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Lou Harvey, 'I have all my stories': A narrative approach to language learning motivation

Date: 7 March 2012 Time: 3.30-5.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North SR 22

The Second Language Learning and Teaching (SLLAT) research group are pleased to announce the following presentation:

'I have all my stories': A narrative approach to language learning motivation

Lou Harvey (School of Education, University of Manchester)

This talk will describe my methodological approach to my doctoral work, a narrative study of six UK-based university students' motivation for learning English. My research aims to foreground the experience of learners, who have rarely been given voice in past second-language (L2) motivation research, and to explicitly acknowledge the agency of individual learners and their power to accept or resist the pressures and influences they face, and the identities they are negotiating, as English speakers. Central to my approach is Mikhail Bakhtin's dialogism (1981, 1986), which conceptualises dialogue as the essence of language in its relation between utterance and response. I demonstrate that Bakhtin's philosophy offers grounds for a theorisation of agency as both individual and co-constructed, a constant and creative process of self-authoring; which in turn offers a rationale for my choice of narrative methodology. I will conclude the first part of the talk by sharing my research design, illustrating my attempt to explicitly apply a dialogic approach to my research practice.

I will then focus on the narrative of one participant, Emma, to demonstrate how the narrative concept can contribute to an understanding of her language learning experience and the way in which she interprets this experience. Emma's motivation was shaped by her perception of a shift in the English language from 'fictional', in her home country of Italy, to 'real', when she came to the UK. Drawing on Bakhtin, I suggest that Emma's language learning story represents a move from understanding English as a monologic subject to be studied and lacking communicative context, to dialogic, requiring agentive response to and engagement with other voices; engagement through which Emma is constantly re-storying her identity as a language learner. I argue that this view represents my contribution to an important move in language learning motivation research: to illuminate ways in which motivation may be socially negotiated and constructed.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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