“Lithuanian is the English” : how language policy and ideology condition internationalization by mediating access to spaces of opportunity and community at a Lithuanian University.
The purpose of this study is to understand how the language ideologies embedded within de jure and de facto language policies inform and relate to the socialization and language practices of graduate students, faculty, and administrators of a prominent Lithuanian university. Few studies have explored how language policies and language practices shape the socialization experiences of graduate students, faculty, or administrators. Little is known about how these dynamics change in post-Soviet and minoritized-majority language contexts, such as Lithuania where the national language has substantial symbolic and communicative power. This study integrates a symbolic interactionist theoretical perspective with the glonacal agency heuristic as a framework to understand how faculty, graduate students, and administrators negotiate the complex and sometimes contradictory relationship between language policies and language practices in ways that influence interpersonal interaction and communication. The findings from this study demonstrate that national and institutional de jure policies effectively regulated the languages of core academic activities, and indirectly functioned as gatekeeping mechanisms that maintained the Lithuanian-dominant demographics of academic faculty by perpetuating privileged employment pathways. Furthermore, the findings show how faculty, administrators, and graduate students exercised their agency to engage in language practices in spatially and socially dynamic ways, allowing them to strategically capitalize on the benefits of using English in selected “international” spaces and activities that aligned with their motivations and institutional incentives, while also maintaining the existing linguistic hierarchy that privileged Lithuanian in most local social, academic, professional spaces. Lastly, this study’s findings reveal how these circumstances contributed to asymmetrical socialization, with access to information, resources, and opportunities that privileged the experiences of Lithuanian-speakers, compared to their non-Lithuanian speaking counterparts.