Sunny Man Chu Lau is Associate Professor in the School of Education at Bishop’s University in Quebec, Canada. Her interest in and advocacy for critical approaches to second language (L2) learning can be traced back to her English language experience both as a learner and as an educator in Hong Kong. Born and raised in this former British colony, since very young, she came to know and experience the hegemonic power of ESL, “English as a superior language” (Pennycook, 1998), in everyday life and how it impacted learners’ relationship with the language as well as with their life chances. For more about Sunny see our Active Members page.
Affect is an impingement or extrusion of a momentary or sometimes more sustained state of relation as well as the passage (and the duration of passage) of forces or intensities. That is, affect is found in those intensities that pass from body to body (human, nonhuman, part-body, and otherwise), in those resonances that circulate about, between, and sometimes stick to bodies and worlds, and in the very passages or variations between these intensities and resonances themselves. (Seigworth & Gregg, 2010, p. 1).
Seigworth and Gregg (2010) describe how affect is fundamentally visceral and material, circulating between bodies and environment, shaping and shaped by different political, economic, and cultural forces. This material and social view of emotions prompts to ask how one is affected, by one’s experience with language, into action or non-action regarding language learning. Our emotional attachment, the “stickiness” (Ahmed, 2004) of certain language and cultural practices is a “product of history and society” (Busch, 2015). My language portrait attempts to show the bricolage of my experiences, past, present and projective, and how they get attached onto my body:
I have been all over the place lately. I have been just about everywhere but home in Montreal. From January – June of this year, I was living and working in Hong Kong while I completed the fieldwork for my doctoral project, Looking Back and Looking Around: Cellphilming and Revisiting with Ethnic Minority Youth in Hong Kong. The project has taken up a lot of my thinking, and has inspired a few of my previous BILD posts. It continues to inspire my thinking as I move from being in the field with my research participants, to working with them across digital spaces.
Hong Kong is a complex place. Languages, cultures, and identities are constantly interacting in public, private, and digital spaces. I think this complexity is part of why I first fell in love with the city. In my first life in Hong Kong 2008-2010, I worked as a teacher at a government funded school that largely catered to ethnic minority students. I taught in English. My multilingual students learned in English. They did not learn their home languages in school. They also did not really learn much Chinese. In my time as a teacher, I began to think about the ways that these language policies and—in the case of my school—practices of systemic racial and linguistic segregation, might affect the ways that young people see themselves as citizens in Hong Kong. These notions deeply troubled me as a teacher, and as time has passed, they still trouble me as a person and as a researcher.
Before I became an Anglophone doctoral student living in a French neighbourhood in Montreal (Rosemont), I lived and worked as a teacher in Hong Kong. From 2008-2010, I taught at a public secondary school with English as the medium of instruction. Of course, the neighbourhood in which I lived (Wong Tai Sin) and worked (Kwun Tong) were largely Cantonese-speaking neighbourhoods. What does it mean to work and socialize primarily in English, and engage in only the most limited of conversations with your neighbours? Good morning. My name is Casey. I am a teacher. I want the barbeque duck, please. I live at 78 Yuk Wah Street. The weather is very beautiful today. Do you think so? Thank you. Goodbye. Etc.