Becoming a Mechanic: An Ethnographic Study of Communication in Vocational Education in France.

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 15:00
Oral Presentation
Victor CORONA, Universitat de Lleida-ESQ7550001G, Spain
This paper is based on a sociolinguistic ethnography carried out over a period of 18 months in an automobile maintenance and repair class in a vocational school in a large city in France. During this time, I followed a group of nine young students aged sixteen and seventeen in an attempt to capture their linguistic practices in interaction, their understandings of vocational training and how their life trajectories had led them to this training. As is the case in many ethnographic studies, I kept field notes and recorded the activities of informants using a video camera. In previous studies in similar contexts, researchers have shown the importance of discourse practices not only for communication in the workplace, but also as preparation for the world of work. (Boutet 2001, Fillietaz 2012). For this reason, the research questions that guided my approach were focused on the language practices of young student apprentices and the construction of their identities as "mechanics". Identity here is understood as the professional identities that the students projected drawing on a range of semiotic resources, including language. I was interested not only in the students’ “professional linguistic practices”, as technical or specific vocabulary, but also in the informal conversations in which my young informants, through jokes, projected an image of "hyper-masculinity’ (Tetreault 2008). I consider their performances of masculinity as central to the more general construction of a professional mechanic identity.


Boutet, J. (2001). La part langagière du travail : bilan et évolution. Langage et Société, 4(98), 17–42.

Fillietaz, L. (2012). Interactions langagières et apprentissage au travail. In E. Bourgeois and M. Durand (Eds.) Apprendre au travail (pp. 87-98). Paris : PUF

Tetreault, C. 2008. La Racaille: figuring gender, generation, and stigmatized space in a French cité. Gender and Language 2(2)