AAAL 2013

My proposal has been accepted for a paper presentation at the American Association of Applied Linguistics conference in Dallas in March, and my attendance there is being funded by the School of Education. The paper I’ll be presenting is based on the narrative of one of my PhD participants:

This presentation draws on data from my PhD, a narrative study of six UK-based university students’ motivation for learning English. Following Ushioda’s call for a move towards a person-in-context, relational view of motivation, which understands ‘motivation as emergent from relations between real persons’ (2009: 215), I will outline how I am using the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and his concept of dialogism (1981, 1986) to try to address this call. My aim is to foreground the voices of learners, who have so far been under-represented in motivation research, and to explore what Ushioda describes as ‘the dynamic complexity of personal meaning-making in social context’ (2011: 217) through the stories they tell.

I will focus on the narrative of one learner, Dmitry, illustrating how his motivation was shaped by early learning successes in his home country of Russia, recognition that English would facilitate and enhance an academic scientific career, and through his response to the communicative challenges he faced when he moved to the UK. I illustrate how the concept of dialogism can contribute to an understanding of Dmitry’s language learning experience and the way in which he interprets this experience. Bakhtin’s conception of the author is of a narrative consciousness, entering into active dialogue with the specific others of whom and with whom they speak, creating narrative in a multi-voiced process of meaning-making. I suggest that Dmitry’s language learning story represents a move from understanding English as a predominantly monologic subject to be studied with limited communicative context, to dialogic, requiring agentive response to and engagement with other voices; engagement through which Dmitry is constantly re-storying himself as a ‘work in progress’. Finally, I argue that this view illustrates that ‘processes of engaging, constructing and negotiating identities are central to… [the] analysis of motivation’ (Ushioda 2011: 12).