UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Imagined communities, symbolic capital, and the mobilization of individual linguistic resources Mendoza, Anna Veronica


Critical research in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) involves a delicate balance between two paradigms. On the one hand, the researcher strives to unearth and explain processes of systemic inequality and perpetual marginalization, as English language learners worldwide strive to accumulate linguistic and cultural capital. On the other hand, the researcher must recognize that learners have the right to invest in English, imagine future identities, and conceptualize their journeys as language learners as connected to a “better life story” (Barkhuizen, 2010; Darvin & Norton, 2015). This study employs narrative inquiry in an attempt to reconcile the two paradigms and give a holistic account of students’ experiences. The narratives of eight international graduate students in Canada reveal that those who attended international schools and were immersed in Western popular and academic culture prior to their arrival were advantaged in academic, professional, and social contexts. Additionally, while all eight established social networks in Canada, only the one white student from Western Europe who majored in North American civilization had a social network comprised mainly of Canadians. Nevertheless, four students reported being well adjusted in Canada, personally and professionally – as each had used a set of strategies tailored to her/his individual situation to pursue an imagined future. Findings suggest that each international student must draw on her/his specific linguistic repertoire and intellectual resources to effectively navigate real and imagined communities.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada