Language Learner Identity of Mormon Missionaries: Implications for Second Language Pedagogy and Research
Intertextual Voice Appropriation
Language Learner Autonomy
Language Learner Ideology
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 25-May-2020
AbstractThis dissertation is comprised of three studies that layer social and cognitive perspectives of the Mormon missionary language learner identity. This research explores factors that enhance and constrain their second language (L2) learning and defends arts-based research as a way to inquire the role emotions have in learning an L2. Possible implications for other language learning contexts are discussed. The first article is an exploratory study that examines the language learning experiences of Mormon missionaries by inquiring their unique language learning ideology called “the gift of tongues”, to miraculously speak the second language beyond one's ability through divine assistance. The study uses the anthropological framework of the figured world (see Holland et al., 1998) to understand how participants self-author their belief within their cultural frame through a Bakhtinian perspective of voice (see Bakhtin, 1981). The study identifies what inspired the participants to become missionaries, what the gift of tongues means to the participants, how this belief is constructed and performed by narrative in their cultural frame, and explains how their experience with the gift may be understood from a cognitive perspective. Participants were 17 Spanish language learning missionaries from various U.S. regions assigned to Southern Arizona for 18-24 months. Data were collected through elicitation of their narratives with writing prompts and semi-structured focus-group interviews that evoked their language learning experience from their figured world. Findings indicate that all participants first wanted to be proselytizing missionaries before receiving the assignment to learn an L2. By gender, they are recruited into their figured world differently. Their experience with the gift seems to foster a powerful form of self-compassionate autonomous language learning which may not be replicated beyond their cultural frame. Their personal narratives contain appropriations of institutional utterances and are narrated according to gender performativity (see Butler, 1990) of Mormon culture. At the cognitive level, their narratives of the gift express a strong self-efficacy for language learning and are evidence of passing through the silent period (see Krashen, 1985). This study informs other contexts that self-compassion is a vital emotional component for successful autonomous language learning. The second article is a mixed methods study that explores factors that enhance language learning among 23 Spanish L2 Mormon missionaries in a semi-immersed environment through three perspectives of L2 learning desire. Using the notions of investment (Norton, 1995), learner autonomy (Holic, 1981), and self-efficacy (Bandura 1997; 2006), this study reports on (1) what L2 identities GLL missionaries are invested in, (2) how learner autonomy is fostered by their proselytizing program, (3) the effect of a needs-based self-regulatory L2 pedagogy on their learner autonomy and self-efficacy measures, and (4) the social effect of the pedagogical intervention. All participants were invested in using Spanish for their proselytizing purpose. Those who were perceived with the highest oracy had been invested in additional L2 identities. Because of their common proselytizing vision, the community of missionaries may be a case-in-point of group autonomy, which predisposes them to be successful. The pedagogical intervention had a positive effect on measures of Chen, Gully, and Eden’s (2001) New General Self Efficacy Scale (NGSFS) and Murase’s (2015) Measuring Instrument for Language Learner Autonomy (MILLA). The pedagogy influenced investments in being a language learner. For a few participants, the pedagogy inspired them to study the L2 for imagined identities beyond the present missionary context. These findings have implications for other programs that value autonomous L2 learning with specific missions in mind; including study abroad, English for specific purposes, and the Peace Corps. The third article is an arts-based analytical autoethnography that deeply explores the emotional dimension, or soul, of my own language learning experience. I was as a sojourning Spanish L2 Mormon missionary in Ecuador from 2002-2004. As a scholar-artist in the present, I investigated the relationship emotions had with my identity construction, learning Spanish, and bonding with the Ecuadorian people. In two parts I analyzed two years of autobiographical texts.The first speaks to the academic community through APA writing conventions without art. With a Bakhtinian discourse analysis I explored narrative voice construction during my pre-sojourn training using a concept I call intertextual voice appropriation. These were utterances I unknowingly appropriated from my mission colleagues. They captured perceptions and emotions we shared during our two-month Spanish language training. The second part continues this Bakhtinian analysis deepening the inquiry of emotion through multimodal arts-based research. The result was a multimodal collage piece created on 2016 Microsoft Word that can speak to a broader audience through what I call the Artists’ Article. Media included a collage of charcoal and watercolor, pen drawings and artifacts from my mission, diary texts, photographs, music, poetry, narratives and the aesthetic use of typography/formatting on Microsoft Word. Analyzing myself was extremely difficult and vulnerable. As I engaged in this intuitive-based creative inquiry my heart was captivated by memories and unresolved conflicts between identities. I lost myself in a phenomenological journey, seeking a sensible interpretation of my experience and a resolution through Jungian analytical psychology. Instincts/emotions of nostalgia, play, humor, belongingness, fear, falling in love at first sight, anger, and compassion all influenced my language learner trajectory. I framed these abstract emotional states as archetypes, personified as the “color spirits” and Greek mythological figures. Through a long meaning-making process of deep introspection, artistic expression, self-writing, and employing Jungian concepts, I was able to make some sense of the soul of my language learning experience. The overarching theme was my journey was from religious self-erasure to self-compassion, and how this deep transition changed my relationships with religion, language learning, and the Ecuadorian people. Allowing self-compassion made all the difference. Though I misunderstood aspects of the local cultures, I genuinely connected with the Ecuadorians through instincts/emotions (e.g., play and compassion). The classical ideas of Jung inspired me in this autoethnographic journey and provided a sense of solidarity and resolution. However, the meaning I make of my past is unstable and continuously changes. The collage piece remains in an inconclusive and conflicted state, ever seeking resolution.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching