Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Committee Member

Steve McCafferty

Number of Pages



Every year, thousands of students worldwide leave home for the purpose of participating in an educational experience in a country other than their own. Drawing on a multiple case study design with an ethnographic approach, this study examined the connection between learning a second language (L2) in naturalistic contexts and possible transformations of identity for four female Japanese international students in the United States. The investigation centered around three basic research questions: (1) what are some of the effects of adaptation to the U.S. culture on the identity transformation of female Japanese international students; (2) what elements of communicative competence might prove salient to female Japanese international students' investment in language learning; and (3) how do female Japanese international students position themselves in the imagined community of U.S. culture. The study found that the participants were able to establish a balance between the first and second cultures, and that this assisted them in their understanding of the complex negotiation of identity through social participation and community membership. The participants were able to concede their position in the two worlds and affirm that they belonged to both cultures. In addition, they were able to navigate their way in the negotiation of identity within the two different languages and cultures, which resulted in differing degrees of investment in learning the L2 with respect to communicative competence. These results, then, provide evidence of the complex and multidimensional nature of identity, that is, the changing sense of self the participants experienced in relation to changing degrees of investment in the L1 and L2 cultures over time. By understanding the dynamics of these students' changing identities, the overall process of second language acquisition is further illuminated. Also, the findings indicate that educators can improve international students' academic experiences by supporting them in their attempts to establish a position as competent members in host communities.


Female; Female International Students; Four; Identity; International; International Students; Japanese; Japanese Women; Japanese; Students; Transformation; Women Students

Controlled Subject

Language arts; Women's studies; Ethnology--Study and teaching

File Format


File Size

2570.24 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit