Doctoral Dissertation

University College London Institute of Education, UK

Monolingualism, Neoliberalism and Language-as-Problem:  Discourse Itineraries in Canadian University Language Policy

Supervisors: Dr. Amos Paran, Dr. Jim McKinley

Internationalization policies to promote international student enrolment at many Canadian universities have led to increased levels of linguistic diversity in the student body. However, institutional language policy responses to this diversity may be lacking, may centre a monolingual mindset or may discursively position the issue of the English language proficiency and development of students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in a framing of deficit. This study maps changing and conflicting “discourse itineraries” (Scollon, 2008:234), the taken-for-granted ideas, constraints and allowances at play discursively in institutional language policy. This was done via a multiple case study of three Canadian universities, where critical discourse analysis (CDA) was carried out on a variety of policy documents related to language, academic literacy and internationalization at the provincial (macro) and institutional and faculty (meso) levels and stakeholders at these institutions were interviewed.

This analysis revealed, first, that much language policy at these three institutions is covert, implicit and de facto. Two prominent discourses were also found: Language-as-Problem (Ruiz, 1984) and Neoliberalism and Language, each with pervasive sub-discourses—notably the Monolingual Mindset—that shape the creation of language policy at these universities. Discursive change is underway, however, as conflicting discourses were found at all institutions. In certain cases, there is a shift away from Language-as-Problem, influenced by a neoliberal focus on the English language as economic instrument. Building on Ruiz’s (1984) orientations toward language planning, this thesis proposes a new policy analytic heuristic to further describe the extent to which institutions ignore, blame, support or embrace language at different policy levels. As well, suggestions are made for Canadian higher education (HE) language stakeholders about how to realign discourses and bring about social change via critical language awareness-raising and policy-making. The ultimate goal is to provide a more equitable academic experience within Canadian HE for students from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Ruiz, R. (1984). Orientations in language planning. NABE journal8(2), 15-34.

Master of Arts in TESOL , Final Report

University College London Institute of Education, UK      

Social Identity and Chinese Undergraduates in the Rural Canadian Context

Supervisor: Dr. David Block

The changing landscape of Canadian higher education means that universities that had previously catered to a mainly domestic clientele are now welcoming increasing numbers of non-native English speaking (NNES) international students. With the objective of better understanding the NNES student experience, this report examines the emerging social identities of four Chinese undergraduates at a small university in rural Canada. Through interviews and subsequent narrative analysis, small talk encounters between these students and their native English (NES) speaking Canadian peers emerged as sites of tension. The students’ voice and silence in small talk interplayed with their symbolic investment in learning English and their entrance into an imagined community of mobile, multilingual international students in addition to the local communities of their peers. Participants adopted strategies such as apprenticeship, shifting affiliations and personal development in response to being constrained by the discourse around foreign students. Suggestions for how to approach these themes of social identity in the EAP classroom are discussed.

Sociolinguistics Research Assistant

McGill University, Canada

Supervisor: Dr. Charles Boberg

As an undergraduate linguistics student at McGill University, I assisted in research duties for two sociolinguistic and dialectological studies of Canadian and Montreal English. I performed acoustic analysis, transcription, data manipulation, sociolinguistic interviews. The results of these studies are featured in the book Boberg, C. (2010). The English Language in Canada: Status, History and Comparative Analysis. Cambridge University Press.