Ryuko Kubota


Research Classification

Research Interests

critical applied linguistics
culture and language
Language Rights and Policies
language education
language ideologies
multicultural education
race and language teaching

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Research Methodology

Qualitative Research


Master's students
Doctoral students
Any time / year round

Antiracist and justice-oriented language education

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.

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These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


I'll take this chance to express my thanks and good fortune in working with a truly great supervisor, Prof. Ryuko Kubota. I am continually grateful for your insight, encouragement, and generosity with time and opportunities for growth. #GreatSupervisor #UBC

One example from many: She supervised three of us for an independent course of study on research methodologies. While on sabbatical. She even Skyped in to our discussion meetings from Japan in the VERY early hours of the morning. Above and beyond and I thank you for it


Such a great way to show our gratitude @youbc thank you Dr. Ryuko Kubota and Dr. Bonny Norton for being the #GREATsupervisor


When I was trying to balance between my family and study, Dr. Kubota always showed her understanding and support; when I was struggling with my research ideas and needed to talk, Dr. Kubota always spent the time helping me (re)construct my ideas and thoughts. She replies to emails in a prompt manner and she always offers support. Thank you, #GreatSupervisor Dr. Ryuko Kubota.

Jun Ma (2017)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Illuminating (dis)enlightenment : critical media literacy and/or conspiracy theories? (2023)

The point of departure of this dissertation is the striking similarities between the dispositions critical media literacy education aims to cultivate and the characteristics conspiracy theorists claim to embody. The golden question of critical literacy, “who benefits?” is in fact the central question of conspiracy theorists: “cui bono?” While critical media literacy educators teach learners to disrupt the common sense, to interrogate multiple viewpoints, to focus on sociopolitical issues, and to take actions and promote social justice (Lewison et al., 2002), conspiracy theorists claim that they do exactly those things (Harambam, 2020). The question, however, is not demarcating “critical” from “conspiratorial,” but “desirable” from “undesirable” exercises of critical reading and writing. This is because the former demarcation presupposes the undesirability of conspiracy theorizing, the danger of which is evident from the fact that actual conspiracies take place rather frequently in politics and, thus, stigmatization of conspiracy theorizing makes it easier for conspirators to get away with their conspiracies (Pigden, 2007). To demarcate educationally desirable from undesirable enactments of critical reading and writing, this dissertation embarks on dialectical investigations of analysis, critique, and argument. The analysis part consists of discourse analysis of educational YouTube videos on conspiracy theories. With this, I identify the ways in which conspiracy theories are constructed in educational discourse and highlight the reductive sense of rationality promoted in it. In the critique part, such a reductive sense of rationality is criticized. Through a conceptual examination of meanings, care, and values, I highlight the limitations of the overreliance on scientific objectivity and facts in the discussion of conspiracy theories and claim that literacy education ought to pay attention to the centrality of meanings and values in the textual genre of conspiracy theories. In the argument part, drawing on Robert Brandom’s (1994, 2019) inferentialism with an existentialist spin, I argue for an educational approach that is capable of accounting for conspiracy theories in terms not only of epistemic matters of facts but also of axiological matters of concern. Through this, I offer my answer to the demarcation question and discuss educational implications that arise from it.

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An investigation into the nature of first language dissociation, and its causes in Japanese-English late plurilinguals (2022)

Despite common-sense assumptions that the bond between a person and their mother tongue is inviolable when they spend their childhood as a monolingual user of the dominant societal language, some Japanese people who became users of English after childhood (late plurilinguals, or LPs) have reported a wish to distance themselves from their first linguaculture, Japanese. In this study, I used critical realist grounded theory method to construct theory that explains the nature and causes of this phenomenon. Analysing the linguistic (auto)biographies of 17 LP participants, I conceptualised the phenomenon as first language dissociation (FLD). I defined FLD as a relatively enduring psychosocial process through which a person distances themselves from their L1 because of its entanglement with, and subsequent connotation of, perceived impediments to their current or future flourishing. I identified a complex set of push/pull causes operating at various levels of the psychosocial world that form the causal mechanism for FLD among Japanese-English LPs. Causes that pushed the participants away from the Japanese linguaculture included intersubjective conflict with norms associated with the Japanese linguaculture or with Japanese-speaking significant others (a conflictive state I termed contrasubjectivity), and self-Orientalist linguaculture ideologies, often inculcated through language education. These push causes result in a form of negative affect: undesire. Undesire adheres to a once-desired object—in this case, Japanese—that has come to connote illbeing, and compels one to distance oneself from it. Concurrently, the onset of acquisition of a second language—English, with its attendant ideologies—opens up a psychological mirror dimension that promises greater intersubjective harmony, or prosubjectivity. This contrast between the negative affective valence of the Japanese linguaculture and the positive affective valence of the English linguaculture intensifies over time and is further amplified as those experiencing FLD engage in a variety of distancing behaviours. Finally, I established the conditions under which some Japanese-English LPs who have experienced FLD might reassociate with their first linguaculture. I conclude the dissertation by summarising my theory, reflecting on the strengths and limitations of the study, and discussing its implications for the fields of applied linguistics, multilingualism and critical language pedagogy.

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Minor videos and becoming-Japanese: problematizing [co][existence] and envisioning alternative futures of young migrants' lives in Japan (2022)

This dissertation describes the production and governance of young migrants in Japan as (educational) ‘problems’ and ‘deficits.’ It examines the discursive and non-discursive contexts of the Japanese government’s ethnocentric policy aspirations to realize multicultural coexistence against a backdrop of increasing newcomer populations. It notes, however, that the policy aspirations are problematic because they uphold a majoritarian ideals based on ‘cosmeticism,’ ‘paternalism,’ and ‘difference-blindness.’ Such ideals are premised on an ontology of Japanese exceptionalism known as Nihonjinron. Young migrants’ disinvestment is a by-product of the contradictory policy aspirations of coexistence and Nihonjinron through which they get labeled as deficits based on unilateral assessments of their Japanese language abilities. Disinvested young migrants are placed in a bracketed state of [co][existence] which delimits their lives a priori as forms of non-living and non-existence. The prime objective of the research project for this dissertation was to suspend the policy aspirations of [co][existence] to assist six disinvested young migrants of JSL centre Kaede in reinvesting amid the contested policy landscape in order to envision alternative futures. My attempts at aiding their reinvestment entailed intervening through the theoretical lenses of a ‘policy problematization,’ which was plugged into Multiple Literacies Theory’s (MLT’s) reontologized notion of literacies and subjectivities. The research mapped the MLT-informed literacies as ‘sense,’ ‘intensive,’ and ‘immanent’ readings and new subjectivities as becoming within the affective policy landscapes of [co][existence]. The research pursued these goals by co-creating videos through a post-qualitative methodology of what I call ‘minor video-making,’ in which a group of young migrants and myself as researcher-educator-videographer collaborated as ‘intercessors’ to produce two short docufictions titled Watermelons and Humans and Always. I subsequently analyzed these videos with principles of Deleuzian film/cinema-philosophy to assist the participants in developing aspirations, hopes, and subjectivities for alternative forms of coexistence in Japan. Becoming-Japanese was our joint reinvestment in challenging both our fixed points of identity and the logics and rationalities of [co][existence] policy aspirations. During the minor video-making and subsequent analysis processes, the participants developed and demonstrated parallel thoughts and practices that generated the potential for other modes of life and existence for them in Japan.

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Exchanging Stories: a narrative ethnography of immigrant seniors' english language learning experiences (2019)

The growth of the ageing population worldwide has been noted as one of the “major forces shaping the 21st century” (World Health Organization, 2007, p. 6). Reflecting the trends of global demographics, Canadian census indicates that the proportion of seniors is rapidly growing across Canadian provinces (Statistics Canada, 2014). However, one peculiarity of the Canadian context is that the increased number of seniors can be in part attributed to immigration patterns. With many immigrant seniors arriving in Canada with little to no English, language learning support becomes a significant issue for research, educational practice, and seniors’ wellbeing. By drawing on the theoretical constructs of the contact zone and agency, this thesis examines the role of English language learning in the lives of ageing immigrants in Canada. Ten immigrant seniors participated in a customized language learning class in a community-based program, which was centered on narrative expression as the main pedagogical strategy. The participants were asked to create written and multimodal texts in response to a series of prompts about their language learning and use upon arrival in Canada. In addition, each of the participants was interviewed about their language learning experiences. Thematic analysis of written, spoken, and multimodal data suggests that senior adult language learners seek social connection through agentive undertakings of language learning. The oral and written narratives of the participants portray language learning as a way to grow social circles and work through experiences of racism, ageism, and linguicism. In addition, practices observed during the classroom-based ethnography support the use of narrative as a core pedagogical practice, and story-sharing as a strategy to facilitate language learning in community-based settings.

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From language learners to bilingual providers: Second language socialization of bilingual mothers in South Korea (2018)

In the context of unprecedented globalization and migration flows, South Korea, known for promoting the modern nation-state’s ‘one-nation, one-language’ ideology, has undergone recalibration of its national identity and language ideologies. Since the mid-2000s, the South Korean government has developed a dual contradictory bilingual framework—assimilative Korean as a Second Language and celebratory multilingual development—particularly for damunhwa (multicultural) families consisting of international marriages between Korean men and foreign women and their children. Despite the government’s enthusiastic development of language policy, little is known of the grounds on which this bilingual initiative was established and how it is practiced in families. Adopting an approach that Bronson and Watson-Gegeo (2008) have called “language socialization as topic,” this qualitative study employed a document analysis and interviews to investigate the representational practices of foreign mothers across their lifespan in South Korea. I first address how the national-level language policy guides the regulation of foreign mothers’ four linear life trajectories: marriage, migration, childbirth and education, and home economics. Findings from the policy analysis represent the government’s (1) emphasis on damunhwa mothers’ exclusive use of Korean, (2) selective recommendation of heritage/foreign language for nationalistic purposes, and (3) discouragement of heritage language use in damunhwa families. They also demonstrate the government’s lack of concern with the roles of Korean fathers in family language socialization. The four damunhwa mothers in this study—from Japan, China, Vietnam, and Kyrgyzstan—presented their survival stories on learning to become dedicated mothers who are expected to use Korean with their children. Their narratives also demonstrate how the linguistic hierarchy is exacerbated and how they are demoralized in their bilingual workplaces. The mothers’ stated promotion of heritage languages often serves instrumental purposes rather than fostering bilingual and bicultural identities. These findings explain how damunhwa mothers have become the heart of linguistic nationalism in globalized times for South Korea, where the government has failed to recognize the fundamental importance of the situated nature of multilingual socialization of families. Through illuminating what has been neglected by policy makers, this dissertation calls for more equitable and gender-sensitive approaches to bilingual education in transnational and translingual times.

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The writing center as a global pedagogy: a case study of a Japanese university seeking internationalization (2017)

The writing center is a common writing support service in North America with unique historical and theoretical underpinnings (Boquet, 1999; Bruffee, 1984; North, 1984). In the last couple of decades, it has truly become a global pedagogy, being implemented in around 65 countries worldwide (e.g., Archer, 2007; Bräuer, 2002; Tan, 2011). Although writing centers have been well received by international scholars, more studies are needed to discuss the economic and political imperatives of establishing writing centers in respective contexts and possible impacts on different student populations as a result. To address this issue, this multilayered case study explores how the educational philosophy, pedagogical rationale and concepts of the global writing pedagogy are interpreted by administrators and enacted in pedagogical practice at Maple Leaves University (MLU), an internationalizing university in Japan. To examine the language planning stage, data were collected from interviews with five administrators and relevant university documents. For pedagogical practices, primary data included audio-recordings and student interviews from four tutor-tutee dyads concerning three types of writing tutorials: (a) Japanese students seeking consultation on Japanese writing, (b) Japanese students seeking consultation on English writing, and (c) international students seeking consultation on Japanese writing. By looking at process of implementation from a language policy and practice perspective (Hornberger, 2005; Ricento & Hornberger, 1996), this study found that the MLU Writing Center was caught between ideal literacy/educational practices of a “world-class university” (Deem, Mok, & Lucas, 2008) and the local literacy realities at MLU. In the language planning, the internationalizing goals of a world-class university (e.g., English language policies, increasing international student enrollment, and student-centered education reforms) were the primary motives behind the establishment of MLU’s Writing Center. In tutorial practices, particular aspects of the Writing Center pedagogy were challenged by tutees’ disciplinary practices, beliefs towards non-native English tutors, and Japanese language learning needs. This study adds a policy perspective to the scholarship of writing centers, encouraging further research into the macro-context of writing centers and suggesting tutors be considered as key literacy educators who could better inform policy-making from the bottom-up.

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Tracked Identities, Resistance, and Cultural Production of Yeongpoja: critical ethnography of tracked English classes in a Korean middle school (2017)

In South Korea, English is implicated in local political processes, mediating relations of class and social (re)production (Park, 2013). Unequal access to English restricts the prospects of the disadvantaged in education and the job market (Kubota, 2011). Tracking, an institutional practice which groups students by performance, is one way in which these inequalities manifest in the neoliberalized landscape of Korean education. Situated within the frameworks of cultural production (Willis, 1977, 2004) and language socialization (Duff & Talmy, 2011), this critical ethnography explores the language learning trajectories of ninth-grade students in a Korean school over one semester who have been tracked since entering middle school. Classroom interactions and interviews are analyzed using critical discourse approaches (Talmy, 2010a). This study finds that teachers oriented to the significance of English in high-stakes exams, and naturalized tracking to provide students appropriately leveled lessons. However, their beliefs about homogenously-constituted tracks steered them to conflate students’ language competence with track categories and prevented them from attending to the multiple levels and needs of learners within each track. More importantly, there were very few differences in the instructional materials used across tracks because teachers based their lessons on the same textbook in preparation for the same tests. Consequently, many students, regardless of track, deemed tracking unconducive to learning, engaging in acts of resistance to grammar-translation-oriented classroom practices. Nevertheless, students displayed disaffiliative stances towards detracking out of concerns of being held back or tacitly positioned as having deficits. In this sense, this study argues that socialization into tracking led students to track not only their abilities but also their habitus (Bourdieu, 1990) and identities. Such tracked identities created conditions to reinforce a school hierarchy in which many low-track students were discursively co-produced as yeongpoja, i.e., students who have given up on English. This study demonstrates that the yeongpoja identity is a consequence of socialization into low tracks, manifesting students’ resistance to their stigmatized identities as well as the test-oriented instructional practices. The study concludes with a call for reexamining tracking, suggesting implications for instruction which integrate and recognize the needs, interests, and knowledge of students from diverse backgrounds.

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The Internationalization of higher education as a site of self-positioning: Intersecting imaginations of Chinese international students and universities in Japan (2014)

This study examines the construction of Chinese international students’ identities in the context of the internationalization of two Japanese higher education institutions. It employs a case study design. Two Japanese higher education institutions were selected because they had large international student bodies and English-medium programs. Both of these characteristics are central to recent Japanese internationalization policies and programs. At each institution, interviews were conducted with: 1) Chinese international undergraduate students; and 2) faculty and staff members who held leadership positions at their institutions in the area of internationalization. By using the concepts relating to imagination, the study analyzed how students saw their identities and future possibilities in and through their participation in international education in Japan. It also investigated how the institutions saw their social existence and translated it into their internationalization discourses and practices. An analysis of the intersection of the faculty/staff participants’ accounts of internationalization and international students’ stories illuminated the challenges and the potential of internationalization. Firstly, the findings revealed that the imaginations of both the institutions and students were shaped by their social positions and dominant social imaginaries of globalization. How the institutions with contrasting levels of academic prestige and international students with different socio-economic backgrounds participated in internationalization illuminated their self-positioning strategies in a competitive world. The closely linked self-positioning strategies of the institutions and students indicated the challenge of internationalization in disrupting the existing material and ideological conditions. Secondly, students’ stories indicated the potential and the limitations of the institutional environments, which are marked by many international students and the use of the English language. Some students described their transformative learning experiences emerging from the social, cultural, and political complexity of Japanese society and of their institutional settings. However, the majority of students tended to be disengaged from such complexity by seeing themselves living in an imagined pristine multicultural community on their campuses and feeling detached from the rest of Japanese society. The study concludes that internationalization in the paradigms of competition and a “creation of cultural diversity and a containment of cultural difference” (Bhabha, 1990, p. 208) holds limited potential for social transformation.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Language teacher agency in digital technology use: Korean EFL teachers' enactment through collaborative inquiry (2021)

With a dramatic advancement of digital technologies, the South Korean Ministry of Education has embarked on a nationwide digital education initiative to expand technology-equipped classrooms by 2023. While most public schools are far from achieving this goal, a substantial gap between early- and late-funded schools has emerged, creating a digital divide among schools, teachers, and students. Yet, some teachers are actively seeking to overcome challenges. Investigating how individual teachers in different environments implement educational technology would shed light on what factors afford or hinder their engagement with technology.Focusing on three in-service junior high school teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) who participated in a collaborative professional development (PD) program in Seoul, this qualitative multiple case study investigates how language teacher agency (LTA) and classroom practices are interrelated with ecological conditions and explores the role of a collaborative inquiry community in fostering their LTA. Drawing on an ecological understanding, this study focuses on the iterational (past), practical-evaluative (present), and projective (future) dimensions of LTA within overlapping layers of educational contexts (micro, meso, and macro). The participants engaged in PD in a collaborative inquiry community, in which they explored the use of technologies for facilitating students’ learning, conducted collaborative action research, and implemented reflective teaching practices. Data encompassed semi-structured individual and group interviews as well as an analysis of a lesson plan, an action research paper, and presentation materials. The findings of three participants situated in different ecological conditions suggest that macro-level national policies were mediated through meso-level school resources and socio-cultural contexts, ultimately affecting EFL teachers’ LTA and micro-level classroom practices. Furthermore, the collaborative inquiry community offered a space for collaborative reflection, critical analysis of technologies, and transformative actions, which in turn promoted their LTA. These findings indicate that language teachers as agentic professionals can make deliberate choices based on their own understanding of teaching contexts and pedagogical needs although equal educational opportunities must be provided by reducing the digital divide among schools. This study further invites K–12 language teachers, teacher PD program coordinators, or policymakers to incorporate teachers’ voices and experience into technology-related policies.

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Exploring postsecondary students' use of proofreading services at a Canadian university (2018)

Many postsecondary students engage the services of a proofreader at some stage in their academic career. Such third-party interventions in the production of student texts, classified as a form of literacy brokering (Lillis & Curry, 2010), have raised questions of ethics and academic integrity. In recent years, researchers have begun to examine students’ use of proofreading services from multiple perspectives; however, much of the previous research has focused on graduate students’ dissertations and writing for publication (e.g., Li & Flowerdew, 2007; Turner, 2012), whereas less attention has been paid to other genres of student writing or proofreading practices among undergraduates, and the North American context has rarely been considered. In addition, there is little empirical evidence to support the assumption that proofreading is practiced predominantly by non-native English speakers. This mixed methods study was carried out based on the theoretical framework of academic literacies, a social practice approach to the study of literacy, particularly writing, in academic contexts (Barton & Hamilton, 2000; Lea & Street, 1998). The use of proofreading among students at a large Canadian research university was investigated through an online student survey and follow-up interviews. The aims of the study were to determine who uses proofreading services and to explore their reasons for doing so, the nature and extent of proofreading they receive, and how they perceive this practice to affect their development of language and writing skills as well as other outcomes. The findings suggest that students who use proofreading are diverse and do not conform to any binary categorization. Although there were some differences between self-identified native English speakers and non-native English speakers with respect to their learning outcomes and relationship with their proofreaders, most participants across both groups used proofreading to improve their writing skills and reported learning from the proofreader’s corrections. In addition, use of proofreading has potential to affect writers’ identity and relationships with others in their academic communities. The findings of this research study have implications for writing instruction at every level of postsecondary education and reveal the need for clearer policies on proofreading of all genres of academic writing.

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More than a tape-recorder: Negotiations of English Language Teacher Identities in the JET Program in Japan (2017)

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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Japanese Students' Reconceptualization of Racialized English and English Speakers Through Study Abroad (2016)

Japan’s kokusaika (internationalization), despite its literal meaning, has been considered to be a form of Westernization, largely influenced by Western countries, especially the United States (Fujimoto, 2001; Kubota, 1998, 2002). As a consequence of the Western or U.S.-favored policies, Japanese people have developed racial attitudes toward the English language and English speakers. While Japanese people have a propensity toward white people and their English varieties, they tend to show discriminatory attitudes toward those who have other racial and linguistic backgrounds (Kobayashi, 2010; Kubota & McKay, 2009). At the same time, the number of Japanese study abroad (SA) students, specifically in Kachru’s (1985) Inner Circle countries, is increasing. While some research suggests that Japanese SA students tend to develop racial attitudes and stereotype certain racial groups, there is still a dearth of studies regarding how these attitudes and stereotypes change over time. For example, scholars have not yet examined how Japanese SA students’ interactions with an unfamiliar Other in Japan influence their attitudes during their SA, and how these attitudes change again once immersed in the SA site. Thus, drawing on intergroup contact theory (Pettigrew, 1998) and critical race theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001), this multiple case study investigated how Japanese students (re)conceptualize their attitudes toward racialized English and English speakers through interactions with diverse English speakers. Data were collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews with six Japanese SA students. This study found that the participants’ pre-departure intergroup contact situations had been constructed according to Japan’s skewed kokusaika, which resulted in their assumption that white people were the only legitimate English speakers. However, during SA, the participants experienced frequent intergroup contacts with various English speakers, reconceptualizing their racialized views, regarding anyone as an English speaker regardless of his/her racial and linguistic backgrounds. Additionally, the participants acknowledged that they would like to keep their transformed views after SA. This thesis concludes with implications for pre- and post-SA English language teaching in Japan so that the potential for SA to de-racialize Japanese students’ attitudes toward English and English speakers might be realized.

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Beliefs about English: Korean postsecondary short-term study abroad learners in Canada (2010)

English has been associated with “development” and “globalization” (Pennycook, 2007; Phillipson, 2008) and the importance of English education has been emphasized in many countries including South Korea. As the notion of “English as a global language” spreads, skills in English are emphasized as compulsory to live in a global world and an increasing number of students leave their home countries to acquire such skills (Park & Bae, 2009; Waters, 2006). Their motivation to pursue language learning is closely related to their beliefs about the target language; these beliefs are not neutral or objective but ideologically shaped. However, English language learners’ beliefs in relation to ideologies have not been sufficiently explored. Drawing on the concept of language ideology (Thompson, 1990; Woolard, 1998), this study investigates the beliefs of English language learners—specifically, postsecondary Korean adults who participate in short-term study abroad in Canada—toward English, learning English, and using English. It also examines how these beliefs influence the learners’ notions of their mother tongue and study abroad experiences. The study identifies two core values that such learners place on English: (1) English is a competitive tool which enables them to get a job in Korea and (2) English is a global language which enables them to connect to other foreigners throughout the world. The study found that the participants viewed Korean—their mother tongue—as a local language only for Koreans. In addition, they believed they would acquire English skills at a native speaker’s level of fluency through simple exposure and in a relatively short time. Thus, they struggled with negative self images as ashamed and inferior learners. These results indicate a need for a critical approach to English education.

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