Discourses, Identities and Investment in English as a Second Language Learning: Voices from Two U.S. Community College Students

Yueh-ching Chang


Adopting a qualitative case study methodology, the present study illuminates how two multilingual students enrolled in a U.S. community college ESL class negotiated the sociocultural norms valued in their multiple communities to make investment in learning English in college. Drawing on Gee’s theory of Discourse and identity (1996) and Norton’s theory of investment (2000), the study found that each student’s investment in learning the language practices of the classroom was shaped by the diverse Discourses in which they participated across time and space. Despite confronting structural constraints, the focal students were able to mobilize their multiple Discourses to negotiate the existing sociocultural norms and invest in identities that have the potential to transform their lives. These findings suggest that multilingual students’ learning at the college is shaped by their socio-cultural milieu and future aspirations. Thus, language educators should recognize their multiple identities as well as their agency, and broaden the curriculum goals to accommodate their diverse linguistic and educational needs.

Keywords: Discourses, identities, investment, community college, ESL, multilingual students

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