Exploring linguistic stereotyping of international students at a Canadian university

Kim McDonough, Pavel Trofimovich, Oguzhan Tekin, Masatoshi Sato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although international students often report satisfaction with their studies and view Canada as being tolerant and multicultural, increasing anti-Asian sentiment triggered by the global pandemic has highlighted the importance of exploring whether international students, especially from South and East Asia, experience discrimination. This study examines how university students perceive the speech characteristics (accentedness, comprehensibility), status attributes (e.g. competent, intelligent), and solidarity traits (e.g. pleasant, attractive) of international students from Europe, China, and South Asia along with their interest in participating in academic activities with international students. Eighty university students in Canada evaluated short speech samples from six fellow students from Mandarin Chinese, European (Romanian, German), and South Asian (Urdu) backgrounds, with the voices presented with an image matching or mismatching the speaker’s ethnic features. Results showed that the Chinese and South Asian students were rated as more accented and less comprehensible than the European students. They were also viewed less favorably in status and solidarity and received lower academic engagement ratings. Students whose speech was easier to understand received higher status, solidarity, and academic engagement ratings. The findings are discussed in relation to various ways in which universities can reduce prejudicial and discriminatory behaviors toward international students.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • comprehensibility
  • discrimination
  • international students
  • Linguistic stereotyping
  • reverse linguistic stereotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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