Reference : Die Herausforderung der dritten Sprache – eine Grounded-Theory-Studie zu sprachlichen...
Dissertations and theses : Doctoral thesis
Arts & humanities : Languages & linguistics
Die Herausforderung der dritten Sprache – eine Grounded-Theory-Studie zu sprachlichen Praktiken und Repräsentationen von Mehrsprachigkeit bei Studierenden dreisprachiger Masterstudiengänge an der Universität Luxemburg
[en] The challenge of the third language – a Grounded-Theory study of linguistic practices and representations of multilingualism by students enrolled in trilingual Master study programs at the University of Luxembourg
Stoike-Sy, Rahel mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Education, Culture, Cognition and Society (ECCS) >]
University of Luxembourg, ​Belval, ​​Luxembourg
Docteur de l'Université du Luxembourg en Sciences du Langage
Ehrhart, Sabine mailto
[en] multilingualism ; Higher education ; trilingual study programs
[en] The University of Luxembourg presents itself as an international and multilingual university, two attributes that may seem at odds to those who equate internationalization with anglicization. In fact, more than 50 % of students of this officially trilingual institution come from outside Luxembourg and the proportion of international students’ increases at the Master’s level. While the majority of Master study programs in the winter term 2012/13 were mono- or bilingual, four trilingual Masters have been offered as well. Three of them used French, English and German as languages of instruction, another one Luxembourgish, French and German.
This dissertation investigates linguistic practices and representations of individual and institutional multilingualism by students and study directors in four trilingual Master study programs. The exploratory study combines an ethnographic approach with constructivist Grounded Theory. The corpus comprises around 90 hours of participant observation, 47 field notes, 19 questionnaires, and 9 interviews with students and 4 with course directors. The data has been generated in 2012 and 2013. The general research question “How do students experience individual and institutional multilingualism in trilingual Master programs?” has been split up in three specific questions: (1) How are the linguistic repertoires of the involved actors categorized? (2) Which representations of institutional multilingualism and a “multilingual study program” are constructed by students and study directors? (3) In which situations do multilingual language practices emerge in the program?
The results show that the configuration of linguistic repertoires, the motivation for a Master program and their expectations, among other factors, play a role in the construction of representations of multilingualism. Students and lecturers have different linguistic resources in one, two or all three of the program languages. On the basis of the official presentation of the programs, some students expect a symmetrical form of multilingualism, but perceive an asymmetrical use of the three languages in practice. The hierarchical use of languages is accompanied by a marginalization of German in each Master and explained by the limited repertoires of students or lecturers. Receptive multilingualism is practiced in some contexts or presented as a goal and opposes the view that a multilingual study program should mean studying in three languages. The students’ expectations of support for language learning and the institutional offer of language courses diverge. While in two Masters language courses in French and German for beginners are offered, support is missing for advanced learners and for academic language.
Overall, the findings suggest an influence of individual and collective linguistic repertoires on linguistic practices of teaching and studying as well as on the implementation of institutional multilingualism in practice. While students mention changes of former study practices during their Master studies, lecturers develop spontaneous strategies to deal with the linguistic heterogeneity of their groups, whereby the degree of multilingualism varies. The significance of the core category “the third language” can be explained by the fact that some students begin their studies with no or only little language resources in one of the program languages and by their tendency to hierarchize languages.
The results of this qualitative study have implications for the language policy of multilingual study programs. A clear definition of a language competence profile for enrolling and finishing a multilingual study program as well as specific language learning objectives are recommended. Finally, an integration of language learning in content courses according to the CLIL-model is proposed.
Researchers ; Professionals ; Students ; General public

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