Experiences and interpretations of learning English language and culture by non -western European non -native speakers

Mika Okawa, University of Pennsylvania


My research study focuses on the ways in which culture mediated language among a group of non-European language learners in the context of my field work, some of whose experiences to learn English were laden with problems of access to cultural resources and agency which draws from it to develop a versatile social repertoire. There are various studies that examine the social and cultural influences on education and learning of marginal identities around issues of empowerment and the relationship of the second language teaching and learning to knowledge, power and identity. In such social and cultural enquiries, many researchers cogently argue that the existing educational systems and practices constrain the development of identity and knowledge in minority and underprivileged students. In spite of the proliferation of such critical examinations of language and literacy in the contexts of culture, there are very few studies that explicitly include ethical issues of research to enable scrutiny of these in substantive ways to further address the problem of social inequalities under investigation. To this end, this study dually attempts to contribute to the knowledge base by exploring the ways in which non-European students in non-academic programs construct meanings of English in an Ivy League school setting, combined with the ways in which their readings of my (researcher's) social location intervened with my learning and thus the results of research, moderated by the extent to which I remained open to reflexive approaches through the course of and at all levels of my enquiry, including research design, data collection and analysis and each expected stage of writing. The nonlinguistic outcomes of this study demonstrate the ways in which sustained reflexive methodologies open windows on the ways in which the research participants' interaction with and against the primary investigator bears on the local experiences and interpretations of English, including improvisational strategies drawn and woven from readings, reification and valuation of prevailing discursive practices and contingent identities.

Subject Area

Language arts|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

Okawa, Mika, "Experiences and interpretations of learning English language and culture by non -western European non -native speakers" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3255857.