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Language as Investment, Capital, and Economics: Spanish-Speaking English Learners’ Language Use and Attitudes

Author(s): Xiaoping Liang

Journal: International Journal of English Linguistics
ISSN 1923-869X

Volume: 2;
Issue: 6;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Drawing on the notion of investment in language and identity, the concept of language as capital, and the theory of language as part of economics, this study explores California high-school Spanish-speaking English learners’ use of Spanish and English at home, at school, and in the ESL class, and their perceptions on these two languages. Analysis of 37 survey responses reveals that the participants did not have an either-or attitude toward the languages they spoke and concurrently claimed frequent use of and even fluency in the societal language and their heritage language. They did not have a simplistic notion of linguistic identity and simultaneously claimed the English-speaking identity, the Spanish-speaking identity, and the bilingual identity. The results indicate that, rather than a sign of second language insufficiency, bilingual language use in and outside of the ESL class served as an intentional investment in language development and maintenance, identity construction, and preparation for participation in the multilingual marketplace in the internationalized new economy. ESL instructors are encouraged to recognize and acknowledge the role of bilingual language use in class and to create a supportive classroom environment that builds on the linguistic and cultural capital of English learners and fosters the development of both languages into literate, academic and professional capacity.
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