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Kelle Marshall Publishes Study on Identity Constructs of French Immersion Students

Kelle MarshallKelle Marshall, associate professor of French studies and Blanche E. Seaver professor, recently worked alongside Wendy Bokhorst-Heng, an associate professor at Crandall University in Canada, on “‘Learning French Is Like Trying to Skate’: Constructing Identity through Metaphor,” published in The Canadian Modern Language Review. The study explores Grade 8 early French immersion students’ identities as French learners within Canada’s only officially bilingual province, New Brunswick.

Students constructed similes regarding their experiences learning, speaking, and writing French. Bokhorst-Heng and Marshall propose that through the creation of these similes, students engaged in a form of narrative, opening an "interpretive space for critical self-reflection and identity formation” and revealing learner identity.

The researchers grouped the participants’ similes into seven conceptual metaphors: perseverance, challenging physical and cognitive limitations, the experience of embodied change, transformation of self, embodied discomfort, falling short, and affect.

“It was very clear in our data that for most of the students, language learning was understood as an embodied process, not merely a cognitive exercise,” Marshall shares. “This activity was important not only for understanding the language acquisition process itself (i.e., it takes practice, it was hard, it gets easier) but also for understanding that they were transformed as they engaged in that journey.”

Kelle L. Marshall is an associate professor of French at Pepperdine University and Coordinator of French at Pepperdine University. Her research has focused on instructed second language acquisition and North American Francophone linguistic identities and language ideologies. Her articles have appeared in The Modern Language Journal, Language in Society, The French Review, and Minorités linguistiques et société / Linguistic Minorities and Society, The International Journal of Research & Method in Education, and in Foreign Language Annals

To read the full publication, visit The Canadian Modern Language Review.