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1 Gender, Desire and Linguistic Capital in International Tourism Kimie Takahashi Macquarie University, Australia

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Presentation on theme: "1 Gender, Desire and Linguistic Capital in International Tourism Kimie Takahashi Macquarie University, Australia"— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Gender, Desire and Linguistic Capital in International Tourism Kimie Takahashi Macquarie University, Australia

2 2 “Stewardess Story” 1980s TV series, TBS, sponsored by JAL (1983) Average rating – 20% Chiaki –Trainee stewardess –Romance with her instructor –Teamwork and friendship Episode 10 –Chiaki’s limited English proficiency as a barrier to become a flight attendant

3 3 Flight attendants Gendered occupation –Language/bilingualism as a commodity (Heller, 2003) The discourse of English as a tool of emancipation for Japanese women (Kelsky, 2001; Piller & Takahashi, 2006)

4 4 Aims To understand the role of language proficiency and identities in employment, job satisfaction and career mobility? To identify linguistic and workplace practices and discourses that underlie their experience of social inclusion/exclusion

5 5 “The role of multilingual practices and language learning in the Australian tourism industry” Multisite ethnography Funded by a MQRDG Grant ( ) Directed by Ingrid Piller

6 6 Data Micro data Semi-structured interviews & field notes Dec Jan 2009 Japanese flight attendants working for an Australian airline Macro data Websites Advertisements

7 7 Corporate Identity An “Australian”, “low cost” airline that provides the best of Australian and “Asian hospitality”

8 8 “ We believe in fostering a culture that is focused on our customers - ensuring we deliver the lowest fares and provide a travel experience that is refreshing and enjoyable, alongside our commitment to all day every day low fares both to our passengers and our staff. [Company name] staffs are recruited with an attitude and ability to deliver excellent customer service with an understanding that to deliver on our promise - All day, every day, low fares - we must always focus on keeping our costs to a minimum. That means working smarter and always looking for ways to improve [company name] systems and processes. We have a great team of trained professionals. Our pilots are first class. We have experienced ground crew. And our flight attendants are warm, friendly and extremely attentive. Together they bring the best of Australian and Asian hospitality, ensuring that every flight is enjoyable from start to finish. Ultimately, if [company name] customers are to have a satisfying travel experience, our people must enjoy their work. [Company name] is committed to sustaining a workplace where our people are proud to be recognised as being a member of the team” (From the company website) “Our People” Identity as a low cost airline Flight attendants: Aus & Asian hospitality Company responsibility

9 9 Three National Groups of Flight Attendants Nationality Base Salary (Monthly) English proficiency Language allowance Overnight allowance Total Australian $3,200 Not required $100$3,200 Japanese (local hire) $3,200 Not required $700 – 800 *proof required $100$4,000 Japanese (hired in JP, based in Sydney) $4,100 TOIEC 680None $100$4,100 Thai (hired and based in Thailand) $500 TOIEC 780None $100 (up to 15 nights) $2,000 New base in Asia 09 Locals $1,200 Attained at least 3 ‘N’ Levels NA $1,200 Japanese (hired in Japan) $1,200 TOIEC 700 NA $1,200

10 10 Participants: Four Japanese FAs JuriEriRyokoFumie Age Gender Female Visa status Business visa (3yrs) Permanent resident Arrival in AUS 1995 WH March WH March WH1997 WH Defacto visa 2006 Starting date March 2007 June 2007

11 11 “It’s the easiest job ever!” Juri:…it’s the easiest job ever is absolutely nothing you have to think about after you finish your flight!... –The company’s ‘slack’ service practices –Comparison to Japanese airlines –Egalitarian workplace

12 12 But, not so stress-free….. 1.Australian customers’ response to ‘Asian hospitality’ 2.The ‘English Only’ Policy at work

13 13 Eri: …if there are too many Thai and Japanese flight attendants on a flight to Bali, they aren’t happy like, “why so many foreigners on an Australian airline?” …I know some flight attendants are asked “why are you working on an Australian airline if you can’t speak English!?” … 1. Australian customers’ response to ‘Asian hospitality’

14 14 1. Australian customers’ response to ‘Asian hospitality’ Flight assignments –Less Asian flight attendants assigned to some international flights (i.e. Hawaii & Bali) Seen as a corporate strategy to maintain a white, English speaking identity of the airline Strong sense of unfairness and exclusion

15 15 Required to speak only English at work unless servicing Japanese customers Reporting of the ‘violation’ by Australian co-workers Ryuko: Some Japanese girls speak to me in Japanese, so I speak back in Japanese….but then, I’m being watched by Aussies… and they tell me later that I shouldn’t be speaking Japanese…the managers always say, “Speak English when you are wearing the uniform because our customers think you are representing our company”… Emotional stress –being reported affects reputation as a team worker, performance review and promotion prospect 2. The ‘English Only’ Policy at work

16 16 Summary “Dream job” and “easiest job ever”, yet: Bilingual Japanese as ‘disposable’ Low job satisfaction and sense of belonging Mistrust and tension at work

17 17 Thank you Kimie Takahashi Macquarie University, Australia

18 18 3. Promotional prospect Linguistic & racial identity as constraints Fumie:…I’m not a native speaker of English…so, for example, if customers complain to an Australian staff and ask to speak to her manager and if I show up as a manager, then, they would definitely react negatively and question my authority, like, how can we trust her ability to handle things? She is a non-native speaker of English…


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