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"Transnational linguistic capital"

News from Feb 13, 2014

Jürgen Gerhards. 2014. Transnational linguistic capital: Explaining English proficiency in 27 European countries. International Sociology 29(1): 56-74.

Foreign language proficiency in general and proficiency in the world’s most widely spoken language, English, are central resources to participate in the globalisation process. Drawing on a survey conducted in 27 European countries the article attempts to explain the huge differences in English proficiency that exist between and within countries. The author presents a general explanatory model for foreign language proficiency, creates hypotheses from this model and tests them empirically by using multilevel techniques. The findings show that the prevalence of a respondent’s native language, the linguistic difference between one’s mother tongue and English, and age affect language acquisition negatively, whereas a country’s level of education has a positive influence. Using Bourdieu’s theory of social class, the author shows that besides other factors a respondent’s social class position and the level of education are important micro-level factors that help to increase a person’s transnational linguistic capital.

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