Exploring the Identity of Multilingual and Multicultural Students in a Freshman English Language Class in a Japanese University

Author: Aiko Minematsu (Sophia University)
Speaker: Aiko Minematsu
Topic: Language pedagogies
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


This presentation reports findings of an ethnographic study on learner identities of multicultural and multilingual students in an English language classroom in a Japanese university. The course was taught with a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach, in which the students were encouraged to use translanguaging as a means to learn about issues in intercultural communication as well as develop their linguistic skills in English.

Language pedagogy plays a major role in constructing learners’ desired identities as a language user, thus having the potential to both empower or disempower them in forming their future selves (Norton & Toohey, 2011). In a seemingly homogenous culture such as Japan, students with multilingual and multicultural backgrounds may feel constrained in claiming their desired self because of the pedagogical practices in the language classroom. Therefore, in an ever more globalizing world where more learners may have transnational experiences or multicultural backgrounds, it seems crucial for teachers to be sensitive to their learners’ subjectivity in the classroom and to be critical of how their language pedagogy impacts learners’ trajectories of identification.
In order to explore the role that pedagogy plays in forming learner identities, this study focused on how task design and language use policy in a CLIL course affect the identification of multilingual and multicultural learners in the classroom. Three students with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds took part in this study as key participants. Data collection took place over the period of 14 weeks, and observations of how the participants translanguage in the classroom were recorded using field notes and audio recordings, along with a collection of written work by participants and interviews with them. Data was analysed with a focus on the students’ language use in the classroom, their imagined identities as an English language user, and the extent to which they were invested in the learning activities and tasks implemented in the course.


Norton, B andToohey, K.(2011) Identity, language learning, and social change. Language Teaching,44 (4), 412-446.

Keywords: Learner Identity, Translanguaging, CLIL, Language Teaching, Multilingualism