Which ‘I’ is really me?: Identity, pronouns and language learning

| June 6, 2013

July 2013
Volume 7 Issue 1

| July 2013 home | PDF version |

Which ‘I’ is really me? Identity, pronouns and language learning

Matthew Coomber
Kyoto Sangyo University, Kyoto, Japan

Bioprofile: Matthew Coomber has been teaching in Japan for the past twelve years and is currently an English language lecturer at Kyoto Sangyo University. He holds an MLitt in International Security Studies from the University of St Andrews and an MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL from the University of Leicester. His research interests include intercultural communication and feedback in academic writing.


Much research on the role of gender identity in second language acquisition has concentrated on learners of English; less is known about the identity work undertaken by those learning other languages. This article reports on the linguistic choices of male learners of Japanese as a second language, examining the ways in which their masculine identities may intersect and interact with their identities as language learners. In Japanese, a speaker’s choice of pronoun can be used to display gender differences (SturtzSreetharan, 2009), and is thus a crucial element in the construction of identity. Four native English-speakers were interviewed regarding their usage and perceptions of three common Japanese first person pronouns: these case studies illustrate the complex and multifaceted ways in which these men seek to construct and perform their identities in their second language.

Keywords: Identity, masculinity, Japanese pronouns, second language learners

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Category: Volume 7 Issue 1 June 2013