(Re)-Creating, Interpreting and Appropriating Portuguese Language Policies in the UK

Verguete, Cátia. 2022. (Re)-Creating, Interpreting and Appropriating Portuguese Language Policies in the UK. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text ((Re)-Creating, Interpreting and Appropriating Portuguese Language Policies in the UK)
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Abstract or Description

Situated as it is at the intersection of national and international educational policies and practices, state institutions and policy agents at various levels of social and institutional activity, the provision of Portuguese language in schools in England is a particularly interesting case of language policy research as it evidences many of the tensions in the field. The fate of the language provision complies with a particular legal framework which is centrally formulated in Portugal and is then (re)-created, interpreted and appropriated by a network of teachers and their administrator in their day-to-day interactions with head teachers, teachers, pupils and parents in the UK. With the context of language learning in England as a backdrop to the implementation of Portuguese language policies, this study sets out to understand the relationship between the discourses within the Portuguese legal framework – the macro-level of policy creation – and their interpretation and appropriation by a group of four Portuguese teachers and their administrator – the micro and meso levels of policy deployment. Shedding a brighter light on these relationships will help us understand how opportunities are created for Portuguese language learning. It is hoped that studying Portuguese language provision as a resource to schools in England will contribute to improving and incrementing its delivery as well as that of other less-commonly taught languages.

This is an ethnography of language policy (McCarty 2011). As such, it combines analysis of macro-level official policy texts with ethnographic collection and analysis of data from the meso and micro levels of policy enactment. The study is based on the theoretical assumption that language policies can be instruments of power and control (Tollefson 1991, Shohamy 2006), but they can also be instruments of empowerment (Hornberger 2006). They can set discursive and structural boundaries on what languages and language varieties can be learned, who can learn them and how. But they can also promote and protect language learning and linguistic diversity and empower minority language users. An official language policy is but one element in a complex, multi-layered and interactively constructed process of multi-levelled social and institutional activity. After detailed analysis of the Portuguese legal framework, the study reports on two years of ethnographic data collection involving the use of timelines (Adriansen 2012) and in-depth three-part interviews (Bagnoli 2009, McCarty 2015) with four Portuguese teachers and their senior administrator. The collection of data also included participant and non-participant observation of the work of these four teachers in their schools. It was all documented in field notes, audio-recordings and photographs.

The analysis of the legal framework evidenced significant discursive turning points and problematised the construction of Portuguese as “a great language of international communication” (Decree-Law nº 65-A/2016 of 25 October 2016), aimed at a diverse audience of learners. While the broadening policy discourses are a source of tension (Keating et al. 2014), the findings of the empirical study evidenced disparity in the interpretation and appropriation of the legal framework. For example, the teachers’ engagement with the official policy goals, which will be explored throughout this thesis, was found to be only partial and each teacher had their own individual take on the policy’s intentions and scope. It was also shown how different ideological and structural forces combined to facilitate or constrain opportunities for Portuguese language learning. Thus, the research emphasised the importance of considering the interaction between official language policy discourses and the individual, structural and ideological circumstances (Priestley et al. 2015, Liddicoat 2018) impacting their interpretation and appropriation by its agents (Johnson 2013a), namely teachers and their senior administrators. The conclusion contends for wider participation and collaboration between the Portuguese teachers and their senior administrators, both in England and Lisbon, engaging together in the process of language policy making.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Language Policy, Portuguese, Multilingual Education

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


28 February 2022

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Mar 2022 10:51

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:19



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