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Research on Language & Social Interaction

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Language Use, Identity, and Social Interaction: Migrant Students in Australia

Jennifer M. Miller a a Graduate School of Education, University of Queensland. Online Publication Date: 01 January 2000

To cite this Article Miller, Jennifer M.(2000)'Language Use, Identity, and Social Interaction: Migrant Students in Australia',Research on

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Research on Language and Social Interaction, 33(1), 69100 Copyright 2000, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Language Use, Identity, and Social Interaction: Migrant Students in Australia

Jennifer M. Miller Graduate School of Education University of Queensland

Language is commonly understood as a primary resource for enacting social identity and displaying membership of social groups. In this article I explore the links between second-language use, membership, and social contexts through the accounts of recently arrived immigrant students in Australian high schools. I argue that a key notion linking language use and identity is that of self-representation. The ways in which these students represent themselves, and are represented in schools, are critically related to the types of social interactions they participate in and to their ongoing language acquisition and integration into mainstream school and other social contexts. I contend that for schools to attend more effectively to the identities and self-representations of students from non-English-speaking backgrounds, they must first understand the dynamic interrelations of institutional contexts, language resources, and social identities.

What is the languageidentity nexus? And how are we to understand the relation between language use and identity when a person is acquiring and using a second language? These questions are critical to understandI acknowledge the rigorous reading, analysis, and positive suggestions made by the reviewers and editor of Research on Language and Social Interaction, who provided great assistance in reworking and developing this article. My thanks also to Carolyn Baker at the University of Queensland for her comments and suggestions. Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Jennifer M. Miller, Graduate School of Education, University of Queensland, Brisbane QLD 4072, Australia. E-mail: J.Miller@


Jennifer M. Miller

ing how language use and social interaction practices relate. Theoretical positions available for framing such questions are diverse and may draw on second-language acquisition theory, sociolinguistics, discourse, and intercultural studies, or work on membership and identity. A common assumption of sociolinguistics, for example, is that language displays social identity and memberships (Schiffrin, 1996). Language is, in LippiGreens (1997) terms, the most salient way we have of establishing and advertising our social identities (p. 5). Yet any specific theoretical stance must be systematically related to specific circumstances, which provides important insights into these issues. In this article I present the views of recently arrived Chinese-speaking students on these questions. Because of relatively high levels of migration in Australia, schools are increasingly sites of convergence for diverse ethnic groups and cultures, for the everyday use of languages other than English, for the acquisition of English as a second language (ESL), and for the renegotiation and transformation of identities. Many students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in Australia look visibly different from their Anglo-Australian peers. Up to 20% of students in some Brisbane metropolitan schools are of Asian origin. Some of these students were born in Brisbane or arrived at a very young age. These students speak with broad Australian accents and tend not to interact with their more recently arrived peers from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Cambodia, and other Asian countries. Within the school culture, and certainly by those who know them, these students are not seen or heard as other. Through their nativelike use of English, the majority language, they represent themselves and are represented as part of the Aussie gang, as mates and not as non-English-speaking background students. For students who arrive in Australia in their teens, neither looking nor sounding like the White Anglo majority, the situation is very different. McNamara (1997) suggested that immigrant students experiences constitute a complex renegotiation of their social identity in the new society, a process that has profound implications for their attitudes to their own language and the learning of the majority groups language (p. 561). He suggested further that the notion of social identity is increasingly a focus in research on language acquisition (see also Norton, 1995), reflecting a renewed theoretical and political concern for the social dimension of language learning (p. 566). In other words, we cannot ignore social and ideological concerns when assessing language acquisition and use. Trueba (1989) stressed the importance of non-English-speaking back-

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ground (NESB) learners acquiring the majority language, suggesting that communicative ability (which includes linguistic, social, cultural, and cognitive skills) is critical in the process of self-redefinition and adjustment (p. 26). We should not view Truebas claim as implying the subordination of such students other languages and identities but rather as implicated in equity in social participation in new contexts. For all students, much of school life centers around the daily project of establishing a social identity, which is tied to repertoires of language, speech, and action (Wexler, 1992). Linguistic minority students must achieve self-representation in the dominant language if they are to participate in mainstream social and academic contexts, renegotiate their identities in new places, and accrue the necessary symbolic capital to integrate successfully into school and the wider society. In this article I outline a framework useful for considering the links among language use, social interaction, and identity. I then look at data from case studies of recently arrived high school students, showing how their social interactions in school and other contexts are framed by language use and social mem berships. I conclude by relating the case studies to some of the theoretical concerns raised in the first section of the article.


In recent years, a number of critical works have stressed the link between language use or discourse and social identity (Gee, 1996; Giroux, 1992; Hall, 1996; Lippi-Green, 1997; Rampton, 1995; van Dijk, 1997). Closely linked to the central concerns of these works are issues of cultural and ethnic identity. Hall and Giroux wrote from a cultural studies perspective, highlighting social and ideological concerns, whereas Gee, Rampton, and Lippi-Green looked more closely at language use per se, the ways in which it is used to cross boundaries as well as ways in which it functions to include or exclude members of particular groups. Experts acknowledge that language use and identity cannot be considered in isolation from social practices and membership. Antaki, Condor, and Levine (1996) wrote, To speak of someones social identity is to speak, at the very least, of what attaches them in virtue of their membership of a category (p. 473). Hall stated that the problem of identity seems to recur in


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any attempt to rearticulate the relationship between subjects and discursive practices (p. 2). Most recent attempts to come to grips with the notion of identity stress that it is never fixed but always open to change; multifaceted in complex, contradictory ways; tied to social practice and interaction as a flexible and contextually contingent resource; and tied to processes of differentiation from other identified groups. That is, identity is established across differences, and a knowledge of self emerges in relation to others. Hall stressed that identities function as points of identification and attachment only because of their capacity to selectively exclude and include particular groups. Identity is therefore tied to a sense of belonging, a feeling that we are insidersor that we are not. Gee (1996) showed how we shift our identity positions and discourses to express solidarity with particular groups, using language variation to manifest membership and demarcate particular social identities. This is a process in which we take on a particular social role that others will recognize (p. 127). Being recognized by other members signals that we are insiders to that group. He pointed out that an insider of any group must get things rightsay the right thing while being the right who and doing the right what. He stated, Its not just what you say or even how you say it, its who you are and what you are doing while you say it (p. viii). Identity, the who we are and what we are doing, Gee argued, is enacted through a three-way simultaneous interaction among (a) our social or cultural group memberships, (b) a particular social language or mixture of them, and (c) a particular context (p. 69). Envisaging Gees notion as a simple integrated diagram, as Figure 1 shows, is useful. We could also hypothesize that any change to one aspect of the diagram will flow on to other aspects. For example, each new context has consequences in terms of social practices, memberships, and language acquisition and use. I should add that being seen and heard in language interactions is not enough. We must also be recognized and accepted as group members, having our worddeedvalue combinations acknowledged as legitimate by others (Gee, 1996, p. 127). In this way we are apprenticed to the social practices of the group. For this to happen, however, we must be heard as speakers of the groups language, understood and acknowledged as legitimate speakers of that language. We often speak of learning a language as if there were only one or one with finite content. In fact, learning a language entails mastering many languages or sets of discursive practices. The complex and dynamic processes involving language, membership, culture, and identity are central to the position Gee advo-

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FIGURE 1 Enacting identity.

cated, which places discourses at the heart of the matter. He defined discourses as follows:
Discourses are ways of being in the world, or forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities, as well as gestures, glances, body positions, and clothes. A Discourse is a kind of identity kit which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, and often write, so as to take on a particular social role that others will recognize. (p. 127)

For purposes of integration into the mainstream school culture, sometimes being visibly different is less important than being audibly similar. For linguistic minority students for whom this does not happen, exclusion from majority language groups and some isolation from the mainstream culture is likely (Trueba, 1989). That is, if students cannot be heard representing themselves and enacting social roles in ways that other students can recognize, a degree of exclusion from social interaction seems inevitable. The enacting of identity therefore has social consequences in that one is marked as Chinese speaking or English speaking. A Note on Ethnic Identity Sartre gave us the chilling metaphor of the family as a skin into which persons are sewn. Moerman (1988) stressed that ethnicity is not like thatit is, rather, a complex and fluid network of processes in which elements of durable culture are inflected by the momentary contingencies of interaction (p. 85). He stated that although we use ethnic labels to claim that a cat-


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egory or group of people are alike among themselves and different from others, for most people ethnicity is a cloak among others in their wardrobes, not a full time job (p. 87). Hall (1996) suggested that identities are about the process of becoming rather than being: not who we are or where we came from, so much as what we might become, how we have been represented and how that bears on how we might represent ourselves (p. 4). Recognizing that for many students, ethnicity may or may not be part of identity as they see it is also important (Leeman, 1997; Rampton, 1995; Ryan, 1997). Social contexts, memberships, and interaction, as well as language use, will frame identity workthe processes of identification with some and differentiation from others. What seems inescapable is the understanding that our identities are shaped by and through our use of language. And so the question of which language is in use is an important one in the identity stakes.


The students whose commentaries are profiled herein were part of an 18-month qualitative study, which tracked the students from their onarrival intensive ESL program, through to their high school ESL units, and then to their mainstream integration in high school. Case studies, although not generalizable to broad categories or groups, do provide insights into the lived experience of recently arrived NESB students. Data included videotaped focus groups, semistructured interviews (in both English and the first language, in these cases either Mandarin or Cantonese), classroom and school observation, student work samples, and student diaries. Students had spent from 2 to 6 months at the intensive ESL reception program prior to going to high school. They then spent some months in a high school ESL unit before transferring to the mainstream curriculum. Thirteen students overall were included in the study, roughly one half of whom were of Asian origin. The cohort was heterogeneous in terms of ethnicity, language background, age, gender, and academic ability. Table 1 shows the full list, although I used pseudonyms for students and schools. After the first 6 months of data collection, during which time the students had with one exception been in ESL support units in the five high schools, certain cases clearly were proving more fruitful than others. Through observation and interviews, I was becoming increasingly inter-

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TABLE 1 Background on Migrant Students Name Johna Noraa Tinaa Alex Milena Gerrardo Bun Tan Alicia Sinitia Saloma Neta Antonio Tien Sex M F F M F M M F M F F M F Age 16 14 15 15 16 14 14 13 14 13 20 21 16 Nationality Cantonese (Hong Kong) Mainland Chinese Taiwanese Bosnian Bosnian Salvadorean Cambodian Mainland Chinese Rumanian Samoan Bosnian Salvadorean Vietnamese Arrival September 1996 May 1996 July 1996 March 1996 September 1996 January 1996 September 1995 December 1994 August 1996 March 1996 December 1993 August 1994 October 1992


High School Sandford Taylor Taylor Markwell Markwell Grenville Sandford Taylor Taylor Oasis Yarra Yarra Yarra

Note. M = male; F = female. a Students selected for the case studies.

ested in the themes of self-representation, audibility and hearable identities, and the ways I felt these related to some participants. How was it that the Bosnian students, say, had acquired a range of discourses in English and established networks of friends so quickly, whereas other students remained isolated in first-language groups? The Chinese-speaking students for example, who were in all cases quite reticent speakers of English, had only limited interactions with English speakers. For this article, I focus on three students: Nora, who was in the eighth-year level, and Tina and John, in the ninth-year level.

METHODOLOGY Although case study and ethnographic approaches have a long tradition in qualitative research, relatively few studies are found in second-language research (Johnson, 1993; Miller, 1997). One exception is case studies of individual language learners, but the focus in such studies has overwhelm ingly been on the acquisition of particular linguistic features by the subject. Language in use cannot be viewed in isolation from its social and cultural contexts, and although competence in discourse was a central notion in the study, I did not seek to measure students levels of proficiency in spoken or


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written English, to calibrate their competence, or to compare them with a mythical and idealized native speaker (Lippi-Green, 1997). My focus was on eliciting talk, listening to the students, and observing their interactions and their communications in several settings. The contexts of discourse also provide insights into the ways in which language use and language users are socially and culturally situated (Gee, 1996). Different schools, ESL classrooms, mainstream classrooms, playgrounds, staff rooms, meetings outside of school, and phone calls are just some of the contexts in which the discourse occurred, discourse I interpreted as a meaningful, communicative variety of English in itself and not a defective version of standard English. I used a range of discourse-analytic techniques in analyzing data, based on work by Gee, Luke (19951996), and Baker (1997). Case studies were therefore selected as a means of locating these linguistic minority students within their varied sites of activity and participation and a means of understanding how the students constructed, and were constructed by, these sites of representation. Schiffrin (1994) pointed out that in any type of discourse analysis, linguistic forms and meanings operate in tandem with social and cultural meanings. Case study provides the means for situating discourse within a sociocultural matrix and for appreciating also that linguistic identity may be socially defined and interactionally negotiated (Rampton, 1995, p. 323). Case study has often used the metaphor of the researcher as primary research instrument (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992; Merriam, 1988). It is a metaphor that does not do justice to the multifaceted, intellectual, subjective, and reflective nature of the job, and it does not reflect the diverse and individualistic backgrounds researchers bring to the task, including their skills, habits, and firsthand knowledge (Hammersley, 1992). As the researcher, I was positioned in a particular way from the outset. Having been a foreign language and ESL teacher for 20 years and having worked in several schools with ESL programs, I felt close ties both to the schools and staff and had a long-standing interest in migrant students generally. In his ethnographic work on language classrooms, van Lier (1988) drew attention to what he called the base line, common ground between the researcher and field, which underlies both description and interpretation. He wrote,
Behind the data set, however small, the researcher brings to the task whatever insights and experience may have accumulated over the years, and this is of crucial importance. This knowledge constitutes the base line, a sense of common ground between observer and setting, which underlies efficient description and analytic work. (p. 5)

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I felt a strong and unavoidable sense of common groundI felt at home at Newnham High, the intensive reception center for ESL students; in ESL staff rooms and classrooms; and in the corridors and playgrounds of most of the schools I visited. Although Hammersley (1992) suggested no overwhelming advantage is had in being either an insider or an outsider, I felt well positioned as bothformer ESL teacher and university researcher. Herein I provide mini-case studies for the three Chinese students and then use the cases to draw some conclusions. Before beginning with Tina, a brief description of the main school referred to in this article, Taylor High, which both Tina and Nora attended, is important. A note on Johns high school is included in the section on John. Taylor High is a small metropolitan school with 500 students. It contains an ESL unit for students exiting the on-arrival program at Newnham High. Almost 25% of Taylor High students are from NESBs, and the two dominant groups are from Taiwan or China and Vietnam, although more than 30 nationalities are represented. More than one half of the students do not live near the school but travel considerable distances to attend Taylor High because of its ESL unit and because it is in a middle-class area. The school administration prides itself on its multicultural population and the harmonious relations among the many ethnic and language groups. Linguistic minority students, however, and particularly the Chinese and Vietnamese groups, tend to assemble under one block of the school, sitting and chatting in groups in the first language.

Tina During Tinas first 18 months in Australia, her Taiwanese background was very much in the foreground. In terms of language use, memberships, school, and social contexts, her sense of identity was strongly tied to being Taiwanese. She spoke Mandarin and moved in a Taiwanese world. As indicated earlier, language, context, and social memberships are closely and integrally related. The entry point for the following discussion is context, which illuminates issues of membership and language use. I begin with Tinas out-of-school context and then turn to the school context and the issue of speaking English. No matter where I go, still Taiwanese. Fifteen-year-old Tina lived with her mother and older brother in a high-rise unit in an exclusive suburb.


Jennifer M. Miller

Her father worked in Taiwan. On weekends, Tina regularly visited Chinatown in the city or traveled 20 km across town to another suburb renowned for its strong Chinese community, businesses, shops, restaurants, karaoke clubs, and cinema. When asked why she identified so strongly with being Taiwanese, she said, Because everyone around me is still Taiwanese, no matter where I go, still Taiwanese. What I feel here is the same as what I feel in Taiwan. She accounted for her long trips to the Chinese suburb: There is karaoke over there, and then more Orientals, more friends. Ironically, her mother had chosen not to live in this suburb on the grounds that there are too many Taiwanese in [the Chinese suburb], it is a bit crowded. In her spare time therefore, Tina traveled considerable distances to position herself securely within the Chinese-speaking community. When at home, Tina was immersed in her first language. Her family spoke Mandarin at all times, and they had no Australian friends. She said they had foreign friends from China and Taiwan. The familys only Australian acquaintance was a private tutor Tinas mother had hired for 1 hr per week to help with the childrens English. Tina also mentioned that she had never heard her brother, who attended the same high school, speak any English, nor had he heard her using English. In one interview, Tina said she had stopped watching television. When I asked why, she explained that they now had a videotape player and rented four or five videos a week in Chinatown, either in Mandarin or with Chinese subtitles. This meant that apart from some mealtimes, when the television was occasionally on, Tina was effectively cut off from this influential source of English language as well as social and cultural knowledge. These things together provide a glimpse into the context of her out-of-school life. Her holidays also provide some insight into her sense of belonging. After 5 months in Australia, Tinas family returned to Taiwan for the Christmas holidays. She told me before leaving that she would have no opportunity to speak English for 6 weeks. She was very happy to be going back. In the middle of the following year, her mother returned to Taiwan, leaving the two children for 3 weeks. During this time, Tina was at school for 1 week but for the other 2 weeks mostly stayed at home in the unit. In the September holidays, she also remained at home. At the start of these holidays, she wrote in her diary:1
Ya! The holiday is beginning from today. I love holidays! Dont need to do any homework. Dont need to get up at 7:30 a.m. . . . However, most of my friends went back to Taiwan. No-one could go shopping with me. I may stay at home the whole holiday! I am so lonely! (Diary: 20.9.97)

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Her next entry was 8 days later:

I cant endure anymore. This holiday is too boring. Until now, I just went out one timewent to the library and return two books. The weather begins hotter: my heart falls deeper. I start to hate holidays. But I still dont want to go to school! I want to . . . want to . . . go back TAIWAN. (Diary: 28.9.97)

Her repetition of want to and choice of uppercase for Taiwan reveal her strong feelings at this time. She was relieved to get back to school after these holidays, noting in her diary that at least there she would have someone to talk to. I now turn to the school environment. At schoolMy friends are all from the same place. The following question and Tinas answer comes from the interview conducted in Mandarin (F was the interviewer):2
F: If a new student came, say from Taiwan, and she wanted to know something about Taylor High, what do you think you would tell her? T: Lots of Taiwanese are here, so dont worry.

This was a telling response, offering insight into Tinas own coping mechanism (in both social and linguistic terms) in the high school, which she had attended for 6 months, a school where 30% of the students were from NESBs. These students included large groups of Taiwanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese students. The Taiwanese group provided for Tina the haven of her first language and strong links to Taiwan. In the following interview excerpt, she outlines what she and her friends usually talked about at school: What we talk about? Well, well, we always gossip on someone. And we often talk about the things happening in Taiwan, the big events happening in Taiwan. We write, the friends in Taiwan write to us and tell us about them. So we often talk about this. Her answer, Lots of Taiwanese here, so dont worry, also provides a clue to her position on language use at the school. Just after she started at the school, she told me that she did not need to speak English at school. Six months later, the Mandarin interviewer prompted the following exchange:
F: You once said to Miss Miller that at Taylor High you didnt need to speak English. What is it like now? T: The same.


Jennifer M. Miller

F: Why? T: Because (2.0) the friends of mine speak the same language, the same, they are all from the same place, all come from Taiwan, China or Hong Kong. So it is not necessary to use English.

By Tinas own account, these students were clearly not from the same placebut speaking the same language made it seem so. The same place was the land of Chinese speakers. Note that students from Hong Kong did not normally speak Tinas language but Cantonese. But language use set apart these students as having a particular membership, that of Mandarin and Cantonese speakers, who stayed visibly as a strongly cohesive group within the school, within mainstream classes, but particularly during morning tea and lunch. Tina emphasized in the interview that even students who had been in Australia for 4 or 5 years and spoke good English remained in the Chinese-speaking groups at lunch. In fact, it was more complicated than this. Mandarin and Cantonese are not mutually intelligible, so the Cantonese-speaking students from Hong Kong tended to be together. Yet a number of students were bilingual in these languages or had some comprehension of the second language. I mentioned to Tina that it was very noticeable at lunchtime that the Chinese-speaking students sat together, to which she commented, All Taiwanese, or Vietnamese, or some overseas students are under C Block. And other blocks are Australian. The physical segregation of Australian and NESB students was therefore not along language lines but based more on the fact of their being NESB or ESL students. One should also note that the students in C Block were overwhelmingly of Asian origin. For those who spoke good Englishand I had heard some broadly Australian-accented English from some students in this groupbeing in the group was possibly a matter of personal choice. For those, like Tina, who had not yet developed confidence in using English, it was a matter of pragmatic necessity. I asked her directly on one occasion why she thought the Taiwanese students liked to stay together, and she replied, I stay with them because language is not pretty good and I cant talk to Australian very much (1.0) so I stay with them. I must add here that Tina was still mostly in the ESL class at the school but was integrated into mainstream math and geography. In the ESL classroom, more than one half of the class spoke Mandarin or Cantonese. She rarely used English in this context, except to answer a ques-

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tion from the teacher. I address her experience of using English in the mainstream context in the next section. I can understand all of what they say, just I do not like to speak. Tina acknowledged that the two lessons she spent in the mainstream each day provided her only real opportunity to talk in English to Australian students. She stressed that she did not feel challenged by the content in math, all of which she had done in Taiwan, and that the geography was paced slowly enough for her to keep up, which left the question of English. The following is an excerpt from her interview in Mandarin:
F: Do you have any difficulties in the class? T: No. F: Why? T: Because I can understand all of what they say, just I do not like to speak. F: You dont like to speak. Is that because you dont want to talk, or you have difficulty in speaking? T: Both. Because sometimes when I said something, they did not understand, so I dont want to speak. F: You feel that they dont understand? T: Sometimes, perhaps because of my accent, different accent, so sometimes they dont understand. Then I dont want to speak any more.

Having observed her in the geography class and reviewed her test results, I was aware that she followed the lessons with ease. She had also told me that she understood everything the teacher said. And I was aware of her silence. The silence, it seemed, was caused by the frustration of knowing that although she understood, she could not make herself understood, a point she makes in the previous excerpt. Her use of they groups the Australian students and teachers, those who did not understand, in one oppositional category. In an earlier interview, I also clearly felt her exasperation when I could not grasp a particular word (mainstream) she was saying to me and her frustration and virtual disbelief when I asked if she could speak more loudly. Such experiences over time caused her simply to choose not to speak English. Other data showed she felt the Australian students were indeed unwilling to speak to her. Ironically, she had spoken more English on arrival in Australia during her time at the intensive ESL reception program because in that school of more than 30 nationalities, English, however halting, was the most common language. Moving to


Jennifer M. Miller

high school meant she lost her non-Taiwanese NESB friends with whom she could experiment and practice English:
T: After I came to this school, I seldom talk, speak English. Before, when in [the reception school], there were some friends from, not Australianthere was a chance, sometimes to speak English, but now, here, no. F: Is that because there are so many Taiwanese students or: T: Yeah, and the Australian classmates wont actively talk to me, so I wont go to talk to them.

Ironically, in moving to a mainstream Australian context, Tina lost the chance to speak English. As we have seen from the physical organization of students during lunch (i.e., outside of the high school classroom), talking to Australian students would indeed mean going somewhere because none are generally available in the area where the students of Asian background are. This was a move that Tina, along with many others, was unprepared to make. However, I discovered another dimension to Tinas view of why speaking English to Australians was difficult. In this excerpt, Tina accounts for what she perceived as the unwillingness of Australian students to speak to her:
T: Seems that they dont like the black hairs. Because I have a classmate from Bosnia now in my class. If we go to [a mainstream] class together, they, they know that she is not Australian, dont speak much English, but go to talk to her not me. F: Why? T: Dont know. F: Where is she from? T: Bosnia. Blondie hair.

By black hairs she was referring to Asian students. She had used the same expression and made a similar point at other times to me. She had also conveyed this theory to other Chinese students in the ESL class. Throughout the data, Tinas categories of black hairs (Asian migrant students), blondies (European migrant students), and Australians (dom inant mainstream students) spoke to her own sense of identity and inclusion in the first group and exclusion from the other two groups. Tinas story to this point exemplifies the notion of identity established within and across differences and an understanding of self in relation to other groups. Identifying herself as a black hair showed her sense of belonging

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and allegiance to the Asian students at the school but also conveyed her exclusion from the dominant mainstream groups. She was thus an insider to the group from Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong, for whom where we came from was still of critical defining importance, but saw herself as an outsider to the Australian groups and also the European migrant group, members of whom she perceived were heard and spoken to by the Australians. Unlike her blond Bosnian peer, she had not yet been spoken to or heard as a legitimate speaker of English. We can summarize much of the data offered here by using the simple Gee-inspired (1996) model (Figure 2). Nora Nora came from Shanghai with her mother in mid-1996, 7 years after her father had moved to Brisbane to find work in restaurants. He established a network of friends and business associates, opening a series of quite successful noodle bars, in the latest of which Nora worked in on weekends and during holidays. Nora once bemoaned to me (with her inim itable smile) that she was a free worker, that is, an unpaid worker in the noodle bar, where she worked for up to 15 hr a weekend. Nora and Tina attended the same intensive ESL program on arrival and moved to the same high school at the same time. Nora was very much a part of the C

FIGURE 2 Tinas identity work.


Jennifer M. Miller

Block Asian group, but her language use, and particularly her views about speaking English, differed from Tinas views. They are all foreigners, so I speak English to them. The word foreigners recurred frequently in Noras discourseboth in speaking and in writing. The context was as follows:
F: Do you get to talk with Australian kids? N: Yeah, at mainstream, they are all foreigners, so I speak English to them.

I found it endearing that the tables were turned in this quintessentially Chinese perspective, in which all those not from the middle kingdom (China) are outsiders or foreigners. The following are other examples of this usage of the category foreigners: 1. Because my dad has a shop, I work there, I have to talk with the foreigners, it is in English. 2. It is bit troublesome to talk with foreigners. 3. Last time a foreigner written a science report, she copied my other classmate. One could add that in the last comment, by classmate Nora meant an ESL classmate, a Chinese-speaking classmate. Clearly Nora had a sense of contexts in which English was appropriate, including the shop and her mainstream classes, even though speaking English could be troublesome. Using English to forge friendships was still difficult. Nora said she had friends but no good friends who spoke English; her good friends were from Guang Dong (a province in China). The Chinese interviewer came back to this topic at the end of the interview:
F: Do you have any difficulty to make friends with your Aussie classmates? From what youve said, you did not mention the Aussies. N: Good friends? Yeah. If I say something, then definitely it is very clear if it is in Chinese, but in English, it is not so clear. Sometimes, when I say something in English, I myself dont know what I am saying.

Noras primary point here is that she needs to communicate clearly to make friends, and this is not yet possible for her to do in English. If at times she herself is not sure what she is saying in English, the listener might well also be flummoxed. She was aware that being heard and understood was part of the process of becoming a member in any group. Her

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first language was in fact the dialect of Shanghai. This complicated things even further for her at times, yet Nora was not discouraged from trying to speak English when the necessary contexts arose. Youre hereYou have to speak. Over the course of her first 6 months in high school, Nora made much progress in English. It emerged that it was perhaps less in the context of school, where she like Tina spoke a lot of Chinese, but rather in her out-of-school opportunities, which scaffolded her developing confidence and competence in English. At the start of the year, I had asked her to describe her work at the noodle bar. I asked if she answered the phonegales of disbelieving laughter, followed by Oh no, my father and another girl do that. By midyear she was taking phone orders and could scarcely remember a time when she had not done so. In this exchange, she recounts a recent incident in the noodle bar:
F: Can you tell me something about working in the noodle bar? N: Nothing new, very boring, every time, just repeating the same sentences. If it is very busy, then it is very troublesome. For example, last Saturday, all of a sudden we had a lot of customers, after they ordered, my dad was too busy to cope, he is the cook, he was not able to cook that fast, then many customers were not happy. It is very troublesome in such situation. F: Do they need you to explain to the customers? N: I did, I said sorry to them, we were so busy. But some of them still not happy.

It seems likely that even just repeating the same sentences may have given her a great boost in confidence. In the context of the noodle bar, she had a dual legitimacy, as a member of the Chinese owners family and as a worker, serving customers in English. Even if her utterances did not range far beyond the noodle menu, they were of necessity heard and understood. Having her language use validated in this way, to the point where she was able to apologize on behalf of her father to a group of disaffected and impatient customers, is evidence of the linguistic capital she had accrued in the space of a few months. Armed with a pragmatic attitude to language contexts, Nora was in fact extending herself in English beyond the noodle bar. She pointed out that one of her favorite pastimes, shopping, was part of the learning process. She also linked this to the location of the shops:
N: Unless you go to Chinatown, you need to speak English everywhere else. This forces you to speak English.


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F: What do you feel about your English now, compared to when you arrived? N: Much better. F: So, you have more courage to N: dare to talk with the foreigners. F: When you just came

N: When I just came, ehh, I didnt know. Once I said a sentence, I always felt this sentence was not right. Now, my English is much better, I dont think this way any more.

Although this seemingly contradicts her statement in the same interview that she found it hard to be clear in English, it nevertheless provides insight into her developing sense of confidence and sense of progress over time. Nora was also an avid television viewer. During the focus group interview, she said she used the action and story line to comprehend the language being used. Finally, her family had friends whose children were Australianborn Chinese and not proficient speakers of Mandarin. Noras English was better than their Chinese, which provided further opportunity for her to use English. The following interview excerpt summarizes her attitude:
F: Yeah, you said just now that when you arrived here, you didnt speak much, now you can talk a lot, is that because your language has improved? N: That is one aspect. Another aspect, youre here, you have to speak.

You have to speak, and you have to be heard. Nora was adapting her language use and gaining new memberships in new contexts. Although at school she used mostly Chinese, one incident in that context showed the precarious interdependence of membership and language use. All the teachers are not equitable. In the following journal entry, Nora recounts what she perceives as inequitable treatment from the mainstream science teacher. Although I point out some language features of the text, readers should understand that the focus of the analysis is discourse, not errors or interlanguage. Noras spelling, punctuation, and paragraph structure are reproduced as they appear in the journal:
1 17697 2 Oh! I very to be out of luck! 3 From this morning, when I caught the bus, Im discovered my bus ticket was 4 finished and I forgot to change the bus ticket, so I paid for that bus, and that 5 driver was very ferocious. I dont like he, I dont want see he again.

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6 In the first period I very carefully listen to the teacher. . . . Teacher let us do 7 some work, I done very well (I think) A person she copied at me, when I readed it 8 out, teacher said good. She didnt said anything ((else)). But that people 9 copied at me, she readed it out, My teacher Yelled: Excellent! That was 10 excellent! And said many good words of she. Im very set ((sad/upset)). I 11 thinks the teacher was very equitable, she just like foreigners, and every she 12 always think the foreigners are getting better. Foreigners are best! For example: 13 last time a foreigner written a science report, she copied my other classmate, 14 when she gave this one to the teacher, somethings were wrong, but the teacher 15 still mark shes right, and gave her full mark. My classmate got lower marks 16 than that foreigner. so I think all the teachers are not equitable. 17 In this afternoon, a foreigner just asked me somethings about that video. When 18 I answered her, teacher said Nina, shout up! I very unhappy all the day. 19 Before the Tina told me some thing about the teachers likes the foreigners. I dont 20 believe she, now I realize that. I just dont know why the teachers always likes 21 fornigner, they always like white skin, gold hairs? 22 In world was cares never equitable, not equitable at the all.

In line 2, Nora provides the abstract of her story with Oh! I very to be out of luck! This is Chinese word order, and it seems likely that, having forgotten the verb am, she looked up the Chinese verb, which is always unconjugated, and found to be. In the first three paragraphs (lines 321) she then describes four incidents that are instances of the bad luck theme. The fourth paragraph (lines 1922) contains her moral evaluation of the instances described, in which she concludes teachers are guilty of discriminating against Asian students. The final line constitutes the coda to the narrative. In spite of its anomalous syntax, it conveys the clear message that the world is not a fair place. In the final coda, she seems to draw on a discourse of cultural aphorisms to provide philosophical com mentary on what she is experiencing. Such concluding homilies are a generic feature of many texts presented to primary students in Chinese schools. A story is followed by a moral, and Nora is therefore drawing on this cultural resource to conclude her narrative. In the second paragraph (lines 718) she depicts two categories of students who are the protagonists in two episodes from her science class. The categories are represented on the one hand by a person (line 7), foreigners (lines 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, and 21), and white skin, gold hairs (line 21), and on the other hand by Nora herself, as shown in the use of the first-person pronoun and my classmate, by which we should


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understand Nora to mean an ESL classmate. That is, she sets up a dichotomy within the class, opposing mainstream Australian students with ESL students. She then argues that the teacher discriminates in favor of the former group, who in both incidents have plagiarized work from ESL students. In lines 1316 she narrates the story of the girl who copied from her and then conveys the teachers comment on the girls respective efforts good to Nora, and a yelled excellent to the plagiarizer. The contrast Nora makes between this understated comment and the yelled excellent is noteworthy, as is the fact that switching the verb from said to yelled is a sophisticated rhetorical device that contributes to the contrast. In lines 1112 she summarizes what she sees as the teachers predilection for Australian students in terms of the teacher liking these students and thinking they are improving. Nora concludes this with the formulation, Foreigners are best, a projection of what she represents as the teachers construction of the Australians. She then proposes a further example to support this formulation, adding an analogous incident of the teachers favorable evaluation of work plagiarized from an ESL student (lines 910). In this instance, she depicts the discrimination not in terms of an oral comment but in terms of marks, lower for her ESL classmate than for that foreigner. In the final paragraph, Nora relates the gist of talks with her Taiwanese friend Tina, who around this time had been talking to Nora about discriminatory practices by teachers, such as preferring blond-haired students, represented here by Nora as white skin, gold hairs (line 21). Clearly at this time, in Noras representation, foreigners and ESL students are seen, heard, and evaluated differently in her classes. Although Nora frequently ascribed the term foreigner to mainstream Australian students, she did not overtly refer to herself as Chinese or Asian. In terms of identity, her difference from the foreigners is implied. However, we have a sense of the process of self-redefinition and adjustment (Trueba, 1989) as Nora moved between contexts, using English where necessary, trying out new memberships. Once again, we can use the Gee-inspired (1996) model to summarize Noras position at this time (Figure 3). John Sixteen-year-old John arrived in Australia with his mother and three younger sisters in September 1996. His father remained in Hong Kong for business reasons, and the family settled in Sandford, one of several sub-

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FIGURE 3 Noras identity work.

urbs adjacent to the metropolitan area, all of which are renowned for their large ethnic Chinese communities. Johns two younger sisters went to primary school and preschool. He and his 13-year-old sister attended the Newnham High reception program. John told me that his neighbors were from Hong Kong, and several other friends from Taiwan and Hong Kong lived close by. Approximately 40% of Sandfords population speak a Chinese language at home. After 9 weeks at Newnham High, John and his 13year-old sister moved to the ESL unit of Sandford High School. Overall, 35% of Sandford Highs students were not born in Australia. Of the 1,070 students, 14% were from Asian countries, 8.5% were from Europe (excluding the United Kingdom), and 1.2% were from the Middle East. Johns family spoke Cantonese at home. Speaking English. My first talk with John was in December 1996, approximately 10 weeks after he arrived in Australia. Two months later at his high school, we spoke again and I noted on the transcript the difficulties of these talks: John speaks in a very jerky staccato way, with long pauses. Because Johns answers are often brief, or reflect that he didnt understand my


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question, I am constantly searching for something to keep the talk going, or to paraphrase the question; lots of negotiation needed. Spoke briefly to one of his teachers. John had been away for a week in the first three weeks of school (Chinese New Year?), and apart from that, the teacher said he had not said five words. At times, we were just able to keep the conversation going. I can cite several examples from our talks where he simply did not understand words or questions I used, where we had difficulty understanding each other. The following extract shows one of my turns, in which I asked a question, then paraphrased it four times before John responded:
R: When you arrived here were you very surprised? (2.0) Or: surprised at anything about Brisbane? (2.0) Or found things very different? (1.0) Your first impressions. (1.0) What did you notice in Brisbane when you came first? J: Australia is very large country. If you go to buy something you need to buy a car. (3.0) Its not the same as Hong Kong.

Those first four questions, which seemed to drag interminably, drew a blank, until John finally chipped in after the fifth reformulation. I can also cite several examples of miscommunication in the interview, one of which follows. I had just asked John if Chinese people were living in his area, when the following interchange occurred:
J: My (inaudible) is with me to coming here. R: Sorry? J: My (labor), my house labor, they are all come from Hong Kong. R: You mean the workers in your house, your house labor. J: Yeah. R: What do you mean by labor? J: They live in (.) near my house. R: And what do they do in your house? (2.0) ((the penny drops)) Oh your neighbors. Sorry, I heard labor, I heard wrongly.

Johns mispronunciation and my wrong assumption meant that we were on different wavelengths throughout these turns. Phonemically, he was only one consonant out; neighbor and labor are very close. However, the semantic difference disrupted the meaning completely. Sometimes it seemed that the burden for John as speaker and the burden for me as listener were very great. The reverse was also true. We must first take into account the work

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needed on both sides, and in both directions, as we consider why some students eventually give up trying to speak English. During our first talk, the topic of the intensive reception program came up, and John made the point that with students from so many countries, he needed to use English to talk to another people, that this was easy to do, and that his English was getting better as a result. However, although he talked at times to other students, his friends were clearly from his own language group or from Taiwan because John spoke both Cantonese and what he termed Chinese (Mandarin). These friendships within his own language group continued at Sandford High, and by May, when he had been at Sandford for 4 months, my question about whether he thought his English was improving was greeted with a very emphatic No. In June, John was interviewed in Cantonese, and he expressed concern about retaining his level of English:
D: You have no confidence in keeping your level of English. J: Not much confidence. D: In what ways do you think that can improve your English? J: No ways.

To see Johns concern and his comment in perspective, one must understand the contexts in which he used and did not use English. He made this clear on several occasions, as in this excerpt from the Cantonese interview:
D: Then, is there any time that you speak English in school? J: When I talk to teachers. D: That means you will only speak English in the classroom and speak no English outside the classroom. J: No, I will not. D: Do you have any Australian or English-speaking friends? J: (pause) Greeting only. There is little communication between us.

John reiterated his claim that he spoke English only to teachers or in class on other occasions. I observed this also during his classes, where, when possible, he sat with Cantonese-speaking friends. In one ESL lesson, he and two other boys switched constantly to Cantonese, using every stumbling of another student as a window of opportunity for chat. In mainstream classes he found the teachers spoke too fast. In a woodwork lesson I watched as he remained totally isolated from the other students. He and a Taiwanese boy had a workbench to themselves but did not communicate. Another context


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that was a mystery to him was the school assembly. He had no idea what they were talking about. I just boring sit down, he said. This, I thought, could apply to 90% of the student body during any assembly, but John was an outsider to the ritual, excluded not by boredom but by language. Failing to understand, and just failing. In the Cantonese interview, John talked about exams in some of his subjects:
D: Can you tell me more about these subjects? Are they difficult besides not understanding the English? J: I filled nothing in the examination paper of geography and mathematics. D: Can you tell me why? J: I dont even understand the questions in the paper. D: What about in classroom? Do you understand what the teachers teach? J: I cant understand because they speak too fast. D: Is language the main barrier to your learning? J: Yes, they speak too fast. When I understand the first sentence, the second sentence is passed already. So I cant understand in the class.

Two points are of note in Johns account. On the one hand, his mainstream teachers provided a critical contrast to the ESL teachers, whom he told me spoke much slower and use simple English. Mainstream teachers simply spoke too fast for him to follow. On the other hand, he was unable to read and understand written text on exam papers, even in a subject he did not find difficult, such as math. Combined, these two problems represented formidable barriers to Johns academic success in the mainstream. What was it like, to sit for months in classes, for hours each day, not understanding what was being said, what was going on, or what was supposed to be done? John said that woodwork was possibly his favorite subject. He could pass the practical work but added, If it is in the form of a written exam, I must be failed. The interviewer queried this:
D: Why do you think you must be failed? J: Its because he doesnt teach in the class. D: What does he do if he doesnt teach in class? J: Just doing the woodwork. D: But what can he test in the exam? He can only test what he has taught. J: We have workbooks. He didnt teach but we need to finish the workbook by ourselves. Usually, I copy from others. D: Do you think its the teachers fault if you fail in the exam? J: In fact, I dont understand the whole workbook.

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Having students complete theory workbooks by themselves entails a critical set of assumptions on the teachers part. It assumes a high level of literate practice and motivation from the students involved. It also assumes a com mand of the dominant language in the text. It leaves students such as John very little option but to copy from others. Not understanding the whole workbook was yet another instance where John was an outsider to the discourse. He did not blame the teacher, although I secretly did. Speaking Chinese. Sandford and its neighboring suburbs had substantial ethnic Chinese communities, and these students had previously traveled a long way to get to Newnham High. On entering the high school ESL unit, they returned to their own patch and a high school with a large visible group of Chinese-speaking students. John had already told me he was looking forward to starting high school because Sandford have more ESL teacher can speak Chinese and Cantonese. Its very easy to know what they say. My first thought was that he was still very dependent on and expecting first-language support. Later, I thought more about his second statement, Its very easy to know what they say. I thought that knowing what people are saying is a very basic need, tied to symmetries of power within any interactional context and to membership and a sense of self. We know that as John moved beyond the boundaries of the ESL class, his expectations were not met and that, in fact, he often did not know what people were saying. He was able to establish a counterscript as it were, which operated both within the ESL and lunchtime contexts. John maintained his friendships with many students from the reception school program, which continued to act as a small flag around which former students rallied. His group was also defined by its use of one of two Chinese languages. He was bilingual in these languages and explained the difference to me:
R: What, what is the difference between Chinese and [Cantonese J: [Different. Er, Cantonese is (1.0) just use in Hong Kong but Chinese is use in (2.0) Taiwan, China, (2.0) er is not same the language.

This was the only overlap in any of our talks. He knew about this and jumped in. He later told the Cantonese interviewer that he interacted with many more Mandarin (Chinese) speakers than Cantonese speakers, which meant for much of the time he was operating in his second language. As with many of the Anglo-Australian groups, gender segregation was clearly the norm for the Chinese students. Under Block 2 on one occasion I


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counted 24 Chinese-speaking boys sitting around, playing cards, eating, and talking. The card players had several onlookers. I hovered and eavesdropped. They looked like older students, around Years 10 to 12. There were no girls, no Anglo-Australians, and no other ESL students in the area. Younger Asian students, predominantly boys, were playing handball on courts between buildings nearby. To some extent, the grounds and buildings of Sandford seemed mapped out in patterns of language use and ethnic groupings. John was totally surrounded by speakers of his first and second languages. In the course of the Cantonese interview, the interviewer, David, also from Hong Kong, tried to construct John as a student who was lucky to have so much access to English speakers and who was well on the way to successful integration at Sandford. John established a counterrepresentation almost immediately, as this excerpt from the start of the interview demonstrates. David raised the issue of getting used to life in Australia:
D: Its maybe easier for you to get used to it because you have talked to Australians here every day for eight months. In fact, I am still not really used to the life here although I have been here for more than one year. My English may be poorer than you. J: No, it will not. I dont speak English. ((answers in soft voice)) D: You dont speak English? Is it because there are many Chinese students here? J: There are many Chinese here.

Johns claim that he doesnt speak English is ambiguous. It may refer to his self-evaluation of his proficiency in English, to his preferred practice not to speak English, or both. John continued to resist Davids discourse of integration, maintaining his sense of otherness and social distance:
D: If you had a chance to speak to the students in Newnham as an old student, what would you say to introduce this school to them, so that they can also integrate into this school as you have? J: I would not go in for giving such an introduction. D: You wouldnt? Dont you want to help them? J: Choose someone else but not me. D: (laughs) What about if there are some Newnham students who had come here already? J: Such students are many here. D: As an older student, would you encourage them to integrate into the school? I found that you are not alone. I saw your friends in the playground. So what can you suggest to the new Newnham students in this school?

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We have our own groups. Taiwanese will group together. The same as those who come from Hong Kong and other countries. We play with our group members. Usually, the Chinese like to sit in the canteen during lunch and recess.

D: Mm . . . and you go into your group. J: Yes, I do. D: Will you join the Australian groups? J: I still cannot integrate into their groups.

If we look just at Johns turns, we see a systematic rejection of Davids propositions. I have italicized five examples in the text. Read together, they constitute a powerful rejection of the interviewers standpoint. John is not being what David wants him to be and is not saying what David is leading him to say. In terms of his worddeedvalue combinations (Gee, 1996), John is enacting his identity here in a way that establishes distance from certain groups (former Newnham students as a blanket category and Australian groups), and proximity to others (our own groups with Taiwan and Hong Kong mentioned specifically). Johns limited proficiency in English and his lack of use of English constituted a cycle from which he did not diverge in these first 6 months at high school. The fact that he spoke English only to teachers in class (and that very little) meant that he was effectively learning English as many Australian students learn a foreign languagewith no supporting out-of-class context. In this circumstance he chose to represent himself as a member of Chinese-speaking groups, socially distant from and unable to integrate into Australian groups. Students such as John sometimes have no Australian or English-speaking friends, even after years in the country.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION Although individual differences exist among students that affect their language acquisition, identity work, and social interaction, the complex processual interplay of contexts, language use, and social memberships is evident in the data presented here. Gees (1996) notion that identity is enacted through the three-way relation among these is helpful in understanding the process. However, I now focus on the ways in which language resources and identity work are implicated in processes of inclusion and exclusion within institutions such as high schools. These students were not


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confident speakers of English and relied heavily on their first-language groups for social interaction at school. But they were also influenced in powerful ways by the social practices around them. Tina, Nora, and John all found that in the intensive reception program, where all students were from NESBs, they had more real opportunities to use English than in their mainstream high schools. At Newnham High, the initial conditions and practices of the school favored the rapid acquisition of English and a broad social mix in terms of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. All three students left this school at the same time. Once in the high schools, where English and English-speaking students were dominant, they found they were neither heard nor understood. The irony is that moving into a mainstream high school actually limited their chances to use English. Tina and John stopped trying to speak English, the classroom becoming for them the only place where English was used. Nora had a more pragmatic attitude, feeling that speaking English to native foreigners was both inevitable and necessary. Yet in some ways, the noodle bar was a more powerful force in her language and social development than the school. Riggins (1997) reminded us that Discourses of Otherness are articulated by both dominant majorities and subordinate minorities (p. 6). In simple terms, I can identify those around me as other, or I can define myself as other. Discourses of Otherness are of course often tied to discriminatory practices. Both Riggins and Lippi-Green (1997) stressed that discrimination arises not from discourse itself but from the social circum stances and identities attached to language use. Experts have also argued that the way members of an ethnic group speak among each other are related to their position in society, and how they are spoken to and spoken about by dominant group members (van Dijk, Ting-Toomey, Smitherman, & Troutman, 1997). Categorization and representation of the Other are therefore shaped by others representations of us. These students seemed acutely aware of themselves as other. In Noras diary text we see her discursive categories in which she sets herself apart from others. We also see evidence that she is excluded by and through language use in a number of ways. In the first instance, she includes herself in the ESL group, and specifically the Asian group, the one that is not white skin, blond hairs, or foreigner. Right or wrong, she perceives that the teacher discriminates on this basis also, favoring the blond hairs, seeing, hearing, and evaluating them differently from Nora and her friends. Tina labels her group outright as black hairs, virtually looking at herself through Aus-

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tralian eyes, positioning herself as different and as other. Both girls felt that they were heard differently by teachers from the Anglo-Australian students. John stated clearly that he remained outside dominant language groups. This article would have been very different if I had chosen to write about the Bosnian students. After the initial stages, they did not encounter these problems in interaction and communication, leaving room for the possibility that part of the experiences of the Chinese students relates in fact to their visible difference. In view of the data presented in this article, at least two positions are possible. Some would argue that these students opted for a self-imposed segregation, choosing not to mix with Anglo-Australian students and choosing not to use English. This view sits well with the stereotype of Asian students as withdrawn, quiet, and resistant to integration. It also places any social or language problem squarely in the lap of the linguistic minority students themselves, obviating the need for the institutions to do anything extra for the students. Others would claim that the students are in fact positioned by institutional practices, which include the ways languages and language varieties are valued, the social order that prevails, specific practices relating to academic work, and so on. What is difficult to resolve is whether the Chinese students in this study stayed together through choice or as a response to an imposed marginalization. Often unable to represent themselves through the use of English, their Chinese identities and language seemed an obvious resource for them, necessary to maintain social memberships and to represent their identities. As Chinese-language users, their distance from dominant group members was further established. The students also claimed that Anglo-Australian students simply did not talk to them, which was one way they represented the social order of the school. The lack of opportunities to use English socially at school meant that these students were operating in what was basically a modified foreign-language environment. Savignon (1991) was unequivocal in her claim that language learning results from participation in communicative events. How are such students to acquire the majority language if they cannot participate in personal interactions with its speakers at school? These interactions are also essential for the acquisition of discourse and sociocultural rules and the building of what Kelly Hall (1995) described as interactive resources (p. 208). Institutional practices are implicated in other ways in constraining the successful social and academic integration of linguistic minority students.


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For example, the dominant discourses of the school did not value these students as Chinese or as speakers of Mandarin. As Cummins and Swain (1986) pointed out, where the first language of the student goes unrecognized, untapped, and undeveloped, and where proficiency in English is or remains very limited, identity work in the public arena may be seriously affected. They wrote, To be told, whether directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, that your language and the language of your parents, of your home and of your friends is non-functional in school is to negate your sense of self (p. 101). In Queensland remains the anomalous situation whereby policy in foreign-language education lays enormous stress on the study of Asian languages by mostly Anglo-Australian students, without mentioning the resources, potential, and value of the already-present speakers of these languages. Native speakers of our so-called priority languages remain unheard in the official discourses of schools, a practice that implicitly equates educational opportunity with English language proficiency and places the full burden on the migrant student to adjust to the conditions in schools. Schools have a moral responsibility to provide conditions that challenge the marginalization of minority groups (Auerbach, 1995) and that maximize the chances the students have to achieve self-representation in English. They also need to validate what students already know and bring to learning. From a curriculum perspective, this entails embedding English activities in activities that connect the students to their own linguistic and cultural backgrounds where possible. John was given tests he could not read and workbooks he could not work in. On a social interaction level, schools also need to be aware that where English-speaking students do not talk or try to talk to linguistic minority students, discriminatory and racializing practices are implicated. It is a case where silence speaks volumes to the acceptance of segregated school communities, and the denial to one group of the right to participate fully in their education. Although students cannot be forced to mix (Ryan, 1997), good reasons exist for drawing to all students attention the consequences of certain groups remaining socially and linguistically separate. Finding similar cases as those presented here from Australia in the United States, Canada, and Europe would not be difficult, that is, places where linguistic minority students have little opportunity to use the dom inant language in interpersonal relations and inadequate use in academic settings for acquisition. The ways in which these students represent them selves and are represented in schools are critically related to the types of social interactions they participate in, to their inclusion or exclusion from mainstream discourses, and to their ongoing language acquisition and

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integration. This article has provided some insights into the ways in which identity is enacted and represented through language use. For schools to help linguistic minority students construct new socially situated identities, the schools must grasp the specific connections between institutional and social practices, social identities, and language resources. Also vital is understanding that currently within institutions students are often positioned in ways that recast and undercut their intellectual and linguistic resources. The effective marginalization of linguistic minority students poses a risk to all members of the school community, which Cummins (1996) suggested can be challenged only by the affirmation not of difference but of diversity in which the negotiation of identity is key.

1 Excerpts entirely in italics indicate that the segment was taken from the students diary. 2 Interviews were transcribed simply with attention primarily to words. In a few instances pauses are timed or overlaps are noted. Italics are used to draw attention to expressions that are the focus of the analysis.

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