Searching for an English self through writing

Main Article Content

Leena Karlsson


Most Finnish university students, just like the other new global elites (Kramsch,
2013), use English without problems. Some students, however, struggle with
English to the extent that their studies suffer. One could say that they have a
deeply “wounded” English self (Karlsson, 2013). My context of research and
practice is the Autonomous Learning Modules (ALMS) at Helsinki University
Language Centre. In my work as a language counsellor and practitioner-researcher,
pedagogical concerns are always primary, and there is a need to appreciate
diversity yet notice every student’s unique experiences. The broad
background of my recent work is English as part of the identity of young academic
Finns. In particular, I have been interested in how students with a
“wounded” English self can develop new identity positions, and in how a language
counsellor can help them in this process. In this paper, my focus is on the
subtle practical interconnections between learner autonomy, learner diversity,
and learner identity as they emerge in a diary written by a student of English
with dyslexia and language (classroom) anxiety. A narrative case study of Mariia
illustrates how the counsellor’s appreciation and her own recognition of the
complex ecological realities (Casanave, 2012) surrounding and interacting with
her learning encourage and empower her. Mariia uses her freedom to control
her own learning (Huang & Benson, 2013) and makes choices from the many
lifewide experiential learning opportunities in her life (Karlsson & Kjisik, 2011).
Reflective writing in the learning diary helps her to construct a realistic vision of
herself as a learner and user of English, and she leaves the identity position of
a failure in the classroom and claims a new, more successful one (Norton, 2014).


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How to Cite
Karlsson, L. (2015). Searching for an English self through writing. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 5(3), 409 - 429.
Author Biography

Leena Karlsson, Language Centre, Vuorikatu 5, 00014 Helsinki University
Leena Karlsson is University Lecturer in English at the University of Helsinki Language Centre, Finland. Her research and publications focus on language advising/counselling, learner/teacher autonomy, learner diversity, and narrative inquiry and stories in educational settings.


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