Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Social Context as an Indirect Trigger in EFL Contexts: Issues and Solutions

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Social Context as an Indirect Trigger in EFL Contexts: Issues and Solutions

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper investigates the value of the social context and its role in learning a second language in different contexts. Social context is believed to be able to influence attitude and motivation. It also provides learning opportunities which give rise to learner's outcomes. In fact, students acquire a language by using it in social interaction with speakers of that language. Nonetheless, significance of social context is mostly ignored or underestimated in most EFL countries because this social context is naturally missing and there is a lack of severe demand for acquiring the second language. Therefore, the final outcome of second language learning is not satisfactory. This paper is a step towards investigating the issues in respect to the social context of EFL countries as an indirect but essential trigger in second language learning. Especially in foreign language classrooms, learners have limited social interaction with their teacher or peers in their target language since that language is not used as a means of communication among them outside or even inside classrooms. Besides investigating the issues, this paper provides suggestions which help improve social contexts in EFL countries.

Keywords: Social context, EFL contexts, Learning opportunities, Motivation, Attitude

1. Background

Social interaction is an integral process in language learning based on Vygotskyan sociocultural theory which claims that human cognition is formed through social activity (Lantolf & Johnson, 2007; Cheon 2008). In other words, students acquire a language by using it in social interaction with speakers of that language. Based on Mondada and Pekarek Doehler, learning is rooted in the learner's participation in social practice and continuous adaptation to the unfolding circumstances and activities that constitute talk-in-interaction. Moreover, social context is not simply a background variable affecting the learning, but also an essential part of cognitive development itself (Mondada and Pekarek Doehler, 2004, p. 501). Similarly, Jacknic claims that context of learning influences learning processes profoundly; therefore, accepting the occurrence of learning in context is not adequate because the context shapes cognitive development (i.e., learning) (Jacknic, 2008). Therefore, broadening the context of social interaction from a classroom setting to intercultural communication seems to be needed based on the sociocultural approach (Kinginger, 2004; Thorne, 2006).

In 1989, Spolsky proposed a learning model in which some conditions were established which were claimed to affect learning a second/foreign language. Attitudes and learning opportunities were also considered to be affected by various factors. Based on Spolsky's model, attitudes of various kinds appear in learners as motivation that joins with personal characteristics which all together justify the use a learner makes of accessible learning opportunities. The interaction between learner and learning opportunities determines the outcomes for the learner (Spolsky, 1989, p. 28).

It is worth mentioning that second language learning takes place in a social context. This social context shapes learning in two ways. Primarily, the social context leads to learner's attitudes towards both the target language community and the learning situation. This leads to the development of motivation in learners. Secondly, both formal and informal learning opportunities are influenced by the social context. In fact, the availability of formal and informal opportunities depends on the social context (Spolsky, 1989, p. 26). Formal situation refers to the institutionalized educational opportunities which are often provided by a society for language learning. Moreover, this is the social context as the source of informal opportunities for language use and learning. Informal situations can provide chances for learners for interacting with the speakers of the target language (Spolsky, 1989, p. …

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