Online (via Zoom)
’Are you wasting money on language classes?!?’: Learning English as a Voluntourist
Working holiday tourism, volunteer tourism or voluntourism are terms to describe short-term sojourns abroad that combine working on a voluntary basis with holidays. Some voluntourism programs specifically target language learners by promising ‘immersion’ in the host language and culture. By presenting ‘immersion’ as the (only) efficient alternative to classroom learning, these voluntourism programs compete with language learning packages offered by language schools (Dlaske 2016). In the Mediterranean island state of Malta, whose population is bilingual in English and Maltese, voluntourism has become very popular over the last decade. Malta’s tourism industry draws on voluntourists, who seek to improve their English skills, and uses them as cheap workforce to fill jobs where there is a labor shortage. Since there is a lack of critical ethnographic sociolinguistic and SLA research on the language learning trajectories of voluntourists, my talk interrogates the promise of immersion by using the example of Malta. Therefore, I adopt an understanding of “immersion” as a linguistic ideology and explore the narratives and practices around this notion. Drawing on an ethnographic study of a hostel, I investigate how learning English through immersion while working abroad is imagined and promoted, takes place (or not), and generates what kind of (linguistic or other) ‘gains’ and for whom. The aim of my talk is to shed light on the understudied topics of immersion discourses, practices, and subjectivities in the context of voluntourism and to unveil how these immersion experiences are governed by neoliberal rationalities. This talk further aims to draw attention to the ways in which language-motivated voluntourism reinforces social inequalities and produces new forms of exploitation.
If you would like to listen to this guest lecture, please contact Dr. Beatriz Lorente (firstname.lastname@example.org) to obtain the necessary Zoom link.
References: Dlaske, K. (2016). Shaping subjects of globalisation: At the intersection of voluntourism and the New Economy. Multilingua, 35(4), 415–440. https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2015-0002
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