Language Ideologies and Identity Construction Among Dual Language Youth

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Language Ideologies and Identity Construction Among Dual Language Youth

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Title: Language Ideologies and Identity Construction Among Dual Language Youth
Author: Jacobs, Jenny Eva ORCID  0000-0001-7896-2064
Citation: Jacobs, Jenny Eva. 2016. Language Ideologies and Identity Construction Among Dual Language Youth. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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Abstract: Cross-cultural learning and identity formation are an under-theorized but fundamental aspect of dual language bilingual schools, where heritage speakers and English-only learners of a foreign language are educated together through immersion in both languages (Parkes, Ruth, Anberg-Espinoza & de Jong, 2009; Reyes & Vallone, 2007). Previous research on dual language programs has shown that despite careful program designs to treat each language equally, asymmetries between Spanish and English still play out even in well-implemented programs (Palmer, 2004; Potowski, 2005).

Observation of such inequalities at the Espada School, a highly successful Spanish/English dual language school, spurred the current study, which seeks to explore in greater depth the language ideologies held by youth in such a setting.

In-depth interviews and group discussions were conducted with six middle school students who had attended the school for eight years. Drawing on Foucauldian discourse analysis and sociocultural linguistics (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005; Willig, 2009), the study sought to answer the following questions:

1) What discourses do bilingual youth at a dual language middle school draw on to talk about Spanish and English, and about speakers of each language?

2) How do they deploy these discourses of language for identity-building and world-building?

Three discourses of language were identified. The first, language as utilitarian, emphasizes the functional or practical use of language as a resource or tool. The second, language as internal, constructs language as a skill, proficiency, quality or accomplishment that is located inside the individual person. The last, language as connecting or excluding, treats language as a means of relationship-building and understanding or as leading to division between people. Analysis reveals the ways that these discourses were deployed in different ways by each participant to construct their own identities with respect to their future, their everyday language interactions and their perceptions of the relationship between language and ethnicity.

The study contributes to a theoretical understanding of ethnolinguistic and sociocultural identity formation from a youth perspective. Recommendations are also made for dual language educators interested in expanding the discourses of language available to students as one way of countering the lower status of Spanish.
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