While many studies have described existing beliefs concerning the appropriation of English among learners of English, little or no effort has been made to examine the process through which EIL users develop an ownership of English. This paper reports on a qualitative study that explored the development of ownership of English by Japanese EIL users in an attempt to understand such factors as experience, knowledge, and beliefs, exerting influences over its development. In-depth interviews were conducted with 14 Japanese university students and analysed employing a grounded theory approach. The findings suggest that these EIL users developed ownership of English through and across similar themes: de-ownership, understanding of ownership, ambivalent ownership, substantive ownership, and supra-self ownership, affected by various idiosyncratic factors. Based on the findings, the author proposes ‘EIL sensitivity’ as an integral part of communicative competence in EIL, referring to the degree to which individuals feel their ownership of English, manipulating English depending on various contextual circumstances across different varieties of English and cultures.
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