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Title: Social structure, agency and second language learning : a study of the impact of contextual conditions on the desire to invest in language learning amongst undergraduate students in Cancun
Author: Avila Pardo, Magdalena
ISNI:       0000 0004 8510 1870
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2019
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The interrelationship between social structure and agency is relatively unexplored in second language acquisition research, although it has been extensively studied in the field of social science. SLL has focused on agency from a postructuralist and sociocultural perspective linked to other constructs such as identity and power relations within different discourses. Agency is recognised as being creative and responsive to the sociocultural context, but also difficult to define. As a result, there has been a call for interdisciplinarity for a better understanding in SLA research (Sealey and Carter, 2004, Vitanova 2010, Norton, 2013, Block, 2013; Block, 2015). Following such a call, this study attempts to link language learners’ accounts to various layers of context and social structure as proposed by Block’s (2015) model of structure and agency. It explores and seeks to explain how structures can work as enablements or constraints in second language learning in a transnational touristic destination. Significantly influenced by Daniel Block's writings, the psychological angle is included. This research is underpinned by Roy Bhaskar’s realist philosophy of social science and uses Pierre Bourdieu’s (1977) and Margaret Archer’s (1995, 2000, and 2007) key concepts to understand better what makes students shape or resist their access to EFL. These theories are deemed suitable for a study which seeks to understand how students take decisions regarding language learning. The research participants were 11 students in the undergraduate programme of Sustainable Tourism and International Business at a government university in the city of Cancun. Data sources included language learning biographies, comments, the researcher field notes and knowledge of the context. With regard to social structure, it was found that the relevance of English in Cancun contributes to students’ desire to learn it. They cannot however, easily practice the language in the city until they insert themselves in the job market. Parents are seen to invest in their children’s English language learning regardless of their socio-economic status given that Mexican government education is considered deficient. Students negotiate their participation in different contexts in the form of social relations, either face to face or through physical objects and digital devices, thus exercising their agency. The study also found that students deal with economic and family situations that constrain their choices. The findings suggest that students’ agency is the combination of past experiences, perceived linguistic competence, and the attributed importance of English to their present and future lives, which involves interests, aspirations and expectations that relate to their identity, who they are and who they want to become.
Supervisor: Wright, Vicky ; Zotzmann, Karin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available