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Sociolinguistic Perspectives of ELT Research Paper


The paper focuses on the use of sociolinguistic perspectives in the process of protecting English as a language in areas where it is endangered as being a minority language by conducting a sociolinguistic study on the reasons resulting to this situation, the prevailing circumstances and the endangerment results. The paper also looks at other social as well as structural processes that are associated with the endangered English language and its survival.

The research focuses on the loss of aspects of English language from both the migrant and indigenous perspective due to the introduction of other dominating languages. The paper also looks at the relationships of English and other language to the existing policies introducing the impacts of the ELT as an intervention measure (Long 2005, p. 123).

The sociolinguistic approach to English language teaching (ELT) explains its programs and purposes. This perspective focuses on the situations that mostly target ELT competence in communication. The perspective believes that in any program related to ELT, a communication has to be presented, and this will entail events that are involved in communication.

These include the daily duties discussed, the domain of the ELT which is mainly educational, the medium mostly used in the presentation of ELT programs that are to be ‘spoken’, the mode that is a dialogue, the communication channel that is mostly face to face interaction, the settings of such learning programs, the content of the subject and English level (Parker 1994, p. 154). Such profiles made up of these events develop an ELT syllabus.

The native English speaker’s legitimacy in teaching English as a second language has caused a number of issues originated from a sociolinguistic view of English education. In many studies conducted on the subject, the results indicate that such English speakers theoretical practices vary when it comes to ELT practices ranging from native norms towards the foreign ones. It is clear that the ELT programs pluralized reality practiced globally made a lot of sense when viewed from a sociolinguistic perspective (Bach 1997, p. 45).

The paper mostly focuses on the ELT characteristics, its attrition level and the particular attrition characteristics viewed from a sociolinguistic perspective. The other area of study which the paper is concerned with is the evaluation of the possibilities for ELT’s revitalization as well as preservation of linguistic.

To achieve this, the research starts by taking an empirical analysis of English as a language while trying to come up with theoretical conclusions on ELT survival chances as well as the circumstances that may result to the maintenance of such programs.

The other area of focus is experimented language policies effects and the actions of different institutions on ELT programs. The paper also challenges the institutions to intervene as a necessary move towards a sociolinguistic research on the efficient English speaking policies (Bachman 1990, p. 67).


The hypotheses for this research paper include the following points;

To find out whether there exists a relationship between speech by communities and English language characteristics.

To find out if it is possible to interfere with the language development by the use of linguistic policies or by changing the ELT programs in an effort to salvage the language.

To find out whether the intervention from institutions serves as a necessity in the initial sociolinguistic research.

Relevancy of the Research and how it is Related to the Formulated Hypotheses

English though used in most parts of the world, there are still some areas where it is rarely used. In such communities or countries, English has been observed as being neglected or used as a minority language. It is estimated that there is an 80% percent chance of English language ceasing in areas where it has been neglected or used as a minority language.

This called for the need for programs that address the main linguistics as well as promoting English linguistic rights. This has led to many researchers being interested in the sociolinguistics field analysis and policy making. The researches bring out the social status of ELT programs as being the main force in the attrition process as well as its maintenance in different and complex cultural settings (Jordan 1997, p. 78).

For the paper to be in a position to properly asses the indicators of English dominance, it was necessary to look at its functional aspects and how it is being applied in different cultures. The changing tendencies of the functional roles of a language in bilingual situations is a crucial process in reversing the trend a language may take and in the revitalization of any language that is being endangered.

The linguistic notions of the members of any community also proved to be a vital parameter. There are these cultural constructions that have direct impacts on the ELT programs prestige. The socio-cultural contexts together with the indicators of sociolinguistic of any language make use of the speakers attitude thus were the main factors looked at in the research (Allwright 1999, p. 140).

This research involved a holistic approach making use of multiple directions as well as methodologies of inquiry. This approach was chosen to avoid studying English language a single separate domain. The study involved analyzing the settings such as the ethics of chosen communities, their economic status, religion, and social political structures and how they affect their spoken language (Tully 1997, p. 124).

The study was then narrowed down to the sociolinguistic analysis of the behaviors related to speech as associated with communication functions in bilingual patterns, English language prestige and its structural phenomenon on the. These linguistic processes used by most sociolinguistics in different fields bring out the multifaceted issues that are associated with English language being endangered (Benesch 1999, 327).

Data Collection Method and the Associated Problems

Bolivia and Sicily were taken as the areas of reference in this study where English as a language is facing serous chances of being endangered. The subject under study was taken to be approximately 2500 natives from the two regions.

Most of the respondents were natives from the selected communities going through ELT programs, some were those who had successfully completed the programs while others were the natives that were not aware if such programs existed in the community. The facilitators of the programs were also interviewed.

The field work involved face to face interviews basing on selected questions that were asked to all the respondents. The research personnel had with them possible answers they expected to get from the respondents and they based on the two sets of answers to gauge the relevance of the answers gotten from the field. This face to face interview method was settled on as it was the most suitable approach.

Through such interviews, it was easy for the research personnel to see how good the respondents were fluent in speaking English and probe further incase they needed clarity (Nunan 1998, p. 67). The researchers were also in a position to analysis the ELT programs in person and not rely on the answers from the respondents. Some of the questions were open ended where the respondents were expected to give a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer while others needed some explanations. Some of the administered questions included;

  1. Which of the two languages (English and Italian) do you use more often in your conversation?
  2. Which of them are you more fluent in?
  3. Which language do your parents and younger siblings prefer to use?
  4. What percentage of your friends use English while communicating?
  5. Have you ever enrolled in or are you going through any ELT program? If so, what can you say about your spoken English before and after the program or from the time you enrolled until now?
  6. Do you know any members of the community who are not in a position to speak any English? If yes, how many and how old are they?
  7. From your point of view, is the English language diminishing in popularity in your community?

Following the researches conducted earlier, it was expected that Italian was more popular than English in these regions now that it came second to Italian. The older generation was expected to be better English speakers than the young generation as the language was ceasing with time. The number of youth attending the ELT programs was also expected to be diminishing but those who managed to attend them come out as better English speakers (Holmes 2008, p. 67).

The paper focused on the structural as well as functional perspectives in an effort to asses how viable ELT programs were and the chances of having the English language diminishing trend change and revitalize by using language policies that were effective. The paper applied realistic policies on the existing sociolinguistic situation in these areas. The specific areas where English language ceasing included Arbresh Muysken and Uchumataqu as well as Uchuma found in Bolivia (Crystal 1999, p. 234).

The study was conducted by relating how English as a second language to Spanish and how this was changing with time. Linguistic data was collected covering the restriction functional and the changes the communities had undergone and how English had been affected by the dominating Spanish language in the regions thus showing its attrition state.

The study also involved the integration of the cultural together with the ethnic speech features of these communities integrating the speaker’s linguistic loyalties. The study also went ahead to collect data on morphological analysis of English semi speakers (Dittmar 1999, p. 61).

Structural data was also collected covering the linguistic corrosion that showed a shift in language use to Italian and not English. Here the study concentrated on sociolinguistic analysis of language attrition features that indicated the significance of the ELT programs in such areas by indicating how such programs had great impacts on how English as language had spread among youthful speakers in most schools.

This showed that the program had effective corrective impacts. The results also showed that linguistic loyalty was high towards the first languages but still there were chances of linguistic policies meant to increase the use of English were succeeding. The paper went further to indicate that following the results; ELT programs have to be equipped with linguistic codifications and make use of its written form as a key way of reducing linguistic disintegration (Benesch 2001, p. 134).

Analysis of the Finding

The findings of the research indicated the issues faced by ELT programs in areas where English language is rarely used. The study also explains the situation in which second languages find themselves in the presence of first languages. The results showed that language should be viewed as asocial behavior and in other situations as a social phenomenon in relation to the language used by any community.

Language can in way be looked at as a separate variable from other social behaviors such as culture. Thus it is important for language to be used or practiced regularly in order to prevent language decay (Nunan 2004, p. 78).

This is to mean that sociolinguistic approach on ELT programs should always consider the fact that plans on language teaching are just a means of change and that in any case the employed policies do not show any effects on the use of language, the approach will be unsuccessful. The spontaneous use of any language by a community is what mainly causes a language to change in its dominance (Brindley 1998, p. 78).


Sociolinguistic approaches are aimed at serving as intervention as well as protective measures in situations of endangered languages as well as act as inactive recorders in situations where a language cannot be salvaged. Most researchers remain skeptical when it comes to revitalization but still regard it as a crucial inclusion in the process of maintaining the diversity associated with culture and linguistics. The decisive factor when it comes to a language feature in mostly the attitude of the communities speaking the language.

Lack of interest from any community will lead to revitalization thus even the best programs meant to promote the growth of any language will end up being meaningless. Language policies were observed to have greater impacts on the ELT programs in situations where they were effectively constructed and they were realistic.

The study showed that a language being endangered can be easily rescued and its revitalization made more feasible if the approach is realistic. Sociolinguistic approaches were thus seen very important means of coming up with effective and realistic language policies used in the analysis of the impacts of the ELT programs (Brown 1995, p. 56).

Sociolinguistic approach demands for improvement change as the most significant characteristic in the communities. The change has to be there in order for the speakers to improve their speech practices (Bailey 1991, p. 98). Thus, the approach concludes insisting that ETL programs have to be properly analyzed and some of the elements in these programs should be changed so as to ensure that the language learning process complies with the needs of the young speakers in the best way possible (Bayer 1999, p. 64)


In order for any community to gain the nature of language phenomenon attrition and for such a community to develop a sociolinguistic basis that is strong enough to accommodate linguistic policies, the nature of the sociolinguistic approach has to be holistic. Additional linguistic phenomena like ethno-cultural settings in communities where a certain language is ceasing, the loyalties of the speakers, interests and attitudes form crucial basis in the analysis of the use of a language and its structures.

Only extensive research on the communities’ speeches can yield desirable results (Bonvillian 1993, p. 34). The main aim of including language policies in ELT programs is to initiate a change in the use of language spontaneously by more speakers in a community. This is the main indicator that can be based on in measuring the language policy efficacy. Such factors include changes in legislative, elite active participation, language shift indicators or minority language policies.

The process of research indicated that language policies and linguistic endangerment result in the language phenomenon complexity facing attrition. These are the structural and cognitive language aspects and have great influence on the additional linguistic processes that vary (Cheshire 1991, p. 75).


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Bach, M 1997, Linguistic communication and speech acts, MIT Press, Cambridge.

Bachman, L 1990, Fundamental consideration in language testing, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Bailey, W 1991, Images of English. A Cultural History of Languages, CUP, Cambridge

Bayer, J 1999, Language and social identity, Multilingual Matters, Clevendon.

Benesch, S 1999, ‘Rights analysis: Studying power relations in an academic settings’, English for Specific Purpose, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 313-327.

Benesch, S 2001, Critical English for academic purpose: Theory, politics and practice, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, New Jersey.

Bonvillian, N 1993, Language, Culture and Communication, Prentice Hall, New Jersey

Brindley, G 1998, The role of needs analysis in adult ESL programming design, The second language curriculum, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Brown, J 1995, The elements of language curriculum: A systematic approach to program development. Heinle & Heinle Publishers, New Jersey.

Cheshire, J 1991, English around the World: Sociolinguistic Perspectives, CUP, Cambridge.

Crystal, D 1999, The English Language, Penguin Books, London.

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Holmes, J 2008, An introduction to sociolinguistics, Longman, London.

Jordan, R 1997, English for academic purposes: A guide and resource book for teachers, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Long, H 2005, Methodological issues in learner needs analysis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Nunan, D 1998, Research methods in language learning, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Nunan, D 2004, Tasks-based language teaching, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Parker, K 1994, Linguistics for non-linguistics, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.

Tully, M 1997, ‘English: and advantage to India’, ELT Journal, vol. 51 no.2, pp. 157-164.

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