The discursive (mis)representation of English language proficiency
International students in the Australian media
International education constitutes a key industry in Australia and international students represent a third of university students at Australian universities. This paper examines the media representation of international students in terms of their English language proficiency. The study applies Critical Discourse Analysis to the multimodal data of an episode of a current affairs TV program, Four Corners, and social media comments made to the episode. Using Social Actor Analysis, the study finds that the responsibility for declining standards at universities is assigned to international students through representations of their language use as problematic. This is supported by the visual representation of international students as different. By systematically mapping out the English-as-a-problem discourse, the paper finds that the media representation of language proficiency and language learning is simplistic and naïve and the social media discussion reinforces this. This further contributes to the discursive exclusion of international students.
Keywords: English-as-a-problem discourse, English language proficiency (ELP), international students, Australian higher education, Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis
Published online: 29 May 2020
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