A Bourdieusian Interpretation of English Language Learning: The Case of Korea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Downloads (Pure)


In recent years, educational research describing the sociological impact of the English language has drawn increasingly on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu to account for the mechanisms by which ELT imbricates in social stratification. Accordingly, this critical study takes as its analytical focus the Bourdieusian concepts of “habitus,” “capital,” and “field” in an effort to illustrate the structural and cognitive pressures that drive English language education and thus intergenerational social inequality. Specifically, Bourdieu’s model is employed to foster a theoretical comprehension of the post-globalization developmental strategies of the Republic of Korea during a period of sustained political and social reform. It has been shown that the interplay between Korea and internationalization has resulted in the identification of English as a resource crucial to the accumulation of capital within the transnational arena. This conflation of internationalization and Englishization acts not only as an instrument for responding to global pressures but a vehicle for elite privilege reinforcement, sustaining circular forms of socioeconomic inequality on the basis of language proficiency – to the advantage of the agentive forces behind the local dissemination of English and the disadvantage of broader subaltern populations. As a consequence, EFL instrumentalization within the Korean sociolinguistic field is illustrative of the measures by which dominant classes propagate self-aggrandizing values and norms via the manipulation of cultural capital, thereby achieving the hegemonic subjugation of subordinate groups via structural and ideological mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)3-22
Number of pages19
JournalKorea TESOL Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2020


  • English as a Foreign Language education
  • Social reproduction
  • stratification
  • Bourdieu

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A Bourdieusian Interpretation of English Language Learning: The Case of Korea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this