Language Learning, Gender and Desire: Japanese Women on the Move

Author: Kimie Takahashi

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Multilingual Matters
Number of pages:
210mm x 148mm

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For many Japanese women, the English language has never been just another school subject. For them, English is the tool of identity transformation and the means of obtaining what they passionately desire – mobility, the West and its masculinity. Language Learning, Gender and Desire explores Japanese women's passion for learning English and how they negotiate identity and desire in the terrain of racial, sexual and linguistic politics. Drawing on ethnographic data and popular media texts, the book offers new insights into the multidirectionality of desire and power in the context of second language learning.

Kimie Takahashi's investigation of the desires that lead Japanese women to learn English interrogates and ultimately challenges all kinds of stereotypes - Asian and Western, racial and sexual, cultural and linguistic. Original and thought-provoking, this book opens up important questions about second language learning, and makes a novel contribution to ongoing discussions of language, identity and difference.

Language Learning, Gender and Desire is not just another scholarly monograph. It is refreshingly novel, for it treats a subject that until recently was taboo in applied linguistics - language learners' love lives and sex lives. It is ground-breaking, for it reveals how the English teaching industry in Japan manipulates its female consumers and sells renai (relationship) English. It is paradigm-changing, for it moves us away from 'motivation' as a 'factor' and towards socially and discursively constructed 'language desire'. Last but not least, it is deeply personal and extremely engaging, making the journey of five Japanese women learning English in Australia an unputdownable read.

Romance blossoms, hearts break, and lives change as Japanese women go troppo in the Antipodes and tell the author all about their dreams, adventures and experiences of learning English as a second language. This delightful book is the definitive answer to the question, 'Is the concept of "desire" useful to students of language?'. The ethnography is wacky, the analysis is insightful and the writing is engaging and crisp. An absolute must-read for everyone interested in language and desire, language and learning, and language and globalization.

The book is of great value to English teachers in Japan and researchers in study abroad programmes, and also to researchers who look for a gender sensitive approach to identity and motivation in second language acquisition.

The Asian Journal of Applied Linguistics Vol. 1 No. 2, 2014

Takahashi's book is well written, engaging, and enlightening. It is unafraid of revealing truths about the effects of media, the real struggles of ELL learners in Australia, as well as the repercussions of being a woman who is deemed "too independent" in Japan. This book is a must for scholars of gender and media, ELL teachers, as well as migration researchers, and is even appealing for the curious casual reader who will find many thought-provoking issues within its pages.

Journal and Proceedings of GALE 2014 Vol. 7

The book is a welcome addition to the field of language, gender and sexuality and is nevertheless accessible to those who are new to the field. It would be a valuable read for students, language teachers and researchers interested in second language learning/acquisition as well as language, gender and sexuality.

Journal of Language and Sexuality Vol. 3:2 (2014)

Kimie Takahashi is Lecturer at the Graduate School of English at Assumption University of Thailand. Her research interests centre on gender, second language learning and social inclusion in the context of transmigration. She is co-founder of the sociolinguistics website Language on the Move (

1. Introduction

2. Language Desire

3. Ryugaku

4. Desired Interlocutors

5. Agency

6. Going Home

7. Conclusion

Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Undergraduate
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