While reading Bonny Norton Chapter about Identity and Language Learning which was kindly shared at EVO Mentoring 2013 for Week 3, I connected it straight away with something I realized was going on last year- most students although seem to be motivated to learn a second language, they seem also not willing to invest in it orally. It just seemed oddly unsurprising that the more pressure students got into speaking, less they seem to engage in the oral skills tasks.
She raised the following point,
“[..]opportunities to practice English is structured by unequal relations of power in the home/work.” ( p.2)
” seeks out opportunities to learn the language, is highly motivated, has good attention to detail, can tolerate ambiguity and has low levels of anxiety.” (p.3)
Then, we could easily agree also that a student who doesn’t match the description above,
“might be considered unmotivated and inflexible.” (p.3)
I never thought of this as I never considered that my identity as I understood it was at stake when I was learning a second/ third language, especially as I have lived in other countries for while. For me language IS a powerful tool for communication and integration into the community that I had never thought of it as something negative at all, as I was so eager to acquire their languages, be able to communicate and become independent. I still remember how proud I was the first time I was able to get a cab to my favorite store and had to negotiate the fare while learning Arabic, or when I traveled from Alexandria to Cairo on my own by train. Or when I didn’t need to carry a dictionary around anymore in London.
By reading what Bonny refers to by identity and contrasting it with my own experience in language learning, I discovered that my sense of identity never felt at stake because I never felt overpowered at the time and had a clear picture of the effect of it in my future. It makes sense to me and makes me go back to the beginning of 2012 when students were asked to write on a slip of paper ( see pictures above of the box) why they were learning English and most of their answers reflected an impossed commitment to study the language as this perspective usually leads us to think of them just as unmotivated.
“[..] identity is how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future.” (p. 5)
I’m intriguid now and I wonder how each individual that steps into my classroom see the world and relate to it when comes to second language learning? And how does his/her view of it affect his/her own learning?
Why do learners, even those that seem so motivated to learn, freeze at the chance of interacting with speakers of English? There is a number of students’ names that come to my mind while I’m writing this post.
Book added to my to-buy-list this semester:
Updated on 02/26/2013
It is not so much about learner identity, but I thought it brings some new thoughts on discussion of culture knowledge and multilingual identity.