Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Winning, Anne. (1991). Home and Lanaguage: ESL Pedagogy. Unpublished Dissertation Edmonton: University of Alberta.


< Abstract >

The focus of this study is the exploration of the relation between language and home, in the context of immigration to a country where one has to learn to speak English as a second language. The need for a feeling of being at home has been explored as a further consideration when discussing the needs of immigrants in the context of ESL programs. Reflection on the dominant approach taken to ESL curriculum has formed the ground for the question of the research: To what extent does home have a language and languages give a sense of home? That is, what is the lived meaning of the language of home and the home of language?


Since language is a human way of knowing the world, it would appear that learning a new language is an integral dimension of becoming at home in a new country. The major thesis of the study is that there is a “languagely” way of being in the world which is lost when one leaves one’s home country and home language.


The present research uses a hermeneutic phenomenological approach. The study involved thirty-five immigrants to Canada. Through research conversations the people describe their experiences of living in a new country and a new language environment. On the basis of the conversations, themes are disclosed. The themes consider the relationship between language and identity, learning a language and making a home, the intimacy of the human way of being with one’s first language, and the way in which the language of home means more than a linguistic code. The discussion of the themes has been structured according to five generative, everyday questions: Where do you come from? What are you doing here? How long have you been here? Do you like it here? Can I stay here? The reflective interweaving of the thematic structures that make up the experience of home is performed on the basis of insights gleaned from the participants’ descriptions, as well as from phenomenological literature, poetry and novels.


The thrust of the work is to deepen our understanding of the experience of language learning for immigrants. The work is an invitation to reflection on the significance of the relation of home and language and how this may be embedded in practice.