Abstract

Moving from country to country and learning new languages are very common activities for people in today’s increasingly globalized world. So how do languages that people choose to speak or choose to reject affect the identities those people try to build for themselves? Several authors demonstrated how foreign language learning reconstructs people’s identities. An interesting theme that emerged from several interviews with immigrants in Britain indicated that speaking grammatically correct English was not enough for them to ‘fit in’ and that an accent was considered to be a marker of ethnicity. The idea of needing to speak without my accent in order to be a ‘real’ Canadian was something that I used to believe as a new immigrant in Canada and the idea that has changed for me over time. In this chapter, I would like to tell a story about how I navigated through languages and how my identity as a new Canadian has evolved. Moving from a bilingual former Soviet country of Kazakhstan to a bilingual multicultural country of Canada, having a biracial ethnic background of Russian and Korean, and later teaching at an international bilingual school in a homogenous multilingual country of Sweden – I have compiled more than 10 years in field notes and observations from my own journey. Language is a powerful tool that can oppress and exclude people. However, it has equal power to free and empower. More than any other aspect, it is language that constructs our sense of self.

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