Category building of international students as language learners in two secondary schools

Anna Filipi


Abstract: This paper reports on a small scale study of category building in the context of English language learning. The data for the current study is derived from the interviews with two students, one from China and the other from Mongolia, in two schools in Melbourne. The study uses Membership Categorization Analysis to give an account of identity by examining how categories of English language learner emerge and shift during the course of the interviews. The categories established by the participants in the two interviews were constructed around different attributes belonging to the category of international student. These emerged as a series of categorical binaries including international student and local student, language competence and language deficit, mainstream English and English as an Additional Language (EAL), and home country and Australia. As the participants took part in the interview, they moved towards accounts that integrated multiple viewpoints resulting in dynamically shifting categorisations. Through these categories, it was also possible to show how students were invited to display their learning and knowledge of English, and to give accounts of their English language development.


Membership Categorisation Analysis; identity; English language learning; international students

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