‘Chinese and English are both my languages’: Identity negotiation and language socialization of a Chinese study abroad student

Author: Tongle Sun (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Speaker: Tongle Sun
Topic: Language socialization
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Study abroad has been regarded as a critical learning experience for identity expansion and personal enhancement in many realms (e.g., linguistic, cultural, professional). Contemporary study abroad research underscores the intricacy and individuality of a study abroad experience that is influenced by a range of external and internal elements (Jackson, 2018). This presentation reports on a mixed-method, largely qualitative, longitudinal study that investigated the language identities and socialization of semester-abroad Chinese international exchange students in an English-speaking country.

Underpinned by the post-structuralist stance of identity (e.g., Block, 2007), the construct of language socialization (e.g., Duff, 2007), and Benson et al.’s (2013) second language identity development model, the longitudinal study traced the developmental trajectories of the sojourners before, during, and after an exchange semester, as well as six-month after the sojourn. Mixed-method data were collected at strategic intervals through questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, email prompts, and multimodal entries (e.g., photographs). NVivo 11 Pro, a qualitative software tool, was used to assist data processing and analysis. Quantitative, qualitative, and multimodal data were compared and triangulated to develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of such academic mobility.

This presentation centers on the study abroad experience of one of the focal case participants, a Chinese female engineering student from a Hong Kong university who joined a semester-long international exchange program in the U.S. After the theoretical underpinnings and methodologies are presented, the presentation unveils the focal case participant’s language and intercultural learning journey and the negotiation and (re)construction of multilingual identities. Multifarious variables (e.g., agency, language/cultural attitudes, emotions, self-efficacy, social network) that appear to influence language identities and socialization and sojourn outcomes are underscored. Implications (e.g., pedagogical interventions) are discussed to optimize future study abroad practices. Suggestions for further studies are also discussed.