Failure in Communication in a Second Language Context, a Threat to Identity

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Department of Foreign Languages, Sheikhbahaee University, Isfahan, Iran

2 English Language Center, Isfahan University of Technology, Iran


The present study investigated the effect of L2 communication failure on the identity of an individual. As identity is a social construct and a function of communication and group membership, we aimed to investigate how failure in language use by itself, as a dimension of socialization process, can influence an individual’s identity. To study the effect of communication failure on the mental states of individuals, 25 adult subjects of both genders, 13 men and 12 women having had a failing experience of L2 communication in L2 context were randomly selected. An in-depth interview including and reflecting the feelings of the research participants at the time of their unsuccessful communication rendered much information about the social effects of such failure. A qualitative analysis of the interviews revealed that communication failure resulting from low language proficiency can threaten a person’s identity not only in the second language, but also to some extent in the first language.