Quality & Quantity

, Volume 52, Supplement 2, pp 1105–1120 | Cite as

Building communities and tolerance: power, ownership and social interactions among young people in an English-medium school in Cyprus

  • Ülviye SoysevEmail author
  • Çise Çavuşoğlu
  • Mustafa Kurt


Learning and teaching of English language in foreign contexts is usually associated with possible economic gains that it may bring. However, there are other and possibly more immediate implications of such instruction, especially on the way young people interact in schools where English is the medium of instruction. Using Bourdieu’s framework of capitals, the current study aims to explore how English language is perceived and used among young people from Turkish language backgrounds in a private school in the northern part of Cyprus where English is the medium of both instruction and communication. It also investigates whether students’ attitudes towards this language have any impact on the building of communities and tolerance when it comes to cultural diversity in and outside the classroom. Analysis of the data, which was collected through in-class ethnographic observations and informal chats with young people, showed that students who possessed a higher amount of linguistic capital in English were also perceived as popular and academically superior by all of the participants in this particular school. While linguistic abilities in English played a significant part in determining the access rights to certain peer groups, students whose first language was Turkish tended to capitalize on this skill to support each other to achieve academic success. Thus, language appeared to be a dividing factor rather than a bridge, which affected the school’s culture of tolerance negatively.


English-medium schools Language as capital Social interaction Young people School culture 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English Language Teaching, Educational Sciences Institute, Faculty of EducationNear East UniversityNicosiaTurkey

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