This is a massive question, one that cannot be answered in a short blog post. A study (Gatbonton, Trofimovich, & Magid, 2005) conducted in Canada, however, provides a fascinating perspective. The study examined links between ethnic group affiliation and accent, and some of the results indicated that “[t]he more learners sound like the speakers of their target language, the less they are perceived by their peers to be loyal to their home group” (p. 504). Based on their findings, the authors suggest that second language (L2) teachers should not rush to conclusions when their learners’ pronunciation is not improving because their students’ inability might be connected to their identity and the social pressure they face outside the classroom. Frankly, until I came across this paper, I had never given much thought to social pressure being a potential obstacle to student progress. Hence, I can’t help but wonder how many L2 learners get labelled as being ineffective learners, whereas in reality there might be something else going on behind the scene that many L2 teachers are simply oblivious to. It would be interesting to read anecdotes from L2 instructors and/or researchers as to whether they have had similar experiences or have witnessed or researched students’ unwillingness to improve their pronunciation because of social pressure faced inside or outside the classroom. Anybody willing to share?
Gatbonton, E. Trofimovich, P., & Magid, M. (2005). Learner's ethnic group affiliation and L2 pronunciation accuracy: A sociolinguistic investigation. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 489-511.
I am a Lecturer in TESOL at the University of Wollongong in Australia. I blog about L2 learning, L2 teaching, L2 teacher education, and research.