Choices of performed identities: Negotiating, constructing and displaying appropriateness in an adult ESL classroom for teaching and learning communicative competence

Mitsuo Kubota, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

After more than two decades since the concept of communicative competence was applied to language teaching, the process of teaching communicative competence has generated a considerable amount of discussion regarding the difficulty of learning it, the feasibility of teaching it and the adequacy of teaching and learning it. This ethnographically oriented discourse analytic study sheds light on the discussion by describing, interpreting and explaining what happened in an adult English as a Second Language (ESL) class that focused on one component of communicative competence—appropriate speech behavior in American English. ^ While collecting data through classroom observations, machine recordings of classroom interactions and interviews with the teachers and students, the analyses started with an examination of the assumptions and expectations (frames) of the curriculum writers and participants in order to understand the world views that they bring to the classroom toward a variety of factors such as appropriate speech behavior in American culture and the development of interlanguage pragmatics. The linguistic behaviors of the teachers and students were then examined to understand how these frames were reflected on their actual linguistic performances. ^ The analyses demonstrated that the students constantly negotiate, construct and choose to display identities that I refer to as “performed identities.” The examinations of the students' linguistic behaviors showed that particular linguistic markers, which they believe characterize American English, were used to perform American identity. While some students incorporated these markers to be perceived as appropriate, some resisted their use believing that they can perform their native-language identity and still be appropriate. The teachers also used a variety of discourse strategies such as hesitations and assertions to express their positions toward the students' choices of performed identities. ^ Based on the findings, I suggest a reconsideration of the concept of “target” in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) for adult learners. I also argue for the importance of incorporating students' choices of performed identity into the application of the concept of communicative competence. ^

Subject Area

Education, Language and Literature|Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Mitsuo Kubota, "Choices of performed identities: Negotiating, constructing and displaying appropriateness in an adult ESL classroom for teaching and learning communicative competence" (January 1, 1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI9913487.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9913487

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