In order to maintain multiple languages within the US school system, multilingual students need to feel legitimate as speakers of their languages. While prior research has investigated the "right to speak" of individual second language (L2) learners (Norton, 2000) as well as the overt and covert policies around "legitimate languages" at schools (Heller, 2006), no research exists that examines the negotiation of linguistic legitimacy of multilingual students. The purpose of this case study is to fill this gap. It describes the legitimacy discourses in one German foreign language (FL) classroom in a US high school and how two trilingual students, "Jana" and "Karina", construct their legitimacy as speakers of Latvian (L1), English (L2), and German (L3) in this environment. Overall, this study thus aims to promote multilingualism in education.Qualitative methods were employed to gain insights into the legitimacy discourses and negotiations in one German classroom. More precisely, the data were gathered through participant observation of classes and breaks (about 145 hours), semi-structured interviews with two focal students, 30 peers, and the German teacher, and video recordings of 38 lessons. These data were transcribed and analyzed according to principles of thematic analysis. Findings illustrate the focal students' struggle to see themselves as legitimate L1 users because of the societal racialization of monolingualism, which associates their whiteness with speaking only English. In addition, while their peers performed German in the classroom for entertainment in order to balance different investments, this option was not available for Jana and Karina, who derived most of their legitimacy as German speakers from orienting towards the German teacher's discourses, that is by focusing on task fulfillment and correctness. Rare occasion of resistance against these discourses are described and analyzed. Further, Jana's and Karina's legitimacy as English speakers appeared to be unstable despite having been exited from the ESL (English as second language) program. Insights from this study expand Van Leeuwen's (2008) model of legitimation by conceptualizing legitimation as interactive and dynamic process. They further inform practitioners and teacher educators by describing how classroom discourses of correctness and an overemphasis on production and entertainment can inhibit multilingual legitimacy.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2014. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Martha Bigelow. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 227 pages.
Ennser-Kananen, Johanna Ennse.
The right to be multilingual: How two trilingual students construct their linguistic legitimacy in a German classroom.
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