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How is sociolinguistic relevant to teaching esl 3 examples How is sociolinguistic relevant to teaching esl 3 examples Document Transcript

  • Topic: How is sociolinguistics relevant to teaching English as a second language? Teaching English as a second language (L2) to an individual or a group of people whoalready have the first language or mother tongue (L1) not only need the paedagogy andmethodology of teaching but also the understanding of sociolinguistics. This is because studentswho already have L1 will already have a set of values and cultural knowledge that they havelearnt and known throughout their lives before being exposed to L2. Teaching English as asecond language (ESL) in Malaysia requires English teachers to be aware that within the processof teaching and learning, there are many aspects that the teachers need to be aware of through thesociolinguistic features such as culture, social inequality and communicative competence. Many language researchers have mentioned that language and culture are intertwinedwith no definite ways to separate both these elements in an individual. As such, the behavior andlinguistic values learnt from the L1 will have some form of influence on the individual whenlearning L2. Take for example the simple linguistic functions for kinship. Most ESL textbooksincluding those found in Malaysia start the explanation of the language function through learningvocabulary for addressing family members. According to Afful (2006), the terms of addressconstitute an important part of verbal behavior through which the behavior, norms and practicesof a society can be identified. In the English culture, there is only one term to explain the relationship between theparents’ male sibling as ‘Uncle’ compared to the Chinese culture which have a special term forthe male sibling of both maternal and paternal sides; taking also into consideration the familyhierarchy of the sibling. As such, the teacher should understand the difference of culture posedthrough the linguistic function that either hinders or assist the child in learning English. In this
  • example, a common mistake that the student will make is by understanding that all the malesibling of the parents’ as ‘Uncle’ without mentioning the family hierarchy. As such, the studentmay produce terms such as Big Uncle for the elder male sibling and Small Uncle for the youngermale sibling. In a methodology aspect, the teacher will need to use other approaches to create theawareness for the student to understand the difference of the culture which thus resulted to theglitch in the linguistic area. However, the teacher should understand that most sociolinguists such as Labov believethat all languages are equal when it comes to esteem and usage. By teaching English, it istherefore crucial to disregard any form of prejudice or class differentiation towards the existingculture of the child and the English culture. The notion of upper class language or moreprestigious language derived from several aspects which Kloss (1966) has categorized to richliterary heritage, high degree of language modernization, considerable international standing, orthe prestige of its speakers. Since Malaysia has a wide variety of cultures, languages and dialectsdepending on the demographic of individual, there is a belief that most prestigious dialect is thesingle standard dialect of English that all people should speak (Fox, 1999). Thus, the teacher should be aware of the outcome in understanding this whenimplementing lessons in English. Believing that English; due to its prestige is also linked to be ofupper class can either cause a student to learn or disregard it. Nonetheless, the teacher will face abigger challenge to students who refuse to learn the English language as being thought tosuppress their own culture which thus result to the learning barrier. Sociolinguistics knowledgewill be relevant in deriving the style to teach English in class because in both situations, studentshave to be taught to assimilate the language and culture that comes with it in order not to totallydisrespect or forego his own culture and values of his L1 as it may cause other social problems.
  • In Malaysian classrooms, the teacher will need to find a balance in both explaining the need forlearning English due to globalization purpose as well as keeping their own ethnic identity. Even so, to learn English and know the linguistic fluency of the language might notnecessarily result to the student being able to achieve communicative competence. Spitzberg(1988) believes that communication competence is the ability to interact with other people in anaccurate, fluent, comprehensible, coherent, effective and appropriate to the context or topic beingmentioned. Students in Malaysia are generally exposed to a wide array of English language andculture through songs, movies and the Internet; especially through websites such as Youtube andFacebook. In most cultural aspects, the linguistic speech that is used by the English nativespeakers is awkward to be used in the Malaysian context. A simple example is jokes which onecan find on the Internet. Due to the cultural and historic value of the native speakers of Englishespecially in America, jokes that revolve around their society might not be appropriate to be usedin our Malaysian context; even if it is among proficient speakers of English. These jokes; whichare well received to be a source of entertainment as they can be performed as a category forcompetitions or even be used as time fillers in award ceremonies can be discriminating andinappropriate if the L2 speakers are not well informed to use it in their own context. Therefore, teachers need to acquire the sociolinguistic process of language which canaffect the L2 students. For a start, L2 students should be exposed to the standard languagevarieties exists in order to allow them to assimilate their culture and values to English culture andvalues. Most importantly, teachers should always be there to assure students that there is noinferiority when it comes to learning the new language. In doing so, teachers themselves have toknow the sociolinguistics of how a language is regarded in this multilingual society.
  • Reference ListAfful, J. B. A. (2006): Address terms among university students in Ghana. A case study. Journal of Language and Intercultural Communication, 6 (1).Fox, M. (September 12, 1999). The way we live now: On language and dialects. The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/12/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-9-12-99-on- language-dialects.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/F/Fox,%20MargalitKloss, H. (1966). Types of multilingual communities: A discussion of ten variables. Sociological Inquiry 36 (2). pp. 135–145Spitzberg, B. H. (1988). Communication competence: Measures of perceived effectiveness. In C. H. Tardy (Ed.), A handbook for the study of human communication: Methods and instruments for observing, measuring, and assessing communication processes. pp. 67- 105.