clark, 2010) as well as an increased de-territorialisation of language under conditions of superdiversity (Jacquemet, 2005). Also, pedagogical notions of language and languages need to be reconceptualised to reflect the creative, diverse and complex language repertoires of language of multilingual learners and speakers, which means rethinking the notion of language competence. The study thus offers orientations for methodology, theory and pedagogy
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Lorraine Vezy de Beaufort. Learning French in Hong Kong : narrative perspectives on identity construction. Linguistics. Université de Lorraine; University of Hong Kong, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019LORR0055⟩. ⟨tel-02283117⟩

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