Sound Effects: Social Pressure and Identity Negotiation in the Spanish Language Classroom

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

World Languages

Publication Date



This study explores how social pressure and identity construction patterns interact with the oral performance of secondary and post-secondary learners of Spanish as a foreign language. Data derive from 268 questionnaires probing students’ perceptions of Spanish, Spanish speakers, their peers, and their instructors. Ethnographic interviews eliciting learners’ observations of their own and their classmates’ pronunciation behaviors likewise contributed to the database. The majority of participants expressed a predictable desire to reproduce the pedagogical pronunciation standard. However, for a minority of participants, being viewed as capable of “good” pronunciation while deliberately subverting desired speech norms was even more appealing. Intentional mispronunciation is a revealing behavior that may reflect a desire among some learners for peer solidarity. These learners may have discovered that duplicating the instructor’s “model” pronunciation can confer less social status than sounding “tough,” “cool,” or “macho.” Rejecting “standard” pronunciation is perhaps more prestigious than reproducing it. Our analyses suggest a need to devise sensitive methods for eliciting participants’ perceptions of the various social factions operating in the FL classroom milieu.


This article was originally published in Applied Language Learning. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.


Applied Language Learning


© Natalie Lefkowitz and John S. Hedgcock , 2006