The transition from L2 learner to L2 teacher: A longitudinal study of a Japanese teacher of English in Japan

Gaby Benthien

Teacher education, Teacher identity, English language teaching, Team teaching, Narrative inquiry


While newly employed teachers may begin their career with certain ideas and beliefs, these are influenced by different stimuli, encounters and constraints which lead to the ongoing recalibration of their L2 identity. This longitudinal case study explores the L2 journey of a Japanese teacher of English through narrative inquiry using a dynamic approach. Drawing on interview data, the study documents the participant’s transition from L2 learner and pre-service teacher to L2 teacher, focusing on the interconnectedness of the L2 learning and teaching environment and extended socio-educational environment, and the effect of educational, geographical, professional, social, and temporal factors. The study provides a holistic view of the complex interplay between the continuing L2 learner identity and emerging L2 teacher identity, as experienced from the perspective of the novice teacher. The complexity of establishing a professional L2 teacher identity in Japan is highlighted, including discovering one’s own teaching style, finding ways of adapting teaching to national educational directives, meeting the challenges of motivating students, feeling a sense of responsibility for examination preparation, encountering cross-cultural and power issues in team teaching, contemplating future career options, and coming to terms with employment practices. Based on the findings, the study concludes by offering some suggestions for taking not only the challenges faced by the L2 learner, but also the L2 teacher into account, and ways of encouraging meaningful dialogue between researchers, teacher educators and teachers.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies