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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“I won’t talk about this here in America:” Sociocultural Context of Korean English Language Learners’ Emotion Speech in English

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This article examines the relationship between language and emotion, especially drawing attention to the experiences and perspectives of second language (SL) learners. Informed by the sociocultural perspective on the construction of emotion and its representation, this study highlights the intertwined relationship among emotions, cultural contexts, perceived identities, and languages. Using a qualitative case study approach, we examined challenges and strategies of emotion speech in one group of second language learners: Korean adult English learners (ELs) in the United States. Analyses of two surveys with seventeen Korean ELs and interviews with four selected participants demonstrate: (1) A full communication of emotions across cultures and languages was challenging because of the lack of shared cultural contexts among speakers. (2) However, the acquisition of one’s second language included learning new cultural maps with which learners developed intercultural capacities to code switch across languages/emotions and, thus, to participate more fully in their second language community. (3) The code switching among SL learners often involved perceived personality change and identity negotiation in different languages since each language was associated with different cultural experiences and emotions/value orientations. Implications for the Second Language Acquisition field will be discussed.

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