1st Edition

Self-Concept in Foreign Language Learning A Longitudinal Study of Japanese Language Learners

By Reiko Yoshida Copyright 2024
    208 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores self-concept in foreign language (FL) learning, tracing the trajectories of a group of Japanese language learners at an Australian university to illuminate new insights about the factors impacting positive self-concept and implications for language learning more broadly.

    The volume calls attention to the ways in which learners’ perception of themselves as FL learners plays a fundamental role in FL learning. Drawing on data from a longitudinal study, including student diaries, interviews and classroom observations, Yoshida outlines shifts in self-concept as learners progress from secondary school to university courses to study abroad and beyond. The book demonstrates how the learner journey is marked by a growing recognition of the importance of practice for achievement but also a greater sense of self-consciousness, with learners’ agency in creating opportunities for themselves to practice their FL as a key factor in improving self-concept over time. This work offers unique observations about self-concept for learners who already ‘have’ global English as a first language, inspiring ways forward for future research and language teaching in other under-studied languages.

    The book will appeal to students and researchers in applied linguistics, SLA and foreign language learning, as well as stakeholders in Japanese language programs.

    List of figures

    List of tables


    Chapter 1: Introduction and background of the study

    Self in second/foreign language acquisition

    Self-concept and other self-related constructs

    Conceptual models of academic self-concept

    The subject-specificity of self-concept

    Self-concept and achievement

    Internal and external (social) comparisons

    Internal/external comparisons and affect

    Big-fish-little-pond effect

    Internal/external comparisons and goals

    Feedback from significant others

    Attribution of success and failure

    Self-concept in the transition to different learning contexts

    Aim and overview of the book

    Chapter 2: Foreign language self-concepts, beliefs and ideal second language selves

    Mercer’s internal/external frames of reference in foreign language self-concept formation

    Internal frames of reference for FL self-concept formation

    External frames of reference for FL self-concept formation

    Learners’ self-presentations in second and foreign languages

    The ideal L2 self and the ought-to L2 self

    Learners’ beliefs about language learning

    Studies about self-concept in foreign language learning

    Previous research on study abroad

    Factors that influence learners’ experiences in study abroad and their perceptions of those experiences

    Environmental contexts in study abroad and interactions in the target language

    Learners’ self-related issues in study abroad

    Summary of the chapter

    Chapter 3: Context of the study and methodology

    Context of the present study


    Methodologies of data collection and analysis

    Outline of data collection

    Diary writing


    Classroom recording and observation

    Data analysis

    Chapter 4: Foreign language self-concept upon transition to university

    Hesitance: A rocky start for Adrian, Jason and Sandra

    Confidence embodied: Betty’s smooth start

    Speaking up: Changes in the FL self-concepts of Adrian, Jason and Sandra

    Betty’s disappointment: Her inability to develop a more positive FL self-concept

    Learners’ FL self-concepts, ideal L2 selves and beliefs about language learning in transition periods to university

    Summary of the chapter

    Chapter 5: Foreign language self-concept during and after study abroad

    Critical experience: Sandra’s FL self-concept during study abroad

    Maintenance of motivation: Sandra’s FL self-concept after study abroad

    Harmony between a belief and a learning environment: Zac’s FL self-concept during study abroad

    Conflict between a belief and a learning environment: Zac’s FL self-concept after study abroad

    Strong hesitance to speak Japanese: Joan’s FL self-concept in the classroom

    Building confidence to speak: Joan’s FL self-concept during study abroad

    Learners’ FL self-concepts, ideal L2 selves and beliefs about language learning during and after study abroad

    Summary of the chapter

    Chapter 6: Conclusion

    The dynamic and complex nature of FL self-concept

    The development of positive FL self-concept

    Emotions and FL self-concept

    The researcher’s reflexivity

    Teaching implications

    Limitations of the study and future studies about FL self-concept


    Appendix A: Questionnaire

    Appendix B: Instructions for diary writing

    Appendix C: General questions in interviews

    Appendix D: Observations noted in the classroom

    Appendix E: Transcription conventions



    Reiko Yoshida is Lecturer in Japanese at the University of South Australia and a member of Centre for Research in Educational and Social Inclusion.

    "Reiko Yoshida’s study is richly grounded in qualitative data from learners of Japanese as they transition from secondary school to university, study abroad, and beyond. It illuminates the complex interplay between students’ beliefs about language learning and their evolving self-concepts as language learners, as they negotiate new learning contexts, struggle with challenges, and exercise agency in pursuit of their ideal selves. This deeply engaging book will be of interest to all those concerned with understanding or researching the role of the self-concept in language learning."

     Professor Ema Ushioda, University of Warwick, UK