UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A female refugee’s investment in multiple literacies post-migration Crosbie, Kathryn Louise


As the immigration and refugee intake rates continue to rise in Canada, English Language Learning (ELL) schools, centres and programs strive to keep pace with the demand. ELL educators are being propelled to think and teach in new ways that meet the needs of learners living in a digital age. Some learners arrive with competency in English language literacies and/or digital literacies, while others do not. For learners who possess minimal traditional print based and/or digital literacies, integrating into modern Canadian society can prove extremely challenging. This case study explores one such learner’s engagement with ELL and other literacies in a multicultural, modern urban centre on the West Coast of Canada. Semi-structured interviews, informal observations and conversations were the methods used to provide a holistic overview of the participant’s language learning process. The findings of this research demonstrate how identity is linked to investment in ELL as a means to increase economic, cultural and/or social capital. When the dominant ideology positioned the participant as an outsider because of her low level of proficiency in spoken English, she was prevented access to meaningful employment and denied a sense of independence, leading her to be creative in constructing an “imagined identity” that would better her life chances. Similarly, she was silenced and excluded from online spaces and membership in a discourse community because of a lack of digital literacy. The participant also struggled to “read” the sociocultural literacy of her new environment and felt positioned as an outsider, unable to judge situations and people accurately. While her English language literacy development was limited, relative to her classmates, over the course of her two-year study, she did eventually develop the sociocultural literacy necessary to evaluate her life prospects and construct a new identity, which led to an increase in her symbolic capital and overall well-being.

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