Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Lyn Wright

Committee Member

Teresa Dalle

Committee Member

Emily Thrush

Committee Member

Sage Graham


Driven by Nortons (2012) concept of investment and the role of agency and identity in second language acquisition, this study investigated the relationship between religion, cultural identity, and language learning investment among four female Saudi dependent students in an intensive English institute (IEI) in the US. The study examined how students invested their agency as mothers and wives to learn English and how such factors as their Islamic garb, co-educational classes, family, friends, teachers, and class activities increased or decreased their learning opportunities.Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with each participant. Two had dropped out of the IEI, and two were still enrolled at the time of data collection. Data were also collected by observing the enrolled participants once a week in a language class for two months. Short follow-up interviews were conducted after each observation to learn more about their weekly performance and any challenges they encountered. The findings revealed that aspects of participants religious and cultural identity influenced their investment in learning English. Experiencing a co-educational class for the first time increased the feeling of anxiety toward participating in class for some students, and negative attitudes toward their Islamic garb could also influence their language learning investment in class. As a result, they showed two types of resistance: 1) disengagement from classroom activities as indicated by not attending class, not engaging in activities, skipping exams, and failing courses and 2) resistance against Islamophobia and discrimination, which worked as a facilitator for one student to learn English. Furthermore, these dependent students were expected to meet responsibilities at home, which could constrain their language learning investment. Some resisted their positioning as students and failed to learn English in class because they could not compromise between their roles as wives/mothers and students. In contrast, participants who negotiated their cultural identity found ways to invest in learning English that did not contradict their values, such as practicing with Americans outside class, not sitting next to male classmates, using websites to practice rather than attending social events, reading books, and watching television and movies in English.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.