English mystique?

A critical discourse analysis on gendered bilingualism in Japan


  • Aya Kitamura Tsuda College




Bilingualism in Japan, Gender, Critical Discourse Analysis, Akogare, Subversion


Bilingualism in Japan is imagined and constructed in close relation to gender. While erotic Occidentalism - namely, Japanese women’s idolization, or akogare, toward English, the West, and Caucasian men - has often been focused on, this critical discourse analysis aims to shed light on the more complex dynamics entailed in this issue. An analysis of popular publications reveals, on the one hand, a shared plot in which both celebrity and non-celebrity Japanese women experience dramatic alteration through learning English. On the other hand, the magazines are multifaceted and filled with mixed, conflicting messages. Some Japanese women featured in the media expose disillusioning realities of the supposedly romantic English world – some mockingly and others inadvertently. By showing that the gendered bilingualism in Japan involves not only Occidentalist/sexist affects but also alternative and subversive voices, this analysis illuminates the multiple subject positions available to female English learners in Japan.

Author Biography

Aya Kitamura, Tsuda College

Aya Kitamura is assistant professor at Tsuda College, Tokyo. She specializes in sociology, gender studies and Japanese studies, and conducts ethnographic researches on identity, gender and language. Her publications include Eigo wa onna o sukuunoka (Is English a savior for women?; Chikuma Shobō, 2011) and ‘Hesitant Madams in a Global City: Japanese Expat Wives and their Global Householding in Hong Kong’ (International Journal of Japanese Sociology, 2016).


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How to Cite

Kitamura, A. (2016). English mystique? A critical discourse analysis on gendered bilingualism in Japan. Gender and Language, 10(1), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v10i1.20692