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Current Perspectives on Sociolinguistics and a Foreign Language Education

Sociolinguistics is one of the most far-reaching subdisciplines of linguistics, which interacts with many other disciplines, including foreign language education.

The basic theoretical features of sociolinguistics and the context of its practice lend foreign language education its rich social content. The application of sociolinguistics in a classroom context can contribute enormously to the development of foreign language teaching techniques.  It is essential to see the attributes of  both sociolinguistics and foreign language education disciplines, such as language attitudes, language and culture, and policies governing the selection of foreign languages to be taught.

A lot of research studies show that positive and negative attitudes towards a language have an influence on the way people teach it and learn. Their attitudes can either facilitate or complicate their language learning. The knowledge of relationship between attitudes and learning will contribute to the development of foreign language teaching methods.

In light of cross-cultural communication and transfer assumptions, it could be argued that while learning a foreign language, students will also explore its culture. In addition to this, students’ linguistic and cultural experiences in their native language will help them clarify the novel linguistic and cultural concepts they encounter in the foreign language. In the meantime, students will reconstruct the concepts they have learnt in the past and make use of earlier experiences in the learning process.

In its general sense, language planning and policies entail the selection and educational framework for teaching the languages which will be used in official or unofficial institutions in a country. In recent years, the most significant example of foreign language planning and policy is the European Language Portfolio. Cooper  classifies language planning into three categories: status planning, corpus planning, and acquisition planning. Status planning generally refers to the official status of a language, to general preferences and aims for using the language. Corpus planning is related to the language itself and incorporates the selection of vocabulary regardless of gender discrimination, new words added to the language, alphabet selection, and identification of spelling and punctuation rules. Acquisition planning entails the teaching and learning and use of the language for certain purposes, business-related uses, for example, or educational use as a medium of instruction.

In the globalized world, to sustain good relationships with other countries, a common language ensuring communication across borders is necessary. To develop widespread foreign language proficiency, it is important to promote positive attitudes towards the language to be taught. Teaching a foreign language is difficult, even impossible, if the learners have negative attitudes towards the target language, the nationality of the language teachers, or the teaching context. In this regard, the integration of culture into foreign language instruction helps learners to understand unfamiliar concepts by meeting them in context, and thus the learning of the language is enhanced.

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2 thoughts on “Current Perspectives on Sociolinguistics and a Foreign Language Education

  1. I’m also sure sociolinguistics and foreigh language teaching are closely connected – possibly because I’m involved in both – but I think I can see different aspects of the connection.
    First, I believe studying language variation, class as well as situational, helps to choose what to teach, because we never have the time or opportunity to teach all there is in a language.
    And second, I see the purpose of foreign language teaching not only in facilitating cross-cultural communication, not only in clarifiying a different culture’s concepts, but also in finding out about our own concepts and developing new ones, which the world culture needs badly, in my view.

  2. Olga Diakonova says:

    I absolutely agree with the previous comment. In order to add something… In my opinion one of the discussions that may be useful for Sociolinguistics and Language Education in the Language is a thorough account of Black English.

    By the way a week ago I came across the book written by Nancy Hornberger (Review of Sociolinguistics and Language Education). Because of this book I also got interested in psycholinguistic perspectives on first and second language learning and teaching.

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