The Role of Emotion on Identity Negotiation of Undergraduates in English Language Usage in Academia

Author: Nedha de Silva (University of Colombo, Sri Lanka)
Speaker: Nedha de Silva
Topic: Language Dialect Sociolect Genre
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


In English as a Second Language (ESL) research, there has been much emphasis on the emotionality of the learner identities. However, within the Sri Lankan context, where English plays a vital role, the bulk of research has been rather negligent despite the interplay of English and the vernaculars in various fields such as education and employment. In the tertiary educational setting, the medium of instruction ranges from local vernaculars to English. However, in some of the courses especially in Social sciences in which the language of instruction is Sinhala/ Tamil, a limited portion of material are presented to undergraduates in English.

This study attempts to investigate the role of language in the undergraduate identity with special reference to the English language in academia and how undergraduates represent individual emotions towards language aligning to their identities. The study was conducted in the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo. A cross-sectional research design was utilized where data was gathered through a case study method where in-depth interviews and identity portraits were utilized as the key research tools. A voluntary sampling method was used to select eight participants.

The findings highlighted that language played a key role in the construction of the undergraduate identity, emotionality and its alteration especially as undergraduates enter the university subculture where there is much emphasis towards English language not only in academics but throughout the tertiary educational system. This leads to a negotiation of the identity of the undergraduates as they attempt to question their previous identity with the new identity as an undergraduate with the new role of English in their lives.


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Keywords: Academic performance, undergraduate identity, English language, emotion, investment