Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity, and educational changeBilingual Research Journal, Winter 2001 by Potowski, KimNorton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity, and educational change. Essex, England: Longman. Language learning is a complex endeavor that depends on both universal cognitive processes and social context. Research on second language acquisition (SLA) has traditionally focused on the former, utilizing quantitative studies of linguistic products. These include the order in which second language (L2) morphemes are acquired, learners' errors, and the stages of inter-language development. This perspective may be akin to measuring the growth patterns of plants under different conditions of light, water, and soil. Early investigations of nonlinguistic variables included Gardner and Lambert's (1974) attempts to quantify an individual's commitment to learning a second language using the concept of motivation. It seems intuitively obvious that the more a learner "wants" to learn a second language, the more successful she will ultimately be in doing so. But if motivation is viewed as something learners either have or do not have enough of, we run the risk of placing the blame for mediocre language learning completely on the learner and ignoring the fact that an individual's motivation is rooted in his social surroundings. Similarly, one would be mistaken to blame an oak tree for not being "motivated" enough to thrive inside of a 10-foot cage. A growing body of research in English as a second language (ESL), including Norton Peirce (1995), Willett (1995), and McKay and Wong (1996), has used ethnographic approaches to analyze the processes of second language learning. These researchers emphasize that a second language is not simply a skill set acquired through persistence and practice. It involves complex social interactions and power differentials that engage the identities of language learners in ways that have received little attention from SLA researchers (Norton Peirce, 1995). These authors shed light on the 10-foot cages and other impediments to language development experienced by both adult and child language learners, particularly those in an immigrant context.
· 1 decade ago