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Identity and Youth: An Ethnographic Study in English-Speaking Schools in the Montreal Area Diane Gérin-Lajoie OISE, University of Toronto

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Presentation on theme: "Identity and Youth: An Ethnographic Study in English-Speaking Schools in the Montreal Area Diane Gérin-Lajoie OISE, University of Toronto"— Presentation transcript:

1 Identity and Youth: An Ethnographic Study in English-Speaking Schools in the Montreal Area Diane Gérin-Lajoie OISE, University of Toronto

2 Conceptual Orientation Critical theoretical framework drawn from the areas of the sociology of race and ethnic relations (identity, as social construct) and the sociology of education Social relations are understood as tied to social practices and power relations: therefore these relations are socially constructed Power relations examined in the areas of language and culture

3 Identity, a Social Construct Social actors’ sense of belonging to a specific group and their rapport to language, race, culture and identity are tightly linked to their social practices, which are themselves embedded in specific power relations Identity is a dynamic concept, always evolving –Fragmented identities (Cardinal, 1994) –Diverse forms of positioning with regards to identity –New identity forms, such as bilingual identity (Gérin-Lajoie, 2003, 2011; Dallaire, 2003; Juteau, 1994) Hall (2006) refers to these social actors as “postmodern subjects”

4 English Minority Language Communities in Quebec Almost 600,000 Anglophones live in Quebec ( 13 % of the total population of the province) The Anglophone population is linguistically and culturally diverse Education in the official minority language (English) is a legal right under the Quebec Charter of the French language Nine Anglophone school districts in Quebec (English as first language (elementary, secondary schools))

5 Objectives of the Study First Objective To understand how adolescents as members of a linguistic minority relate to and define themselves in terms of their own identity, looking more specifically at the notion of bilingual identity (and multilingual identity) Second Objective To deconstruct the notion of bilingual identity (and multilingual identity) in order to a) better understand its signification for the adolescents and b) to examine if such a form of identity can exist in itself as a stable phenomenon, or if it is a transition phase that will lead to complete assimilation to the linguistic majority of the province of residence

6 Methodological Framework Population under study Students in Secondary 3 at 2 English language high schools in the Montreal and the South Shore areas (14 years old). Fieldwork Survey administered to 106 students on the teenagers’ linguistic practices early in the study in order to select 10 participants for the ethnographic inquiry (5 in each school). Ethnographic study: - observations in school settings (total of 105 days) - semi-structured interviews with the participants, members of their families, their friends, their teachers (total of 113 interviews) - analysis of schools’ official documents

7 Some of the Findings First Result: In majority, participants claim a bilingual identity or a trilingual identity, with a sense of belonging to the linguistic minority group Second Result: The politics of language at the core of the discourse. Minority language, a right. The inclusion/exclusion divide

8 Rapport to Identity School ASchool B Angl.Identity0 %1.3 % Franc.Identity0 % Bilingual Identity 20 %68.4 % Trilingual Identity80 %30.3 % Total 100 %

9 Having a bilingual or trilingual identity Claiming a bilingual or a trilingual identity by the participants means acknowledging that they had been born into a specific context in which various linguistic and cultural identities intermingled, either as a result of their family origins or as a result of being part of what society calls a “language minority” group Linguistic border-crossing do not prevent participants from having a strong sense of membership in their linguistic and cultural minority

10 Having a bilingual or a trilingual identity Well if somebody asks me what nationality I am, I'll tell them Italian, but as far as the way I speak, English is my first language. That's what I've always been brought up with. I mean when I was really small I spoke Italian but I don't know, just my roots go back to my parents, my grandparents, whatever. And the school is like full of Italian people, and even like a lot of them also don’t speak very much Italian, and for almost everyone here English is the first language. (Taylor, 4th interview)

11 The politics of language A significant part of the discourse of the study participants concerns the politics of language in Quebec. As members of a linguistic minority, participants at both schools addressed the issue, as did most of their parents and friends. They spoke about their rights and the way in which they use language in their daily lives. They spoke about how they feel as English-speakers living in a French Quebec.

12 Language rights We have, because of the fact that we went to (English) school, we have that blue paper, it’s like gold. So if I send my children to French school, they cannot go and change to English school. So that is the number one, that’s the reason. I’m not going to lose that privilege. So we put both of them at School E which is French immersion (Taylor, Interview with parents). I was thinking of putting her (daughter) into a Francophone school. Then, you know, with the laws, when I decided not to, in case one of my children decided to marry an immigrant or, you know, a Francophone. So I put them in the French immersion school. (Angela, Interview with parents).

13 The inclusion/exclusion divide The participants (students, family members, friends) feel sometimes excluded from the Quebec society, even when they are able to speak French or when they share some of the Québécois values They do not feel recognized as full members of the Quebec society

14 The inclusion/exclusion divide I feel like a Québécois. But, but it’s like if you ask any French Canadian, Joe (Italian last name), tu es italien toi ?, like nobody ever said to me tu es québécois. Nobody nobody nobody. And what, I live here another two generations, and I’m still not going to be Québécois. But if there’s anything that I would have to be, I would have to say Québécois. But I can’t say to the people Québécois, because they don’t accept it. If I say it to my friends, they say what? Are you crazy, you’re not Québécois, because you’re not. They’ll never accept you. So why are you saying you’re Québécois? (Taylor, Interview with parents)

15 The inclusion/exclusion divide I don't know, I guess like because we're like a small community in Quebec, since we're English, and like I guess the French people, they look at us different because we may not be as fluent in French as they are. So maybe they feel like they have an advantage over us because they can speak better French than us. And I guess there's a bit of jealousy because we can speak better English than them. So like if we can be fluent in French and English, we have like more job opportunities... (Vince, Interview with friends) don't know, I guess like because we're like a smaller community in Quebec, since we're English, and like I guess the French people like they look at us different because like we may not be as fluent in French as they are. So maybe they feel like they have an advantage over us because they can speak better French than us. And I guess there's a bit of jealousy because we can speak better English than them. So like if we can be fluent in French and English, we have like more job opportunities... (Vince, Interview with friends,


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