How to Develop Students Understanding of Social Contexts
Subject: English | Topics:

How to develop students’ understanding of social contexts

Grabe and Kaplan claim that language is produced in contexts of use, and writing does not escape this constraint. For example, the student’s writing style in a letter to his close friend will differ from that of the letter to his lecturer. In other words, the stylistic variation in communication largely depends on the contexts. (The concept of stylistic variation was strongly supported in Hartford’s and Davies’  contentions about how the context of communication affects the speaker’s use of communication style.) It is, therefore, essential to help students develop writing styles appropriate for specific contexts, and make them aware of how contexts of language use can influence their writing. In general, this can be done by providing a context for students to write, in which the audience and the purpose for writing are made clear right in the instruction.

Grabe and Kaplan also argue that students need to consider cultural/social

variation between LI and L2 if they want to develop an understanding of social contexts. They contend that cultural aspects of the L2 writing setting can also create difficulties for learners coming from a different academic culture. For instance, Bangladeshi students tend to present their ideas inductively and indirectly in L2 since inductive and indirect presentation is frequently conducted in their LI as one popular culture practice. This means Bangladeshi students may produce Bangladeshi English, a variation of the English language, in their writing. Language teachers, therefore, need to ponder on this issue to understand their learners’ behaviors in order to instruct learners to practice the direct writing style or make them aware of who they need to sound like. As English in the Inner Circle is considered the standard English, one possible way to familiarize learners with the direct writing style is getting them exposed to the English texts written by native speakers. Thanks to this, learners will know to what extent the Bangladeshi cultural/social factors are proper for EFL writing.

Interestingly, learners’ awareness of social contexts in EFL writing makes them become conscious of language variation in general and stylistic variation in particular. They will come to know that their English is one Bangladeshi variation of the English language, and that Bangladeshi English belongs to them as they are the owners of English in the Expanding Circle. More importantly, their awareness of social contexts is a crucial condition for developing their pragmatic competence in EFL learning (Kasper). When language teachers consider language as a means of communication in social contexts, and pragmatic function as the primary function of language, they will find it essential to develop pragmatic competence for themselves and for their learners. Consequently, as Kasper denotes, language teachers should see the relationship between pragmatics and language instructions in order to make appropriate pedagogical decisions.

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