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Agency and Investment in L2 Learning: The Case of a Migrant Worker and a Mother of Two Children in South Korea

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Abstract:  Given the call for more research on migrant workers’ L2 investment and agency, this five‐year longitudinal case study followed the Korean language learning experiences of Iroda, a migrant worker who moved from Uzbekistan to South Korea, focusing on how and why she exercises her agency and invests in her L2 learning. Drawing upon the conceptual frameworks of agency, “the socioculturally mediated capacity to act” (Ahearn, 2010, p. 28), and investment, which leads to an increase in an individual’s social power and cultural capital (Darvin & Norton, 2015), data was collected from various sources and inductively analysed over five years by using the constant comparative method and the individual‐level logic model. The findings show that Iroda agentively and voluntarily seeks out resources to expand her linguistic repertoire, devoting entire weekends to learning the Korean language while balancing her efforts with her weekday job. As her Korean proficiency grows, she endeavours to apply for a graduate programme at a Korean university to enhance her social status, career prospects, and earning potential for herself and her children. Notably, the findings suggest that her purposeful and agentic investment in L2 learning is driven by the growing acceptance and recognition of her potential within the target society.

Keywords:  agency; investment; L2 learning; female migrant worker; Korean as a second language

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v11i4.7062


© Jinsil Jang. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.