Michael Clyne Prize Awarded

The 2020 Michael Clyne Prize has been award. This year's prize has been awarded to Lisa Gilanyi (University of New South Wales) for her thesis Transnational sojourners' investment in learning English: a multi-case study of partners of international students in Australia.

This year’s field of applicants for the Michael Clyne Prize was particularly strong, reflecting the high quality of research being carried out in this area at the postgraduate level, and the panel was faced with a very difficult decision in choosing the successful applicant. Congratulations Dr Gilanyi!

Thesis summary and main findings:

Although language contact and learning have been explored extensively in permanent migration contexts in Australia, scant attention has been given to how short-term migrants, referred to in this thesis as transnational sojourners, grapple with acquiring the language of their temporary homeland. In particular, very little is known about the language learning behaviour of the many thousands of partners of international students who arrive in Australia each year, intending to return to their home countries at the conclusion of their partners’ studies.

Despite living in contact with English for the duration of their sojourns in Australia, the extent to which partners of international students are able to engage in learning English is often impacted by limited access to learning opportunities, and their hopes of becoming bilingual may prove illusory. On the other hand, some partners of international students, and other transnational sojourners, may be ambivalent about learning English if they do not perceive it to have long-term usefulness when they return to their home countries. This ambivalence may be further compounded by the existence of strong expatriate networks that allow them to work and socialise in their first language while in Australia.

This thesis used a longitudinal, multi-case study design to explore the migration experiences and language learning of partners of international students in Australia in order to understand the factors that impacted on their investment in learning English (Darvin & Norton, 2015). Using a narrative inquiry methodology, data was generated through multiple interviews with seven partners of international students living in Australia and analysed using a multi-layered approach that drew on both “narrative analysis” and “analysis of narrative” (Polkinghorne, 1995).

The study found that, although each of the participants in the study professed a desire to improve their English, few engaged in activities to achieve this. Several factors were identified as contributing to their apparent lack of investment, including: the temporary nature of their migration; the fact that their migration and investment decisions were made as part of a family unit; the embodied nature of the participants’ identities; the way they viewed their existing linguistic resources; and the reality that their investment choices were made in the context of limited resources and a restricted timeframe.

The study contributes valuable empirical data that illuminates the language learning experiences of temporary migrants, and in particular partners of international students in Australia. It highlights the many differences between the way temporary and permanent migrants’ experience and respond to their contact with English in Australia. The findings provide important insights for policy makers and English language educators in Australia, as they seek to understand and meet the language needs of partners of international students or other temporary migrants.


Darvin, R., & Norton, B. (2015). Identity and a model of investment in applied linguistics. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 35, 36-56. doi:10.1017/S0267190514000191
Polkinghorne, D. E. (1995). Narrative configuration in qualitative analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 8(1), 5-23. doi:10.1080/0951839950080103

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