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UBC Theses and Dissertations

If I didn’t have professional dreams maybe I wouldn’t think of leaving Torres-Olave, Blanca Minerva

Abstract

In this qualitative multiple case study, I explored the identities of students in a Lengua Inglesa major in a northern Mexican university. By applying a theoretical framework of imagined communities (Anderson, 1991; Norton, 2000; Wenger, 1998), I examined the ways in which the identities of these students are negotiated as the students move within and across linguistic and cultural communities. I attempted to answer four main questions: What are the students’ imagined communities at the beginning of the program? What are the students’ imagined communities towards the end of the program? What may be the impact on students’ identity/imagined communities of receiving instruction in a foreign language while surrounded by their native language and culture? The study took place at a Lengua Inglesa major that operates within the School of Humanities at a university located near the U.S.-Mexico border. Data collection took place from February through April 2006, and consisted in two rounds of semi-structured interviews with five first-year students, four fourth-year students, as well as four full-time professors and three sessional instructors. I used an open-ended interview guide to facilitate the interview process. Since all of the participants were fluent in both Spanish and English, as I was, they were given the choice of conducting the interview in either language. The interviews were digitally recorded and subsequently transcribed, coded, and analyzed thematically. The findings of this study suggest that students imagine a Lengua Inglesa degree will provide them with linguistic resources and knowledge necessary to access a wide range of imagined communities both within and beyond national boundaries. This vision seems to be reinforced by the futures that the Lengua Inglesa professors envision for Lengua Inglesa graduates, which includes the adoption of an identity as English-language-professionals. As part of this identity, Lengua Inglesa students are expected to develop professional skills and a strong work ethic that allows them gain access to a wide range of professional and academic imagined communities. This identity helps establish clear boundaries between Lengua Inglesa and surrounding learning communities that the Lengua Inglesa community perceives as having impoverished futures.

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