The integration of the other four principles establish the idea that language learning programs, including ESOL, are not simply concerned with language acquisition. Since these kinds of programs are adapted into a standard classroom setup such as K-12, the forerunners of language teaching and learning thought it best for these kinds of programs to be relevant and practical. At this point, language teaching and learning have evolved into the use or purpose of learning the English language.
Thus, the goals and competencies prescribed for language learning programs, such as ESOL, include the acquisition of adequate knowledge, skills, and attitudes of ELLs that will enable them to communicate through the English language properly with the awareness of how it fits well with social landscapes, cultures, and politics. (Vale & Scarino, 2000) These concepts and ideas match with the third competency included in the Florida Department of Education Subject Area Competencies for ESOL K-12.
Sociolinguistic diversity refers to the different ways by which language is used and interpreted, based on social factors including culture, race or ethnicity, beliefs or ideologies, norms and mores, sex or gender, religion, contextual and connotative meaning, and so on. (Corson, 2001) This means that the practical use and interpretation of language shift due to the influences of various societal factors. For instance, the phrase “grab a bite” is a colloquial speech known to mean, “to eat,” for native speakers of English.
However, for non-native speakers of English who are learning the language, the phrase maybe most likely interpreted literally losing the actual meaning of the colloquial phrase. In religion, ELLs may also find it hard to understand the meaning of English terms. One example would be the use of the word “Anaphora. ” In language and literature, the term “anaphora” refers to a figure of speech. However, in Catholicism, “anaphora” is a prayer read during mass that conveys celebration.
In addition, there are many varieties of English, American and British being two of the most widely used, thus the use and interpretation of English differ between these varieties, making language learning complex. (Pope, 2002) This only means that culture is very much tied with language structure. In terms of culture, ELLs should be aware of how cultural diversity affects the use and interpretation of the English language because their knowledge will depend on how they will communicate or interact with other people from various cultures later on.
It will become easier for ELLs to understand other people from other cultures, and relate to cultural television shows, films, music, customs, and so on, if they learn how culture diversifies language. The confusion that arises due to differences on how the English language is used and interpreted, especially between native and non-native speakers of the language, requires that ELLs understand the concept of sociolinguistic diversity and how it influences the learning process – how the language is used and interpreted in different settings.
When ELLs become aware of sociolinguistic diversity, they will be able to use and distinguish the English language comprehensively such that their knowledge and understanding of the language expands from the literal context to the connotative, colloquial, and even metaphorical contexts or meanings. Consequently, ELLs gain the skills and self-confidence to use the English language properly in real life situations. For these reasons, learning content and instruction in terms of sociolinguistic diversity cover how the language is used in diverse settings.
Apart from sociolinguistic diversity and aspects of culture, government policies and political trends on educational programs for ELL affect the learning process. Although English language learning was not recognized until the 1970s in the United States (The Education Alliance, 2006), the educational policies being implemented by the federal and state governments today support English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.
This is in line with the growing population of U. S. residents with no or limited knowledge of the English language. Some of these people are also enrolled in several public schools in the country. By conducting surveys, the U. S. government learned that the students’ lack of ability in applying the English language was significantly affecting their academic performances. (EPE Research Center, 2004)