Metacognition and the complex process of developing identities via a second language: addressing the challenges healthcare professionals are facing in a multilingual context

  • Christine Fourie Department of Linguistics, University of Antwerp, Belgium | Language Centre, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Keywords: healthcare communication, blended learning, multilingualism, identity, medical communication training, language for specific purposes


This qualitative study takes into account that healthcare professionals are increasingly required to function in a multilingual environment where they often have to communicate with patients in a second or third language (Ushioda & Dörnyei 2009, Burford 2012). In this regard the identity of the healthcare worker can be compromised, as identity is interrelated with language (Joseph 2004, Gollin-Kies et al. 2015, Skjeggestad et al. 2017). Therefore, communication training courses in the healthcare context should accommodate professional identity formation processes, as a healthy identity would support stress and change management (Monrouxe 2009, Goldie 2012, Mavor et al. 2014). Data was collected during two separate courses: firstly at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, where medical students took part in a communication training course in Afrikaans and secondly when nurses in Antwerpen, Belgium took part in a similar communication training course in English. Both courses followed a blended learning approach and for each course an online community of practice via Facebook was utilised. Data was analysed according to the principles of grounded theory. Metacognitive markers that support the identity formation process were identified during the first course and refined for the second course. The result is a framework that supports both metacognitive awareness and the manifestation of metacognition that could facilitate the professional identity formation process alongside the process of language learning for healthcare purposes.