Sociolinguistics: Language Teaching and Age

Discuss William Littlewoods’s point of view on choosing what to teach

William Littlewood (1981) argues that language education should reflect the communicative needs of students. The problem is that in many cases, children are supposed to learn mostly about various structural elements of the language. For instance, one can speak about the use of various passive voice or subjunctive mood. However, this linguistic content does not reflect the way in which children communicate with one another on a daily basis (Littlewood, 1981, p. 77).

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In order to illustrate the pitfalls of this approach, the scholar refers to the following sentence, “My grandmother’s ear trumpet has been struck by lightning” (Littlewood, 1981, p. 77). Admittedly, this sentence throws light on the grammatical peculiarities of the English language, but it bears little relevance to students’ communicative needs. In turn, the author explores a variety of approaches to linguistic education. At first, the author examines the so-called functional-structural approach. This strategy implies that a teacher should still focus on the structural peculiarities of the language such as the use of verbs.

Nevertheless, one should demonstrate how these linguistic units can be applied in everyday speech. For instance, the scholar focuses on various communicative situations such as asking for directions. Furthermore, William Littlewood believes that at the point when learners have already acquired the basic grammatical and syntactical structures, they should focus mostly on the communicative functions of the language (Littlewood, 1981, p. 79). These functions may include asking or giving permission, justifications of one’s actions, offering apologies, and so forth. As a result, they will see how their learning activities can be applied for practical purposes.

Additionally, the author examines the so-called notional approach can also be fruitful. In this case, learners are taught to express various concepts such as duration, space, time, or quantity (Littlewood, 1981, p. 80). These concepts can be related to various structural elements of the language such as the use of past and present tenses, singular or plural forms of nouns, and so forth. Moreover, the scholar mentions the topic approach.

Provided that this strategy is adopted, students may explore such topics as art, mass media, sports, housing, and so forth (Littlewood, 1981, p. 81). On the whole, William Littlewood notes that it is possible to combine different approaches during classes. However, they should be relevant to the communicative needs of students; otherwise, they may believe that their learning activities are meaningless. As a result, their language acquisition can be impaired. These are the main issues discussed by the author.

Discuss the language and age according to R. A. Hudson (sociolinguistics)

In his book, Richard Hudson (1996) discusses the way in which the use of language changes as the person becomes grows older. The author distinguishes such stages as “babyhood, childhood, adolescence and adulthood” (Hudson, 1996, p. 14). In particular, the scholar discusses the way in which an individual acquires language by emulating the behavior of various role models. For instance, babies emulate the speech of their caregivers.

In turn, children tend to focus more on the linguistic behavior of older children (Hudson, 1996, p. 15). This author refers to such a phenomenon as age-grading which means that certain linguistic items can be used by a representative of a specific age group, but they become irrelevant when an individual grows older (Hudson, 1996, p. 15; Murphy, 2010). For instance, one can speak about counting rhymes and skipping songs.

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Furthermore, the author speaks about the linguistic behavior of adolescents who try to differ from the previous generation of teenagers. This is why they try to invent new forms of slang. Additionally, Richard Hudson mentions that adults attempt to adjust to the linguistic norms adopted within a certain social group (1996, p. 16). It should be noted that this strategy is critical for the status of an individual and his/her economic prosperity. Overall, adults attach more importance to social acceptance, and they are more conservative in their use of language. For instance, they are more likely to avoid the use of slang, if it is not accepted by other members of the social group.

Additionally, Richard Hudson (1996) examines the way in which the age of a person influences his/her acquisition of a foreign language. During babyhood and childhood, people are more likely to adopt the elements of a foreign language (Hudson, 1996, p. 17). Moreover, they can use linguistic forms that are not a part of the norm in their families (Hudson, 1996, p. 17). For instance, they can jargon words that are not considered to be appropriate by parents.

Only later, they begin to assess various linguistic items in terms of their appropriateness. This is one of the details that should not be overlooked. On the whole, the author’s discussion shows that age is an important factor that influences the use of different linguistic items. Furthermore, this issue should be taken into account by teachers. These professionals need to know how the socio-cultural environment affects the acquisition of language at different stages of psychological development. This knowledge can be vital for the design of appropriate instructional models.

Reference List

Hudson, R. (1996).Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Littlewood, W. (1981). Communicative Language Teaching: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Murphy, B. (2010).Corpus and Sociolinguistics: Investigating Age and Gender in Female Talk. New York, NY: John Benjamins Publishing.

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