Storylines: Craftartists Narratives of Identity

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Journal of Language, Identity, and Education , 2 4 : — The narrators' reference to geographical space was often a way to call attention to boundaries and boundary crossing, which made visible larger socio-historical structures or distinct cultural practices e. As learners' identities shifted, the marker of space, the physical or symbolic travelling from one space to another, marked a point of transition. Our analysis of participants' narratives revealed that interactions that take place at different times and in different circumstances are powerfully connected together by what we describe in this study as Points of transition PsoT , that is, the chain that connects these different yet connected experiences.

PsoT refer to the reasons and moments that help us to understand the relationships or connections between present and distant interactions in order to understand identities that have been co-constructed in the here and now. Using PsoT as an analytic lens situates the participants' stories, their narratively constructed identities, and our understandings of these constructions in a time-space frame. We found that points of transition revealed: 1 the shifting and situated nature of one's ownership and perceived proficiency of language, and identity constructions; 2 inconsistencies, impermanencies, and illegitimacies of these perceptions; and 3 the movement toward the future and ongoing processes of becoming language users.

In the discussion below we explain each of these themes and give examples from the students' narratives that illustrate these themes. As students explained their language learning experiences, their narrative markers of time and space made visible the ways that their own and others' perceptions of their language learning was context dependent. As the participants' learning experiences shifted across time and space so did the way they described their language proficiency.

PsoT become the hinges of the narratives, the bridge on which we travel as we seek to understand the identities constructed, linking voices in present narratives to voices in distant, untold stories. We observed students making meaning of situated identity by comparing different contexts and spaces, which made visible the tensions and importance of positionality and perceived proficiency Martin-Beltran, Martin-Beltran, M. Positioning proficiency: How students and teachers de construct language proficiency at school.

Linguistics and Education , 21 4 : — We begin with a quote from Raani's interview as she was reflecting on her LLAs. It is the shift from India to the United States 1 1 Bold text is used for analysis, to call attention to the students' use of markers of time and space. View all notes that has made me conscious to define myself in terms of proficiency because I realize that the way I express myself may not always match how other people perceive me.

My perception of myself came to be at loggerheads … with the perception others had of me … In India if someone compliments you on the proficiency of your English, it would be quite different from receiving the same compliment here in the States. Here , more often than not, such compliments could be a way of trying to make a connection between how I look and how I sound; it could be a connection between the color of my skin for instance and my fluency.

Raani, Interview Transcript.

In this example, we notice how the narrator travels metaphorically into the distance to draw on experiences in India and the United States as interactional spaces to express her identity construction in the present. In retelling her language learning experience she uses PsoT to mark the disconnection between her home context and her new space to learn.

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Raani's narrative highlights the importance of context to make sense of evaluations of language competency and the situatedness of race in relation to perceived proficiency, which also reveals how shifting notions of language ownership come into conflict across time and space. Participants also expressed awareness of the multiplicity and dynamic nature of their identities.

For instance, in her LLA1, Ying compared points in time and across space, in different educational contexts as she reflected on her shifting identity construction as English learner. In both her first and her second LLAs, she referred to China not simply as a geographical space but also as a cultural context, connected to Confucian thought which ultimately shaped her position as a student and learner of English.


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In her LLA1 and LLA2 as she moved across spaces from China, to the United Kingdom, to the United States , the once invisible cultural assumptions become visible in her own reflections of her journey as a language learner. In her first LLA she used points of transition to highlight the differences between her positive and negative experiences learning English. Contrary to my preschool cheery song-learning experience, [in middle school] I found myself sitting through every English class like a brainless machine, monotonously completing all those drills and exercises provided by the teachers without giving a thought to what I was doing, and why I was doing that.

It was against the tradition in China , at that time , for a student to challenge teachers' authority, because according to the Confucian thought, any act of questioning or doubt upon teachers' authority amounts to despise and disrespect on the part of students.

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Ying, LLA1. Ying explained her shifting construction of her own language learner identity across spaces and times as she repositioned herself as a human agent who makes conscious choices for how to exercise her power and transform her learning contexts. When recounting my journey of English learning, … I depicted myself as a victim of the traditional English teaching method … A reflective scrutiny of this autobiography, using the Activity Theory, revealed an alternative image of myself, that of human agency, who chose not to exercise my power to change the traditional pedagogy, rather than simply a victim of such pedagogy.

Ying, LLA2. Similar to Ying, Viki's retelling of her language learning experiences revealed her alternative narrative that challenged others' perceptions of her ownership and proficiency in English. In her interview Viki described the shifting nature of her ownership and perceived proficiency in English, which revealed constraints and injustices of social structures.

In Sri Lanka , I do not belong to the privileged minority who actually speak English at home ; children from these families speak English right from infancy. I do not belong to this class , right. I actually studied English as a second language, and I remember the encouragement I received from my father to do so.

Identity Norms and Narratives

I remember the struggles I had to go through, but I also remember how little by little I made it through college to the university. There , certainly I was not counted among those who could speak English fluently, according to the standards of the privileged minority.

Storylines - Elliot G. Mishler - Google Kitaplar

Viki, Interview Transcript. In Viki's narratives, we observed her use of PsoT as she made reference to her upbringing in Sri Lanka and her interactions framed by geographical and cultural space. In the face of these challenges, she crossed traditional boundaries of class membership and demonstrated the illegitimacies of such perceptions of language proficiency based on race, class, and ethnicity.

We take up further discussion on the illegitimacies of perceived proficiency in the next section. Points of transition that revealed the shifting nature of ownership and perceived proficiency of language across time and space also made visible the inherent conflicts and inconsistencies among these perceptions and positions. These excerpts from the students' narratives demonstrate the ways that participants recognized and contested illegitimate perceptions and positioning.

Storylines: Craftartists’ Narratives of Identity

Changing perspectives on good language learners. In Portraits of the L2 User. Edited by: Cook, V. Clevedon , , UK : Multilingual Matters. The idealized native speaker, reified ethnicities, and classroom realities. If I am in the process of examining and exploring the manner in which my dynamic identity impacts my understanding of my own language learning experiences, then am I in the position to provide a coherent narrative of the same?

Raani, LLA2. In this excerpt, Raani used PsoT to tie together her experiences with key concepts from the course readings, interweaving other scholars' narrative with her own. Raani's observations reflect Mishler's , concept of double arrow of time whereby she constructed her narrative retrospectively, making it possible for present and future anticipations to reshape or reconstruct understanding of past experiences.

Raani explained that her experiences in a graduate TESOL program in the United States offered her the opportunity to reflect on her language learning experiences in the light of the work of scholars with sociocultural viewpoints and caused her to look back and realize that what she once considered simple and unproblematic was, in fact, complicated, contradictory, and sometimes contentious. She, therefore, questioned the coherence of her own narrative. In her first LLA, Raani narrated her experiences of how she acquired English, beginning with how her mother taught her the English alphabet and how she learned her L2 through reading.

For example, she wrote about her childhood experience learning English, which at the time seemed effortless and unproblematic. I believe I picked up the language almost unconsciously then. To me it was not a task in language learning. I was reading books because I enjoyed them immensely. Raani, LLA1.


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  • In contrast, in her LLA2 she juxtaposed her childhood experiences on her later adult learning experiences and discovered the contradictions across learning contexts. I realize that although I wrote in detail about English language acquisition during my childhood , I am strangely silent on the past two years here in the United States. In expressing these tensions in her narrative and identity construction we see Raani use PsoT skillfully to connect different experiences, and we see PsoT as moments of clarity where she links present and distant interactions.

    She begins to recognize her learning experiences in the present as she reflects on her narration of the past. The meaning she gives to her story depends on her understanding of herself and her experiences at a given time and in a particular space, aware that these present experiences are linked to other distant experiences. Raani's explanations, using PsoT, also reveal the disconnections and disjunctures across time and space, and point to the problematic and politically situated nature of language learning.

    When language learners move from one socio-political and cultural system to another and make comparisons across space, the inherent, implicit hegemonic forces in those systems are made visible. We also observed students identifying points of transition as sites of contention, struggle, and conflict while recognizing their own agency.

    As Raani and Viki reflected on the socially constructed constraints they encountered across time and space as language learners and users, they made meaning of these PsoT framed by scholarship course readings that critically examined the native speaker NS fallacy that persists in TESOL professional communities e.

    Going beyond the native speaker in language teaching. On discourse, communication, and some fundamental concepts in SLA research. The Modern Language Journal , 81 3 : — For example, Raani explained that in an interactional space where she is perceived as a nonnative speaker, she needed to define herself as a proficient user. She justified her identity in terms of time and space as she described her history of using English: she is from India where English is an official language, and almost all her formal education was in English expressed in her LLA1.

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