Bridging imagination and informal digital learning of English: A mixed-method investigation

Guangxiang LIU, Yue Ellen ZHANG, Rui ZHANG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Focusing on how a world of possibilities is opened up by language learners themselves, imagination has been regarded as an elusive but indispensable element in second language (L2) education. Drawing on notions of international posture (Yashima 2002), Ideal L2 Self (Dörnyei 2009), and imagined communities (Norton 2001), we theorised imagination from a psychological perspective and a sociocultural lens. Then we conducted a mixed-method investigation to examine the complex relationship between imagination and informal digital learning of English (IDLE). A total of 401 participants from a tier-one university in China answered the survey, and 15 participated in post-survey interviews. Quantitative data revealed that students’ international posture could positively influence their IDLE practices. The Ideal L2 Self could both contribute to IDLE and partially mediate the relationship between international posture and IDLE. Adding nuances to quantitative results, the analysis of the interview data highlighted three major themes––imagining possible selves, negotiating access, and investing in IDLE. These themes helped to make sense of the intricate ways in which EFL learners invest in IDLE trajectories by utilising the power of imagination to negotiate their desired memberships in imagined international communities. This study concludes with pedagogical implications and suggestions for future research. Copyright © 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Early online dateFeb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2023


Liu, G., Zhang, Y., & Zhang, R. (2023). Bridging imagination and informal digital learning of English: A mixed-method investigation. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. Advance online publication.


  • Informal digital learning of English
  • International posture
  • Ideal L2 self
  • Imagined communities
  • Investment


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