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Role models in language learning: Results of a large-scale international survey

Muir, Christine; Dörnyei, Zoltán; Adolphs, Svenja


Professor of English Language and Linguistics


Role models can exert considerable influence in shaping individuals’ values, attitudes and beliefs. A large body of work in the social sciences has investigated the influence of celebrity role models, and in the context of education several disciplines have a rich research history in this area (e.g. medical education). However, in the context of second language acquisition, research centred on role models has largely remained on the periphery. This study presents a large-scale international survey investigating the role models of English language learners. With data collected from 8,472 participants, analysis investigated whether these learners had English language role models, who the role models were and what characteristics learners valued in them, and investigated systematic variation among subgroups. Results showed that 68% of respondents reported having an English language role model, and four key role model dimensions emerged: overall command of English, paralinguistic features, personal attributes and accent/variety of English. We argue that role modelling may be a highly influential component of the psychological context of SLA, and conclude by highlighting several valuable areas for future research.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 9, 2019
Journal Applied Linguistics
Print ISSN 0142-6001
Electronic ISSN 1477-450X
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Article Number amz056
APA6 Citation Muir, C., Dörnyei, Z., & Adolphs, S. (2019). Role models in language learning: Results of a large-scale international survey. Applied Linguistics,
Keywords Linguistics and Language; Communication; Language and Linguistics
Publisher URL