UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

"If you wait, nothing will come" : returned Japanese student sojourners' shifting identities and perceptions of English Williams, Elisabeth


In Japan, discourses of globalization have come in chorus with an urgency in educational policy to raise personal and national English proficiency for individual and economic success (e.g. Kobayashi, 2011; Kubota 2013; Yamagami & Tollefson, 2011). Given that “study abroad” is often perceived as the ideal environment for both language acquisition and personal growth (Kinginger, 2009), short-term sojourns abroad in English speaking countries are promoted aggressively in many Japanese contexts. While much research has been conducted regarding Japanese sojourners during their study abroad, the impacts of study abroad after returning to Japan have yet to be explored in depth. Drawing on Norton’s (2000) theoretical concepts of identity and investment, this study investigates how experiences abroad affected the current identities of Japanese university students who previously participated in short-term English-medium study abroad programs. Participants’ views on the importance of English in their lives since returning to Japan is also examined in relation to common discourses of linguistic instrumentalism. Data were collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews with six Japanese university students over three months. This study concludes that while participants were ascribed undesirable identities abroad, their abilities to exercise agency within their social worlds during their sojourns impacted their identities both abroad and in Japan. Among male participants, interviews display challenges to perceptions of personal desirability and masculinity while abroad. Furthermore, while participants who plan to use English in the future endorsed discourses of linguistic instrumentalism, a general lack of ownership over Japanese varieties of English was also observed in participant accounts. This study’s findings imply that sojourners’ shifting identities abroad have a lasting impact on how they view themselves in relation to their social world once returning to Japan. It also illustrates how common discourses surrounding English education in Japan may contribute to delegitimizing Japanese varieties of English, and how English-medium programs abroad in non-Anglophone countries may increase ownership over personal varieties of English. Lastly, this study advocates that by study abroad programs offering debriefing sessions for returned sojourners, returnees may achieve a deeper understanding of the influences of their experiences.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada