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

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-28
Number of pages22
JournalTESOL in Context
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Membership categorisation analysis
  • Identity
  • English language learning
  • International students

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