Accepted Paper:

Language students on the move: mobility, market, and consumerism   

Author:

In Chull Jang (University of Toronto )

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the nexus of language investment, student mobilities, and the language teaching industry in the context of youth unemployment. Drawing on ethnographic research of South Korean youth studying English abroad, it traces the emergence of consumerism in the English teaching industry.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will examine the nexus of language investment, student mobilities, and the language teaching industry in the context of youth unemployment. It draws on ethnographic research of South Korean young adults who pursued overseas language education to acquire global English and experiences for their employability. Especially, criticizing "methodological nationalism" (Wimmer and Glick Schiller 2002) in student mobility studies, it focuses on the ways in which students geographically move not only across nation-states but also within a single nation-state.

Facing the high rate of youth unemployment in post-crisis and neoliberal South Korea, the youth are investing their material resources and life energies to be competitive in the job market, that is, what Brown, Lauder, and Ashton (2011) term "positional competition." As a result, on one hand, the youth have been highly calculative and strategic in their skills development projects. On the other hand, the educational businesses have differentiated their commodities and service to satisfy students' demands. This ethnographic research shows that South Korean young adults studying English abroad create transnational trajectories of moving and mooring in multiple locations; for example, from the Philippines to Canada globally, and from Montreal to Toronto within Canada. Their patterns of mobilities are not only governed by their own mapping and valuing of linguistic and cultural resources in different locations (Park 2014), but are also conditioned by the language teaching industry. The paper concludes that one of the consequences of such agentive performances and market differentiations is the emergence of consumerism in the language industry.

Panel RM-LL06
Speakers on the move: displacement, surveillance and engagement [IUAES Commission of Linguistic Anthropology]