Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC San Diego

Presentation of social identity and language use among bilingual Korean English speakers


The aim of this research study was to better understand how bilingual Korean English speakers use language in face -to-face interaction as well as in online social networks relates to their social identities. The study was grounded in social theory of language and social identity theory. The social theory of language views language as a form of social practice and suggests that language is meaningful within social contexts. Social identity theory defines social identity as an individual's self-definition or perception in relation to other associates in the social group to which one belongs. The existing research on language use among bilingual Korean English speakers and a review of literature regarding online social networks and Korean immigrants' online literacy practice also served as a larger context for this study. The research was conducted using a mixed-method approach. An online questionnaire collected demographic data as well as information about the bilingual Korean English speakers' self-assessed language proficiencies, language uses, and their social identities. The survey participants included 78 bilingual Korean English speakers in southern California. Additionally, semi-structured interviews were conducted to gather in-depth explanation from the bilingual participants in terms of their use of languages and their presentation of social identities. Among the 78 survey participants, 16 were chosen to participant in the interviews. There were six major findings about bilingual Korean English speakers. First, bilingual Korean English speakers with different levels of self-assessed language proficiency use the languages differently based on their conversational partners or the social contexts of the conversation. Secondly, their self-assessed language proficiency does not relate to their social identity construction. Third, they select a specific language based on the language skills of their conversational partners. Fourth, they intentionally use Korean when talking about topics specifically related to Korean life or addressing others in ways that reflect cultural norms. Fifth, their social identities are shaped by the shared idea about typical Korean-American. Lastly, they use both Korean and English differently online depending on their social identities. These findings have implications both for research on language use and identity formation and for language teaching and learning

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View