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Applied Linguistics Review

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Language choice, identity and social distance: Ethnic minority students in Vietnam

Trang Thi Thuy NguyenORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8005-4567 / M. Obaidul HamidORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3205-6124
Published Online: 2017-10-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0037


Drawing on concepts such as convergence, divergence and maintenance associated with Communication Accommodation Theory, this article examines a group of Vietnamese ethnic minority students’ language choice in relation to their identity and social distance between them and their interlocutors. Our analysis suggests that the strategies of accommodation deployed by individuals can be related to common values/tendencies that are maintained by the groups and communities to which they belong, raising issues about structural influence on individual language choice and agency. We observe that enhancing the ethnolinguistic vitality of the home and the community in which senior members hold the key to language maintenance should be considered vital in reducing the new in-group distance created by young members. Moreover, multilingual policies which enable flexible attainment goals for all languages may provide a way forward for equity and reduction of social distance between different ethnic groups in society.

Keywords: language choice; identity; social distance; language accommodation; ethnicity


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About the article

Trang Thi Thuy Nguyen

Trang Thi Thuy Nguyen obtained her PhD from the University of Queensland, Australia. She has experience working with ethnic minority students and training English language teachers for primary and lower-secondary schools in Vietnam. Her research interests include language and identity, cultural identity, bilingualism, biculturalism and minority education.

M. Obaidul Hamid

M. Obaidul Hamid, PhD is Senior Lecturer in TESOL Education at the University of Queensland, Australia. Previously he worked at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. His research focuses on the policy and practice of TESOL education in developing societies. He is Co-editor of Language planning for medium of instruction in Asia (Routledge, 2014). He is on the editorial board of Current Issues in Language Planning, English Teaching: Practice & Critique and Journal of Asia TEFL.

Published Online: 2017-10-25

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0037.

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