Archive for March, 2010

The Conclusion


As exposure to/immersion in an English-speaking environment increases (length of time), conceptualization of sexuality is apt to be influenced by ways of being that might conflict with those of the dominant L1 cultural community. This may reinforce the construction of a sexualized l2 identity, apart from the l1 identity. Revelation and performance may also be affected but are not as sensitive.


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Concept – everyone conceptualizes sexuality differently. For some it is a behavior, for others it is a lifestyle, for others yet it is an illness or abomination. Considering the presence of English and English-speaking cultures in Japan, this project is concerned with the ways in which English as linguistic culture/system influences the participants’ understandings of their sexualities.

Performance – we perform our identities in many ways; some choose to construct a publicly open persona while others may choose to never publicize their sexuality. This project is concerned with the ways in which sexuality becomes performed or silenced in different linguistic communities and with members of those communities. Likewise, the ways in which language is used to perform sexualized identities is of equal interest.

Revelation – the coming out experiences (because they are a reality for those constructing public, sexualized, minority identities) can be examined in terms of who tells who what, and in what way. It is a rite of passage, a specific type of performance, for a sexual minority that can become a repetitive discourse, albeit one that has the ability to develop as the individual also develops. To get at the heart of Takashi’s (this project’s sample composite participant) comment about where he constructs homosexuality (In English, not in Japanese), we could look at the ways in which he reveals his constructed sexualized self, specifically regarding who he tells and in what ways.

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Language AND identity – examining their relationship to the other.

Language AS identity – assuming that language itself can construct specific identities or that specific identities use specific types of language in unique ways. For example, if I live in Spain, but my first language is Catalan, I may not regard the Spanish language (the l2) spoken by the majority in the same way as I do my first language.

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In the summer of 2008, I was living in Japan for a few months and working on my dissertation. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Ms. Folake Abass of the JALT GALE sig. In that interview I first laid the groundwork for my thoughts about distinguishing between linguistic system and linguistic culture.

Abass, F. & Harrison, M. (2008).Discovering voices, discovering selves: A dissertation about language and sexuality in Japan. GALE Newsletter, Spring 2008. http://tokyoprogressive.org/gale-sig/Spring%202008%20Newsletter.pdf

I quote James Gee about the nature of language teaching as being much more complex than simply “language”. Language teaching involves teaching culture as well. From here I began to realize that for many language learners, a language stops at a book. There is never much of an opportunity for application of skills and the language becomes merely a topic to be studied.

In my case (it is through my lens that my own wonder and hence, analysis, are presented in this project), it was Spanish, the textbook was Nuestros Amigos, and the culture consisted of food, television, and my housekeeper, while the system consisted of constant tests, wrong answers, irregular verb conjugations, nasty classmates, etc. My affect attributed to Spanish was festive and optimistic but ultimately eclipsed by the affect of the challenges I faced at that period in my life (Spanish was one more challenge to fail at during a period where I was already overloaded); in short,  I never found my driving need.

When the target language (system) has a home, a community, a people, in short can actually be experienced to the extent where a need for acquisition is recognized (and this is highly personal and context-dependent), the cultural aspects of the language may finally come alive and new insights into the value and usefulness of the linguistic system may be gained.

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