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Module: AIC
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Introduction to Cultural Identity
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Sociolinguistic Awareness & Competence
Expectations, motivation, objectives


Module: Acquiring Intercultural Competence


Syllabus Content Area 4


3 sessions, 6 hours

Sociolinguistic Awareness and Competence

This area consists of 2 topics:

Topic One

Linguistic diversity in home culture

Aims and objectives :

  • to develop awareness of the diversity of language in the many situations encountered in everyday life and in familiar contexts

  • to consider the importance of factors normally taken for granted (age, gender, relationship between participants) which influence the choice of language used in different social contexts

  • to challenge the idea that there is only one type of "correct" English which is socially acceptable and desirable

  • to look at the motivations behind the idea that one kind of English is more desirable than another

  • to introduce the idea of relativity in language use in the home culture because students have more understanding of the multiple factors involved in those interactions

  • to de-naturalise studentsí own linguistic practices

  • to look at language in a more objective way and avoid making value judgements based on use of language


Learning activities

Guided discussion: analyse the statement "you do not come to this part of Britain if you want to learn good English"

  • who would make such a statement?

  • why would they make it? what would it be based on?

  • would a foreign person / a British person make it?

  • what are the assumptions / the influences behind it?

  • is there / has there been any evidence that this statement holds true?

  • is there any link between this statement and issues of empowerment, of social status? what do others say about the way you speak? who has influenced the way you speak?

  • what were the motives behind this influence, wanting to speak in a particular way?

  • have you ever felt out of place in your own country, speaking? where and when? is the way you speak commented on? where? school? work? social setting?


Observe people speaking English exclusively, in different situations
(suggested as preparation activity in students' own time)

  • listen, possibly record, look at: mode (written or spoken) age, gender, relationship between participants, purpose of communication, setting

  • reflect on use of vocabulary, use of grammar; is it conventional or not? are there abbreviations, ellipses? are words missed out? reflect on mood, tone of interaction, use of humour. Is there belittling / deference between participants or are they on equal footing? is there distance?


Observe how people express themselves when language other than English is spoken at home (suggested as preparation activity in students' own time)

  • what language is spoken at home? why?

  • is the same language spoken by different generations?

  • is there a difference between language used for domestic or professional issues?

  • what encouragement is given? what are the expectations at home?

  • is home language validated / approved / not approved?


Find out about language used in relatively unfamiliar settings
(suggested as preparation activity in students' own time)

  • formal and professional settings: visit a law court

  • listen to Yesterday in Parliament, watch Today in Parliament

  • religious settings: how does a minister express himself / herself during a service? observe the same in different religious settings

  • academic settings: how do lecturers express themselves? students in different situations (e.g. presentations)?

  • political discourse: political speeches, manifestos etc.


Topic Two

Linguistic diversity in Host Culture

Aims and objectives:

  • to help students acquire a set of linguistic tools in foreign language which will help them function in a variety of different situations

  • to help them continue to develop these tools through observation

  • to prepare them for encountering differences in the target language and culture

  • to discourage them from making assumptions about linguistic correctness in encounters

Learning activities

Before PRA:

Analyse the features of spoken and written texts in foreign language from different contexts, e.g. administrative documents one might encounter during PRA

Search SARA and STEFE databases for language based misunderstandings; what aspect of the language are most problems attributable to? is there a pattern? (suggested as preparation activity in students' own time)

During PRA:

Replicate the activities described under Topic One during the Year Abroad 

Observe politeness markers (eg: "tu" and "vous" in French)

Observe body language