LINGUIST List 13.3358

Wed Dec 18 2002

Review: Applied Linguistics: Day (2002)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <>

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  1. zohreh eslami, Day (2002), Identity and the Young English Language Learner

Message 1: Day (2002), Identity and the Young English Language Learner

Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2002 16:52:36 +0000
From: zohreh eslami <>
Subject: Day (2002), Identity and the Young English Language Learner

Day, Elain M. (2002),
Identity and the Young English Language Learner, Multilingual Matters
Hardback: ISBN: 1853595985, Pages: 120, Price: B#49.95 / US$79.95 / CAN$99.95
Paperback: ISBN: 1853595977, Pages: 120, Price: B#19.95 / US$29.95 / CAN$39.95

Book Announcement on Linguist:

Zohreh Eslami Rasekh, Texas A&M University, USA.

Elaine Mellen Day in her book 'Identity and the young English learner'
examines the language socialization experiences of Hari, a
Punjabi-speaking English language learner.� Her study concerns
identity practices and their effects on access to language. Her
personal background as a 'minority language child' gives a personal
and enlightening touch to her discussions. Her book makes a
significant contribution to the body of literature on language
socialization in educational contexts. She shows how a young English
second language learner develops his identity through the process of
interacting with peers, teachers, and at home.

Elaine Mellen Day uses sociocultural, critical and poststructural
theoretical perceptive to explore the intimate connection between
learning, identity and social membership in Hari's learning path. She
also highlights the effects and political dynamics of classroom
relationships and their unconscious as well as conscious dimensions to
those who are learning English as a second language.� She examines the
experiences of one English language learner in his relationship with
others, using combined theoretical perspectives in conjunction with
critical psychoanalytical theories.� Through taking a broad
theoretical framework she shows how emotional commitments and
affectivity interconnect with power relations and shows the complexity
of human relationships and deals with how actual subjectivities are
constructed in everyday practices.

Day's work uses Wenger's (1998) theory of learning to trace Hari's
opportunities for learning in his classroom which involves many
sub-communities in the class, and as a result, taking diverse
roles. The complexity of power relations in the classroom and how
these affected Hari's access to practice is explained through this
framework. To illustrate the complexities and intricacies of social
relations in the child's everyday interactions, Day uses Bakhtinian
and contemporary poststructural theories. In this framework, language
learning is viewed as a socioculturally situated social practice that
engage learners' social identities; from this perspective, questions
of access to, and participation in, various forms of learning
activities are critical. (Day, 2002, p.108).

By examining Hari's experiences, Day shows the complexity and
variability of peer relations in the kindergarten classroom and the
critical role they play in the identities learners could participate
and access. It is interesting to note that Hari reveals a different
identity when participating in different social networks and when
involved in different oral discussion.� In particular situations, such
as conversation with other English language learners (who are all
girls), Hari is able to lead and contribute to the discussion. He
assumes a powerful identity in those situations and learns that he can
be at the same time challenging and communal. However, when Hari sits
with other anglophone boys, he seems to be positioned as not worthy of
attention; his involvements are not active as communicating with other
English language learners (especially girls).

Hari establishes relationships with some of his classmates, and he
especially affiliates with an anglophone boy-Kevin. Hari's
relationship with Kevin is dynamic and variable. Kevin supports Hari
in interactions with other peers, however, he also rebuffs Hari
sometimes. Later on, Hari establishes a solid relationship with a new
comer-Casey, an anglophone boy. Casey positiones Hari as worthy and
encourages his identity as a master or expert, and gives support to
his utterances. Through these observations, Day shows that learning
involves the construction of identity, and identity and social
membership entail one another.

In addition, Hari's teacher- Miss Clark- also plays an important role
in his learning process. We can find this by observing the
interactions between Hari and his teacher-Miss Clark. The interactions
suggest that Hari has a special position in Miss Clark's eyes, and
this has lead Hari to be willing to contribute and participate in
classroom discussions.� Teacher's interactions with Hari demonstrate
the power relations and unconscious emotional factors operating in the
relationship between Hari and Miss Clark. In this relationship, Miss
Clark motivates Hari, and he is confident about doing practices, and
is willing to participate in classroom discussions. According to Day,
this presents the importance of viewing learning as relational, and
suggests the need to incorporate psychoanalytic understandings into
the current framework of identity and second language learning.

Through her observations and discussions, Day shows how the critical
interactions between peers and teacher lead Hari to different
positions and how he negotiates the access, participation and
opportunities for English language learning. It also shows that
powerful empowerment from the teacher can lead students to contribute
and get involved. Day clearly demonstrates how an ESL (English as a
second language) learners' self-searching of identity by interactions
with dynamic political and socicultuarl situations is
accomplished. Day suggests that it is important to explore the role of
imagination in second language education, consider alternative
structures that facilitate social relations in the classroom, and give
high value to children's home language and cultures. It is important
for every ESL educator to know that language and culture can not be
separated from each other, and it is significant to understand that
language involves diverse dimensions and we can not only teach
language for its own sake.

It should be noted however; that the account presented in this book is
based only on author's interpretations of classroom events. It does
not bring the teacher's voice, or the voice of Hari, or his parents
and his classmates.� The interpretations of other parties involved in
this language socialization process would definitely add to our
understanding of such a complex and multifaceted issue.


Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and
Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Zohreh Eslami Rasekh is an ESL/EFL teacher educator at Texas A&M
University. She has a Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition and Teacher
Education from the university of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her
research interests include issues related to sociocultural aspects of
second language acquisition, linguistic politeness, cross-cultural
speech act studies, and pragmatics in language teaching. She has
published several papers in the areas mentioned above.
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