Becoming bilingual : exploring language and literacy learning through the lens of narrative

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2009
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In this thesis, I investigate the nature of change that two adult language learners/users have experienced in learning to become bilingual through the mediation of autobiographical narrative writing. The major purposes of the thesis are to identify the nature of change that adult language learners/users have experienced in learning and using plural languages through the mediation of autobiographical writing in L2, and to examine the usefulness of narrative inquiry as a complementary research approach to understand the complexity of language and literacy learning from the learner‘s perspectives. To this end the following research questions have been posed. 1. What can learners‘ stories tell about the long-term processes of language and literacy learning? 2. What role can written autobiographical narrative play in processes of language learning? 3. What is the potential contribution of narrative inquiry to research in the field of language and literacy learning? In addressing these questions, I have drawn on socio-cultural and narrative theory to undertake a longitudinal study of two language learners/users – Satoko, a young Chinese-Japanese woman, and myself. Thus, the study comprises Satoko‘s biographical study and my own autobiographical study, in which I am simultaneously the subject and the object of inquiry. I have analysed how processes of becoming bilingual for both of us were represented in autobiographical narratives, and, in turn, how the act of writing autobiographical narratives mediated ways in which we learned to become bilingual. By utilising narrative inquiry, I have attempted to broaden the locus of research into language and literacy learning from language development to learner development. A feature of the research design implemented in the thesis is its layered approach to narrative construction and analysis. This approach has enabled me to provide detailed insights into the complex interrelationships between linguistic and non-linguistic dimensions of language learning. In particular it has enabled me to highlight the multifaceted nature of learners‘ change and the significance of affect, social relations, and transformation of identities as learners work between two languages. It has also enabled me to address ways in which learners‘ engagement with written narrative impacted both their linguistic and non-linguistic development. Outcomes from the research suggest that complex processes of language and literacy learning can be profitably examined through the notion of becoming bilingual, which entails continuous translation across languages – hence the use of the term becoming bilingual in the title of this thesis.
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