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UBC Theses and Dissertations

More than a tape-recorder : negotiations of English language teacher identities in the JET Program in Japan Takeda, Yuya


The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Programme) is currently one of the largest government-sponsored programs for recruiting English language teachers in the world (Nagatomo, 2016). This year, 2017, marks the 30th anniversary since its launch, and the Japanese government has announced its plan to expand the scale of the program as a response to globalization (Uemura, Urabayashi, & Emoto, 2014). While the JET Programme’s contribution to the internationalization of the Japanese education system has been recognized (McConnell, 2000), scholars have also pointed out a number of issues within the JET Programme, such as lack of inclusion of assistant language teachers (ALTs) (McConnell, 2000), frequent miscommunications between Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) and ALTs (Muroi & Mochizuki, 2010), reinforcement of the perceived superiority of English over other languages (Kubota, 2002), and reinforcement of the essentialist view of culture (Kobayashi, 2011). However, few studies have investigated how the identities of ALTs are assigned, negotiated, and resisted. Through Gee’s (2014) D/discourse analysis, this study investigates how six ALTs construct their teacher identity—the way in which they come to understand themselves as teachers—during the program. This study highlights how issues within the JET Programme, such as the ones listed above, are discursively (re)produced. Drawing on Gee’s (2015) notion of Discourse (with a capital D), this study pays particular attention to how ALTs participate in the meaning-making practice in their schools’ community. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews conducted over Skype. Fine-grained analysis of discourse illuminates the interaction between the macro-level discourse (i.e., nihonjinron [theory of Japaneseness] and kokusaika [internationalization]) and language ideology (i.e., “monolingual bias”; Kachru, 1994), the meso-level structure of the JET Programme, and the micro-level practices at participants’ schools. The findings show various ways in which ALTs struggled to attain membership in their schools’ Discursive community due to their racial, gender, linguistic, and employment statuses. Even those who successfully attained a certain level of membership in their schools’ Discourses were under constant fear of delegitimatization because of their marked foreignness. Based on the findings, this study offers implications for the JET Programme and advocates macro-, meso-, and micro-level changes.

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