Experiencing deficit: Multilingual international undergraduate students talk identity


  • Vander Tavares Norway University of Applied Science


international students, ESL, higher education, undergraduate students, multilingualism, Canada, internationalization, identity


This article explores the identity-related experiences of three multilingual international students at a university in Canada. Multilingual international students who speak English as an additional language (EAL) are traditionally referred to as English as a second language (ESL) students. This ESL identity category can negatively impact the social, psychological, and academic experiences of multilingual EAL international students. The three students’ experiences were accessed through in-depth interviews, and insights from post-structuralist theory on identity were drawn on to contextualize them. The findings illustrate that the students experienced a strong sense of deficit on the basis of their positions as ESL students, non-native speakers, and international students. This deficit manifested in experiences of inferiority, otherness, and marginalization.

Author Biography

Vander Tavares, Norway University of Applied Science

is a postdoctoral researcher in education at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway, and holds a PhD from York University, Canada. His research interests include language teacher identity development, critical second language education, internationalization of higher education, and identity in multilingual / multicultural contexts. In 2021, he was the recipient of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Award by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE). He is the author of International Students in Higher Education: Language, Identity, and Experience from a Holistic Perspective (Rowman & Littlefield) and editor of Social Justice, Decoloniality, and Southern Epistemologies within Language Education (Routledge). vander.tavares@inn.no


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How to Cite

Tavares, V. (2023). Experiencing deficit: Multilingual international undergraduate students talk identity. McGill Journal of Education / Revue Des Sciences De l’éducation De McGill. Retrieved from https://mje.mcgill.ca/article/view/10025