Doctoral Researchers Abroad: Negotiating Language And Identity In A Multilingual Context

Stafford, Mary (2021). Doctoral Researchers Abroad: Negotiating Language And Identity In A Multilingual Context. EdD thesis The Open University.



This research explores how language and identity are negotiated by study abroad doctoral researchers originally from China, Brazil, Iran and Ukraine whilst studying in France. The research questions investigated the language choices made in the contexts encountered by the SA doctoral researchers, how these choices were negotiated and the potential impacts of the use of both French and English on their identities.

To address the three research questions posed in this study I have used a case study framework to explore the SA doctoral researchers’ use of language, their possibilities of negotiation of language choice as well as how these experiences impact their identities using both emic and etic perspectives. A framework was developed from the literature review, using Bourdieu’s concepts of social and linguistic capital as well as habitus. Byram’s work on intercultural awareness was also of relevance, as was Lave and Wenger’s legitimate peripheral participation. For identity the Block, Norton and Ting-Toomey’s work provided a framework. A series of three semi-structured interviews were undertaken with SA doctoral researchers on an individual basis as the main research method, research with further individual interviews with supervisors to explore the questions from another perspective. Other methods included questionnaires and observations of language use in context.

The findings show the uses and potential linguistic capital for both English and French often vary depending on the community, affecting access, even with the same members participating and impacting on identities. This can influence the investment of the participants in both languages and ultimately their experience in France. To improve participation SA doctoral researchers should learn a minimum of the local language prior to undertaking three years of study in a non-Englishspeaking country. Investment in social English for local and study abroad doctoral researchers could contribute to better understanding through third space and communication.

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