Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

David Boromisza-Habashi

Second Advisor

Karen Tracy

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Flores


The purpose of this M.A. thesis study is to examine the way in which first generation Spanish-speaking immigrants conceptualize the link between culture, language, and identity, and how they reject third space identity when describing their experiences with acquiring and speaking English and Spanish in the U.S. By conducting a thematic analysis of field notes from adult ESL classrooms and transcribed interviews with ESL students and coordinators, I reveal the tension between the desire to perform a U.S. American identity and the reluctance to embrace or internalize that identity. I propose that first generation immigrants who are actively assimilating talk about culture as mentality, and specifically, reference U.S. mentalities as contradictory to their own. I also posit that individuals make sense of this tension by referring to a split between enacting and claiming an identity, specifically by distinguishing between residing and belonging and public and private languages. Ultimately, immigrants who choose to reject third space identity still face a lived reality in which their foreign status is highlighted in all contexts.