“They Were Women and I Had a Cool Image About Them”: Female Role Models and Female English Language Majors

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Avril Haye-Matsui, Aichi Prefectural University

Based on a qualitative research project on the influence of gender in Japanese female students’ English language development, this paper examines the roles that women have played in developing the English language ability of first-year female English language majors at a university in central Japan. Analyses of students’ language learning histories revealed that the people who had the largest influence on participants’ decisions to study English at the university level were primarily female. Female learners also tended to have mostly female role models. This paper explores how female agency serves to first provide opportunities for female English language development, and then how female involvement in the research participants’ lives has motivated and encouraged their continued language development.