PLACE, IDENTITY, AND LANGUAGE LEARNING: THE TRANSFORMATIVE ROLE OF PLACE-BASED ENGLISH LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION
Data is provided by the student.
This study examines the intersections of place and second language learning. Learner identity has been found to be an important construct in second language learning. In recent years, place and space have become central topics in the study of sociolinguistics and identity. One area of place and language that has not been studied in depth, however, is whether place plays a role in second language learning. This study begins to fill this gap by examining the second language learning experiences of thirteen Japanese study abroad students who were enrolled in an eight-week, content-based language course. The content of the course focused on the history and culture of the city in which the course was offered, Memphis, Tennessee. This study demonstrates that the students formed place attachments to the city, that these attachments led to identity shifts, and that the students identity shifts affected their language behavior, identities, and future trajectories. Thirteen Japanese university students between the ages of 18 and 19 took part in the study. Data collection included interviews with students taking the class in 2016 and course alumni from 2012 2015, their social media posts, class blog posts, classwork, and their photographs of Memphis served as the sources of data for this multi-modal study. The participant-provided photographs were also used as an interview elicitation tool. Findings from this study contribute to an understanding of the complexities of place, identity, and language learning. Whereas prior work has pointed to the social capital that can be gained through investment in a second language, this study suggests that investment in place can also lead to gains in social capital. The study also shows that when language learners engage with the history and culture of a place such as Memphis, where racial violence has played such a significant role, that place factors into their future trajectories. Specifically, the participants constructed good language learner and global citizen identities. These findings reveal the power of a place-based curriculum that offers language learners the experience of a fuller spectrum of place and thereby facilitates the difficult work involved in constructing and orienting identity.