Voices of power: Immigrant women's use of language in entrepreneurial contexts
The focus of this study is on a population of working immigrant women that has not been previously studied in the field of TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) - immigrant women entrepreneurs. This group encounters multiple barriers to second and third language acquisition as they struggle to blend the demands of culture, family, and commerce into viable models of self-employment.
This mixed methodology study employs the use of both quantitative and qualitative measures—surveys, interviews, observations, and audio recordings—to examine the communication strategies of bilingual immigrant women entrepreneurs from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and surrounding cities, and Los Angeles, California. This study utilized the theoretical framework of feminist post-structural and socio-cultural literacy theory to explore the discursive practice of immigrant women entrepreneurs, their lives as English Language Learners (ELLS), as well as their interactions with customers and workers. By applying descriptive statistics to a survey of 50 immigrant women entrepreneurs and conversation analysis and linguistic analysis to data collected through case studies of four of these women, the strategies that the women use to understand their customers' needs as well as being understood by their customers are highlighted.
This study had four main findings. First, the study found that bilingual and multilingual women for whom English is a second or third language use all of their languages within the context of their businesses. In particular, they use L1 in interacting with workers through social talk as well as task-oriented talk. L2 is used in interacting with customers. Second, the study revealed that these women have devised language learning skills through the use of small talk and socially expanded conversation in order to scaffold in entrepreneurial contexts. Third, the study found that immigrant women use L1 directives to negotiate themselves as cultural brokers for their workers. L1 use displayed the cultural constructions of the women and their workers with regard to ideologies of work, womankind, and language learning. Fourth, the study revealed that these women do encounter the most challenges in terms of grammar and lexicon. Nevertheless, they do have a mastery of pragmatic functions of speech. These women remain successful women and competent communicators who know how to go about their business and how to act as cultural brokers. The findings from the study are used to suggest curriculum development strategies that TESOL educators may use to support the language learning and entrepreneurial efforts of immigrant women.
0282: Multicultural education
0453: Womens studies
0516: Adult education
0516: Continuing education