A significant construct in language learning research, identity is defined as “how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is structured across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future”. Recognizing language as a social practice, identity highlights how language constructs and is constructed by a variety of relationships. Because of the diverse positions from which language learners can participate in social life, identity is theorized as multiple, subject to change, and a site of struggle.
The diverse conditions under which language learners speak, read, or write the second language are influenced by relations of power in different sites; learners who may be marginalized in one site may be highly valued in another. For this reason, every time language learners interact in the second language, whether in the oral or written mode, they are engaged in identity construction and negotiation. However, structural conditions and social contexts are not entirely determined. Through human agency, language learners who struggle to speak from one identity position may be able to reframe their relationship with their interlocutors and claim alternative, more powerful identities from which to speak, thereby enabling learning to take place.