2021 Michael Clyne Prize winner announced

The winner of the 2021 Michael Clyne Prize has been announced. This year's Prize has been awarded to Levi Durbidge for the Monash University thesis Study abroad in multilingual contexts: The linguistic investment and development of Japanese adolescents in and beyond year-long exchange programs. Congratulations Dr Durbidge.

Thesis summary:

Growing populations of students migrating temporarily for academic purposes has led to an urgency in better understanding questions of language contact and learning faced by these populations. However, an ongoing focus on students departing from, or hosted at, higher education institutions in Anglophone countries limits this understanding. Additionally, there is now a recognised need for research which approaches these questions holistically, viewing the individual as a situated and agentive participant in wider transnational and sociocultural environments.

Drawing on Ecological Systems Theory and The Douglas Fir Group’s (2016) Transdisciplinary Framework for SLA in a Multilingual World, this thesis makes visible the complex interrelations between the individual, context and linguistic development as national, linguistic and cultural borders are crossed. The project examines the experiences of 100 Japanese high school students during and after a year embedded in families and schools abroad in countries across Europe, Asia and North and South America, investigating their language development and learning ecologies they encountered. Innovating a methodology that used quantitative survey data to map the representativeness of qualitative interview respondents, multiple cases were selected for intensive thematic and narrative analysis which explored the similarities and particularities of respondent experiences. Examining the complexities of language learning ecologies across a variety of multilingual and heteroglossic settings revealed a diverse and dynamic range of intertwined factors which affected informants’ linguistic development. Significantly, the thesis identified the importance of specific, ‘key individuals’, such as host mothers and peers at school, in providing affective, instrumental and embedded support in shaping informants’ investment in host language practices. Local migrant communities also emerged as pivotal in cases where informants experienced discrimination and marginalisation on account of their minority status. Digital communication technology was crucial in mediating participation in host peer communities, concomitantly facilitating the development of teenage linguistic repertoires and integration into these communities. Technology also offered affordances for strategic language learning that allowed informants to negotiate participation and belonging in environments where multilingual competencies were required to move between communities. The results also underscored the longer-term importance of home community and individual agency in the maintenance of these competencies after returning. Informants found their international experience could be a source of othering in the schools they returned to in Japan, while their multilingual competencies were often unvalued. Combined with exam performance pressures, desire to invest in host language practices often diminished significantly in the year after returning.

Overall, the thesis is noteworthy for its ecological treatment of host and home environments, accentuating the complex, intertwined individual and social factors which affect the experiences of short-term academic migrants. Understanding the entanglement of these factors is crucial to promoting belonging and investment among those entering new communities and highlighting the need for multilingual and transcultural competence to be valued if that investment is to be maintained.

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