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Negotiating Englishes and English-speaking Identities: A study of youth learning English in Italy

1st Edition

By Jacqueline Aiello

This book explores the effects of the global spread of English by reporting on a sequential explanatory mixed-methods study of the language attitudes, motivation and self-perceived English proficiency of youth in two Italian cities. Participant narratives highlight the far-reaching role that English plays on the performance and attainment of present and desired future selves, illustrate that English is understood not as singular but as plural and paradoxical, and reveal that English learners, who do not all accept the capital of ‘native’ speakers, utilize tactics to negotiate their position(s) with respect to their target language. 

On the one hand, by narrowing in on a specific population and drawing extensively on interview exchanges, this work provides readers with a nuanced depiction of the identities, milieu and learning experiences of English language learners in Italy. On the other hand, this level of detailed analysis gives insight into the understandings, construction of meaning and negotiations of language learners who need and want to acquire English, the global language, worldwide. Indeed, the issues and questions that are raised in this book, such as those concerning research approaches and the definitions assigned to key concepts, have profound implications on the research of English(es) today and can inform future directions in global English teaching.


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Language and Identity

3 English in Italy

4 Attitudes, Motivations and Proficiencies

5 Facilitators and Constraints

6 Power and Paradox: Proficiency, Accents and Selves

7 Positioning the Researcher

8 Reconceptualizing Englishes and English-speaking Identities

9 Educating English Learners Today


ISBN 9781138237445

Published July 11, 2017 by Routledge

170 Pages



Jacqueline Aiello is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Naples "L’Orientale." She earned her doctorate in TESOL from New York University in 2015. Her research has appeared in the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism and other journals.



'Aiello makes a strong case for incorporating Italian English language learners into discussions on World Englishes. Using innovative theoretical approaches and a critical, reflexive researcher lens, Aiello lays out the paradoxes often inherent in English language learning. She challenges researchers and teacher educators to critically consider learner identities, learner goals, and the sociohistorical challenges presented by learning environments when developing curriculum and policy.'

Michele Back, Assistant Professor of World Languages Education, University of Connecticut

'This book reminds us of the complex and fluid relationships learners of English have with the language. It places our attention on the learner as subject, as one that responds to and negotiates with the global presence of English, rather than assuming global English to be a monolithic and imperialistic force against which one cannot respond. It provides valuable insight into the identities of English language learning youth that can inform pedagogy and practice in the classroom.'

Wendy Bokhorst-Heng, co-author of "International English in Its Sociolinguistic Contexts: Towards a Socially Sensitive EIL Pedagogy"; Associate Professor, Crandall University, Canada

'This book offers an in-depth and nuanced exploration of English learning among Italian youth as a microcosm of the issues and effects of the global spread of English with a particular focus on language attitudes, motivation, proficiency, and identity construction. Drawing on poststructuralist understandings of identity as multiple and sites of struggle, Aiello offers an incisive account of the complex identities and language practices of youth in Italy as they negotiate the affordances and constraints of English learning in that context. With methodological rigor and critical analysis, Aiello illuminates the paradoxes around English in a global context, and deftly unpacks how learners grapple with ownership of the language and the symbolic capital accrued to speakers of different English varieties. This book takes us a quantum leap forward by problematizing key constructs in applied linguistics such as motivation and proficiency; reconceptualizing research approaches; and offering concrete recommendations for research and practice in English language teaching more attuned to the 21st century global context.'

Dr Shondel Nero, Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning, Director of the Program in Multilingual Multicultural Studies, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University


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