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Being 'Immersion': Identity, belonging and accent in BC French immersion students

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This study examines the identities, feelings of group belonging and accents of British Columbia (BC) French immersion high school students. Through a mixed methodology, web-surveys and recorded in-class group discussions were used for data collection and analysis. 139 French immersion and Core French students from 6 schools and 4 cities across BC participated in the study. Of these students, 109 were in French immersion (between grades 10 to 12), and 30 were from Core French (grade 10 only). The Core French students represent English program peers and were used as a reference point, but immersion students remained the main group of interest. This study used a mixed methodology for data collection. Online surveys and in-class group discussions were used to collected data. A constructivist framework, together with social identity theory (SIT), accent and identity research and group belonging were applied in the analysis of results. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, data collection occurred remotely. Students were given class time in their schools to complete the web survey, of which 27 questions were selected for analysis. The web survey was completed by both immersion and Core French participants. For the in-class group discussions, students were given topics on identity, the French language, and their immersion program experiences. Only French immersion students completed the recorded discussions. The results suggest that immersion students and Core French participants are equal in terms of linguistic diversity, and the immersion participants also reflected the overall population in which they lived. On the other hand, immersion students were found to value peer acceptance significantly more than Core French participants. Immersion students also reported noted differences between themselves and non-immersion peers, including Core French and Francophone speakers. These differences were often expressed through perceived accent distinctions. Immersion participants generally agreed that there is a distinct immersion accent, but often rejected the notion of 'immersionese' in favour of speaking 'French'. There was a greater overall agreement in the importance of the French language versus the importance of French immersion to the identities of immersion students. Immersion participants expressed a desire to be considered French speakers, French as a second language (FSL) speakers and even BC Francophones. Students' linguistic defining of 'BC Francophone' (as French speaker) can also be seen as a more inclusive understanding of speaker status. Overall, the results of this study help to reshape our understanding of French in BC, and the specific contexts of BC immersion students as speakers of French.
266 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
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Thesis advisor: Bullock, Cécile
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