Korean jogiyuhaksaeng's early study abroad and bilingual development in Australia

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The local processes of globalisation that have contributed to the heightened symbolic value of English in Korean society have seen an overwhelming desire for English acquisition, termed English fever. For Koreans, good English means a native-like fluency and accent which can be accomplished only by starting early with submersion in an English monolingual environment among native speakers. Jogiyuhak (early study abroad) is an embodiment of the prevalent belief that this is the best way to achieve good English with which students expected to become fluent bilinguals. Through narrative inquiry, this research examines 14 Korean youths’ lived experiences in study abroad in Australia, with a focus on academic and language development. The thesis traces the participants’ development trajectories in academic, linguistic and social adaptation, and explores self-evaluated bilinguality and their sense of inbetweenness in association with the ‘neither-language-is-fully-developed’ perception. The data show that language barriers not only impeded their initial adjustment but also had long term consequences, placing a severe constraint on pursuing academic inquiry in heavily language-dependent fields. The lack of both language repertoires and the associated feeling of discomfort that some participants revealed were related to this consequence. While such findings indicate a problematic bilinguality and a potentially significant risk of jogiyuhak, the data analysis reveals complex and varying bilingualities across individuals, suggesting that their bilingualities were constructed through their transnational life history and that language proficiency should be viewed as such rather than a set of linguistic skills. A deep analysis of the ‘lack of both language repertoires’ perception further reveals the social and ideological aspects of bilinguality. The discursively constructed bilinguality informs the aspects of language as sharedness and membership, suggesting the locally constructed nature of language proficiency and that inbetweenness was related to their transnationality. The ‘lack of language repertoires’ perception was also derived from the idealised notion of native speakers from both Korean and Australian contexts based on the monolithic and racialised view of language, culture and identity. These language ideologies were fundamentally based on an ontological view of language; language as a fixed entity and hence an object of possession. This thesis argues that such an ontological view of language is not only misleading in the process of language learning but also reproduces and perpetuates a deficit view of a language learner and a hierarchical stratification in relation to English. Alternatively, the thesis suggests that language should be viewed as social practices in particular locations, rather than a set of skills separate from what one does.
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