Sociolinguistics and Education

Written by Alex Levin

Written on . Posted in Language Policy.

Times viewed: 6822

Tagged with: Sociolinguistics, Language Policy, Language of Schools

The application of sociolinguistics to educational problems is absolutely essential as it can help us better understand the relationships between languages and schools, and help make necessary improvements in education through the development of a curriculum that would welcome the cultural and linguistic diversity of all students.

Also, development of the appropriate reading and writing programs could help educators reach the needs of students who speak non-standard varieties of the language.

Language is an important component of education. School instruction is delivered through the use of language. It is crucial for children to be able to understand the language of schools. Unfortunately, the language of home and the language of school do not always match, and then various teaching methods and literacy practices need to be employed to assure that all children receive equal access to education.

Halliday (1997) asserts that appropriate methodologies need to be culture-(and we would like to add language)-sensitive if they are to address classroom problems.

The well-known controversy around the use of AAE dialect (named Ebonics) in schools proves that the general public does not have sufficient knowledge and understanding of various dialects and their value for large groups of people. Home dialects cannot be easily replaced by standard varieties. Students who speak non-standard dialects at home often cannot fully benefit from schooling. Students’ native languages and dialects must be respected by schools and the general public.

Wong Fillmore (2006, p. 340) argues that in American society language became “a source of conflict in education.” She wonders what position the society should take toward educating and preserving languages of ethnic minorities and immigrant groups. If the general public and the minority groups themselves could understand the needs of the non-English speaking students better, then Proposition 227 would have never been signed in California, and bilingual education would have been saved.

Educating the general public about the importance of language maintenance and the advantages of bilingualism can prevent discrimination in educational settings, help reach the needs of bilingual students, and slow down language loss in our society. If the general public is to vote on pedagogical approaches, and be involved in decision making in such areas as bilingual education, its sociolinguistic blindness needs to be cured.

Sociolinguistics applies its theory to linguistically diverse educational settings and communities. It has its approaches to bilingualism, second language learning, and language maintenance. Sociolinguistics course could raise awareness among teachers, policy-makers and community members on the role of minority languages in schools.

Studying sociolinguistics can widen educational horizons of all college students. This course can help them learn more about language variation and language use. This course can prepare them to better participate in our everyday life for their own benefit and for the benefit of other people around them.


Halliday, A. (1997). Appropriate Methodology and Social Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wong Fillmore, L. (2006). Language in Education. In E. Finegan & J. R. RickfordLanguage in the USA (pp. 339-360). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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