Curbing linguistic insecurity: A graduate’s ambitious vision

Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Asserting culture and identity through language

Anne Thibert is a new graduate of the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute’s Honours BA in Second Language Teaching program – Teaching English as a Second Language offered in collaboration with the Faculty of Education. From Sarnia in southwest Ontario, seven hours by car from Ottawa, she had to cross the province to study at the University, where she lived in residence.

Anne, who’s been bilingual since she was a small child, wanted to help a new generation of students discover anglophone-francophone cultural co-existence through second language teaching. During her studies, she put relevant second language teaching theories into practice through research and placements. She would now like to help others benefit from the rewarding possibilities and the world that bilingualism opens up, despite the linguistic insecurity phenomenon.

Finding her way

Anne recently won a scholarship as part of the Arts Impact contest, a Faculty of Arts antiracism initiative, for her research project titled Struggling for legitimacy: Explorations of the discourses of nativeness and their impact on pre-service bi-plurilingual French language educators. She developed it with the support of Professor Jérémie Séror, OLBI’S Director and Associate Dean. Séror played a key role in Anne’s introduction to the research world and her path towards a Master’s. The project will explore the causes of linguistic insecurity, along with possible solutions to reduce it and boost students’ confidence.

Through her education and life experience, Anne has become a change agent. As a bilingual student from a region where francophones are a minority, she has had first-hand experience of discriminatory thinking throughout her studies. “I came up against (discriminatory) discourses and ideologies that made me lose confidence in my French, my accent and my culture,” she says.

Once internalized, these ideologies can be damaging to one’s linguistic and cultural identity. For Anne, “discourses linked to the ‘ideology of nativeness’ are particularly dangerous when ... students begin to not only hear them, but also believe them.” The “ideology of nativeness” refers to the belief that only native speakers can fully master a language.

Anne would like to highlight the stigma caused by this ideology, as well as its links to linguistic insecurity and the sense of illegitimacy felt by many future bilingual and multilingual language teachers. Her project will lead to better understanding of the discriminatory discourses that undermine the University’s efforts to support both official bilingualism and the motivation of a segment of the student body to be trained to teach French.

“My research project ... will study possible short- and long-term solutions to reduce students’ levels of anxiety and build their confidence both in and outside the classroom.”

Her next project: Taking down linguistic insecurity

This fall, Anne will begin studies in the MA in Bilingualism Studies, a program unique to OLBI.  Her thesis will look at emotional factors and their relationship to the linguistic insecurity experienced by second language learners and the newly bilingual. She would like to teach French and English as a second language. She also might pursue research in applied linguistics right through to a PhD.

MA in Bilingualism Studies

The Master of Arts in Bilingualism Studies focuses on major topics in applied linguistics, including innovative methods and technologies to teach second languages, assessment of language proficiency and language policy. It enables students to develop advanced research skills, thanks to a specialized methodology course, writing of research papers and, if applicable, thesis-related research. 

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