Lived Experiences of a High-Status Language in a Low-Status Medium : Swedish Bilingual Students’ Investment in English Mother Tongue Instruction

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för språkdidaktik

Abstract: Sweden is one of few countries offering mother tongue instruction (MTI) to students in compulsory education with a native language other than Swedish. Traditionally research has focussed on the benefits of MTI as a space for the development of minority languages despite the logistical and ideological hindrances in execution that have resulted in the subject’s low status. This research explores the dichotomy between English as a high-status, global language and a low-status mother tongue subject, illuminating the role of English MTI in an environment that already offers ample opportunity for English language development. By taking an interest in the lived experiences of MTI students, their reasons for investing in additional English classes are revealed. Data was collected through a mixed research method comprising four in-depth interviews and questionnaires distributed to fifteen students, all at the end of their MTI careers in several Stockholm secondary schools. Thematic analysis of the varied data suggests diverse investment beyond the simple answer that an additional grade in the subject helps with gymnasium application. Both quantitative and qualitative data demonstrate that investment in MTI is dynamic, related to changes in student’s lives outside the classroom and closely tied to feeling that obligatory English lessons are insufficient, a desire to develop an English-speaking identity and a rapport with their English teacher. Students are also acutely aware of the cultural capital inherent in being a proficient English speaker.

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