‘Diasporic Identities’: Identidades transculturales: el recorrido profesional del profesorado de ELE en el RU.

El 20 de enero pasado, ELE-UK organizó un seminario titulado “De la práctica en el aula a la investigación de ELE“. Durante el seminario, la Dr. Matilde Gallardo nos presentó una ponencia titulada Diasporic Identities’: Identidades transculturales: el recorrido profesional del  profesorado de ELE en el RU. 

Matilde ha aceptado compatir su presentación Power Point en nuestro blog y también responder en inglés algunas preguntas sobre su trabajo de investigación.

Matilde, tell us about your current project Transcultural identities: trajectories of language teachers

This project investigates how teachers of modern languages in Britain construct their professional identities through a process of self-enquiry and reflection on their beliefs and values as transcultural and translingual individuals. As language teachers, they operate in a world of translations and reconfigurations of national themes and cultural references, representations, images and concepts, which makes them representatives of the concept of “transculturality”, (Welsch 1995), and the idea of the “transnational” (Assmann, 2014). Their sustained immersion in another linguistic and cultural medium for long periods of time and their personal and professional cultural experiences are bound to have an impact on their individual’ sense of self. Their transcultural experiences not only shape their personal lives, but their professional ones too as their beliefs are influenced by past experiences as much as by new contextual factors, which determine the values and attitudes they transmit to their learners.

The aim of this project is to analyse modern language teachers’ self-narrated accounts of their professional and personal histories and how these might inform their practice. As they move in cross-cultural and linguistic spaces,

their testimonies look beyond the border of nations and explore new forms of belonging and cultural identification.

This project is part of the Diasporic Identities strand within the Language Acts and Worldmaking flagship AHRC Open World Research Initiative project, led by King´s College London, https://languageacts.org/, which aims to regenerate and transform modern language learning by foregrounding language’s power to shape how we live and make our worlds. The Diasporic Identities strand takes an applied approach by working with language teachers and seeks to understand how teachers see themselves in their role as mediators between languages and cultures and how they perform this role in their teaching practice.

Why is this relevant today?  

Teachers’ identity is not an unfamiliar area of research in the field of Second Language Learning. However, the focus of this research has been mainly in the context of EFL and in relation to the impact on improving students’ learning experience. Teachers have been the object of investigation from an almost unifying perspective, as a group whose “señas de identidad” are that of teaching a given language and act as cultural ambassadors for a given national culture: the language teacher is seen as a cultural and linguistic resource by learners who construct teachers’ identity according to factors of interest and motivation in their language of study.

Little research has been done, however, in relation to how modern language teachers living and working in the UK, whom David Block called “a porous ……community of educated speakers” (Block 2007: 110), define themselves and what they consider to be markers of their identity which enable them to operate within trans-cultural settings. Similarly, little attention has been paid to their contribution to society and their role in shaping and influencing social, cultural and linguistic attitudes while belonging to communities of memory and establishing inter-connectedness among distinct worlds. Finally, as members of migratory and diasporic movements, little is known about teachers’ experience of displacement, their knowledge, aspirations, level of assimilation and integration in their working and living environments.

The context of foreign language teaching in the UK university sector is a rich field of investigation in relation to the process of identity construction because of the provenance of the majority of the individuals in the profession (non-UK born).

What theoretical frameworks are applied in your study?

My study is rooted in Sociocultural (Wenger, 1998) and Post-structuralist (Norton, 2010) theories on teacher identity, as we investigate teachers’ beliefs and reflections on the self, but also how these notions might be influenced by social, political and historical contexts, as well as by the associations and attachments they may create with communities.

In that context, the investigation will use Narrative Inquiry as the approach to obtain qualitative data through the medium of autobiographical narratives or “auto-ethnography” (Nunan & Choi, 2010) to explore teachers’ beliefs and cognitive processes of reflectivity. During the analysis of narratives, the researcher automatically becomes an observer of the teachers’ cross-cultural life experiences as individuals and as professionals.  This process will be structured around the keywords and critical incidents emerging from the narratives and displayed in the professional journeys of teachers.

What objectives do you expect to achieve?

The project hopes to engage modern language teachers with self-reflection and to capture their thoughts and voices on key aspects regarding their identity  in  their professional, social and historical contexts. This research also hopes to serve as a platform to raise the profile of modern language teachers in the UK and to bring to the surface an almost invisible profession in a time when it is so important to highlight the positive aspects of the cultural and knowledge transfer that derives from the free circulation of ideas and people.

Who can participate in the project?

The project welcomes teachers of Spanish and other languages who work in Higher Education. As the project is in its initial stage, we welcome participants who are interested and willing to take part in the self-reflective exercise. Participation in this project only requires responding to a questionnaire and producing a narrative piece, which may be followed up by a brief interview at a later stage. Those interested in participating can contact me, matilde.gallardo@kcl.ac.uk.  Once the selection of participants has taken place, I shall be sending information and guidelines.

I look forward to working with you on this project!


Assmann, A. (2014), Transnational Memories. European Review, 22, pp. 546-556.

Block, D. (2007), Second Language Identities, London, Continuum

Norton, B., 2010. Language and identity. In N. Hornberger & S. McKay (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and language education. Bristol, NY, Toronto. Multilingual Matters. Pp 349-370.

Nunan, D., Choi, J. (Eds), 2010, Language and Culture. Reflective Narratives and the Emergence of Identity. NY and London, Routledge.

Welsch, W. (1995), Transculturality – the Puzzling Form of Cultures Today. California Sociologist, 17 & 18 (1994/1995), pp. 19-39.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: CUP.