Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Making "Wiggle Room" in French as a Second Language/Francais Langue Seconde: Reconfiguring Identity, Language, and Policy

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Making "Wiggle Room" in French as a Second Language/Francais Langue Seconde: Reconfiguring Identity, Language, and Policy

Article excerpt

In this two-year ethnographic study, I critically examined the problematic nature of the construct French as a Second Language (FSL), drawing specifically from the lived experiences of Canadian youth of Italian origin, participating in a teacher education course to prepare teachers of French. Using discourse analysis of interviews, observations, and focus groups, I found that participants' social identifies and linguistic practices were complex and varied. However, current FSL policies and practice do not reflect such diversity or multidimensionality. To conclude, I demonstrate the importance of making some "wiggle room" regarding the construction of French as a Second Language (FSL) to reflect a more pluralistic society.

Key words: identity construction, Italian Canadian youth, ideologies, official language policies, teacher education, Ontario education

Dans cet article, base sur une etude ethnographique de deux ans, j'ai examine la nature problematique du construit << francais langue seconde (FLS) >> en portant specifiquement sur les experiences vecues de jeunes Italo-canadiens durant leur formation pour devenir enseignants de francais langue seconde dans le paysage multiculturel de Toronto. En faisant une analyse de discours des entrevues audio et video semi-dirigees, des reunions avec les groupes cibles, et des observations, j'ai decouvert que les identites sociales ainsi que les pratiques langagieres de ces jeunes etaient complexes et variees. La politique et les pratiques actuelles du francais langue seconde, pourtant, ne refletent pas une telle diversite ou la multidimensionalite des realites sociales des jeunes. Pour conclure, je souligne l'importance de creer des << zones du confort >> ou << Wiggle room >> en ce qui concerne le construit << francais langue seconde >> afin qu'il corresponde plus a la societe qui est marquee par le pluralisme.

Mots cles: Construction identitaire, francais langue seconde (FLS), jeunes italo-canadiens, ideologies, politique officielle des langues, formation des maitres, education en Ontario


In this article, I put forth a call to reconceptualize the constructed curricular label, French as a Second Language education, not only to reflect the linguistic and cultural diversity of a pluralistic society, but more importantly to take into account the complex significance that multilingualism (including French, in this case) represents for individuals. As such, I have based this article on a two-year, multi-site ethnographic study (Byrd Clark, 2008a), which critically and closely examined the importance of French language education, in particular, for seven (1) (out of 25 participants), multi-generational, self-identified Italian Canadians, training to become teachers of French in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Although considerable advances have occurred in sociolinguistics, critical pedagogy, and applied linguistics as regards the fluidity, multiplicity, and heterogeneity of social identity construction, conceptualizations of languages (including notions of proficiency and competence) and language education remain rather divisive, fixed, homogeneous, and unidimensional. Thus, using an interdisciplinary approach with reflexive discourse analysis (Byrd Clark, 2008a, 2009; Fairclough, 1995; Heller & Labrie, 2003), I have set the goal of this article to illustrate that people and languages do not fit neatly into social categories, and that some categories, such as French as a Second Language, are problematic, particularly because of the impact of globalization, rapid technological change, and mobility on the everyday lives of individuals.

Although there is a macro-level discourse emanating from social institutions, namely education, on what counts legitimately as French (hence the reference to French language learning as French as a Second Language), the participants' discourse, (2) varied engagements, and complex positionings at different moments from a micro-level, however, demonstrate their management, adherence, and more importantly, their resistance to dominant discourses, blurring and confounding homogeneously conceived-of identities, languages, and policies. …

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