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Language Ideologies in an Anglophone University and Students’ Experiences of Internationalization

Sat, March 18, 10:45 to 11:15am, Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront, Meadowlark

Session Submission Type: Paper


Drawing on interview data with 34 local and international students in one mid-sized Canadian university, this paper highlights aspects of language ideologies operating in it that impact the academic experience of international students. Universities need to move towards an internationalization that is more inclusive of fluid understandings of language.


In the last decade the internationalization of higher education is rapidly expanding with 41% of the increase in international student enrolment taking place in Anglophone countries (OECD, 2014). While North American universities are becoming more multilingual, language is frequently ignored or oversimplified in discussions of internationalization and the failure of Anglophone institutions to recognize the linguistic practices of many of their international students results in much linguistic inequality (Jenkins, 2014).
Drawing on language ideologies theorizing (e.g. Byrd Clark, Haque & Lamoreux, 2012; Lippi-Green, 2012; Woolard & Schieffelin, 1994), this paper analyzes how students perceive and experience linguistic and cultural diversity in a mid-sized Canadian university. Data is drawn from qualitative interviews (Kvale and Brinkmann, 2009) with 34 domestic and international students conducted within a larger institutional ethnography (Smith, 2005) which examined the everyday enactment of internationalization at the university. Findings suggest that students understand their linguistic repertoires and are, at the same time, understood by others in relation to dominant native speaker and standard language ideologies which impact negatively how international students experience academic life.
While many institutions still focus on the idea of the university as a national institution with a correspondent national language and culture, universities are transcultural fluid environments (Baker, 2016) in which diverse linguistic and cultural practices mesh. A balance is needed between knowledge and awareness of established linguistic practices and affording space for language choices, adaptability and flexibility given the dynamic and emergent nature of many communicative practices in transcultural universities (Baker, 2016). Universities need to move beyond dominant language ideologies and towards an internationalization that is more inclusive of fluid understandings of language. The paper argues that unless internationalization attends to language matters in a holistic manner, the ways in which Anglophone universities address the education of linguistically minoritized populations will remain inequitable.