Research Paper: Socio-Cultural Influences in English Language Learning

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[. . .] This can be used to help structure language and cultural learning while the student is at home, even if his or her parents do not speak English at all. Watching television in English or listening to English song lyrics can help expose the language to the learner, while also teaching valuable lessons about mainstream American culture as well. This intrinsic style of learning happens most often without the student even realizing that there is learning going on. It is thus subliminal and is there to support future language and cultural development. Such media allows the individual learner to immerse him or herself in the culture and language in their own home environments.

Moreover, there are other individuals who can also serve as a support system for language and cultural development beyond the parents as well. For example, an individual may have older siblings, cousins, or even friends at home, who have lived and spoken in the United States for longer than they have. This can be a support system that will allow the learner to test his or her skills and be supported as they begin to acquire the new rules of English. Clearly, "ELLs are more likely to interact and establish friendships with fluent and native English-speaking peers, providing them with additional opportunities to use English" (Genesee et al., 2005). It is these friendships and other relationships with both peers and elders that can be used to support English acquisition within the home environment. Additionally, older students can also augment this support through working outside the home and speaking English at work. One report showed that "vocational students' motivations are influenced by factors directly and/or indirectly from the society, in particular, from the significant others -- teachers, parents and peers" (May, 2011). Work environments can often mimic the importance of home environments in regards to helping support language acquisition outside of the classroom. Learning a language is a very social process, one which requires constant practice and immersion into the culture and aspects of the language being learned. Thus, "acquisition of L1 and L2 appears to be developmental in nature and involves constructive and social processes in which input and interaction are central components" (Harper & Jong, 2004). These alternative support systems can help work in place of parent support at home.

However, there is clearly a lack of measurement tools that linguists can use to understand how improving cultural knowledge can improve language knowledge. Today, many schools do not understand how to measure cultural knowledge acquisition, and thus focus on the limited perspective of language knowledge alone. Yet, this fails to provide the cultural support systems ELL learners need in order to best learn English. According to the research, "currently accepted assessment development practices fail to address language and culture in any depth," (Solano-Flores & Trumbull, 2003). In fact, many leave out culture entirely, or do not make a strong enough connection between the two. This creates a problematic situation because there can be no real meaningful evaluation of cultural knowledge to test cultural knowledge strategies as a way to improve English language acquisition. As the research illustrates, "understandings of non-mainstream language and non-mainstream culture must be incorporated as part of the reasoning that guides the entire assessment process" (Solano-Flores & Trumbull, 2003). Schools today need more accurate measurement techniques that not only focus on language acquisition, but the learning of cultural tools as well.

It is these types of strategies that ultimately provide the most lucrative environment for ELL students to learn English. Thus, multicultural environments must be a part of ELL classroom design. There is a growing need for multicultural classrooms. Here, the research states that "teachers in mainstream classrooms must therefore be prepared to teach students who come from different linguistic, cultural, and educational backgrounds" (Harper & Jong, 2004). Now, this goes both ways. Teachers must also learn about their students' cultures in order to best understand how to approach creating learning strategies that are most effective for ELL students. Thus, teachers have to learn about the sub-culture, while students have to learn about the main culture. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that drives stronger and more effective language acquisition. Thus, the "sociocultural view of cognition is needed that allows for approaching cognitive processes in test taking with the support of theories of language and culture" (Solano-Flores & Trumbull, 2003). Teachers who incorporate more of a sociocultural type perspective will find that they help enrich the classroom experience and also learn something themselves. Overall, it is clear that "teachers should be educated in diversified instruction that responds to an English language student's individual needs in terms of instruction, assessment and feedback" (Wahlig, 2013). Without teachers acting as cultural learners themselves, they will fail to design the most effective lesson strategies for each and every individual student they have.


Abedi, J., & Gandara, P. (2006). Performance of English Language Learners as a Subgroup in Large-Scale Assessment: Interaction of Research and Policy. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 25(4), 36-46.

Enlance. (2006). Cultural factors that influence learning for ELL students. U.S. Department of Education. Web.

Genesee, F., Lindholm-Leary, K., Saunders, W., & Christian, D. (2005). English language learners in U.S. schools: An overview of research findings. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 10(4), 363-385.

Harper, C., & Jong, E. (2004). Misconceptions about teaching English-language learners. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 48(2), 152-162.

May, Yueng. (2011). Social and educational influences for English language learning motivation of Hong Kong vocational students. Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education. Web.,d.aWc

Norton, B. (1997). Language, identity, and the ownership of English. Tesol Quarterly, 31(3), 409-429.

Solano-Flores, G., & Trumbull, E. (2003). Examining language in context: The need for new research and practice paradigms in the testing of English-language learners. Educational Researcher, 32(2), 3-13.

Wahlig, Hannah. (2013). Culture influence on English language learning. K-12 For Educators. Web. [END OF PREVIEW]

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Socio-Cultural Influences in English Language Learning.  (2014, April 14).  Retrieved November 22, 2019, from

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"Socio-Cultural Influences in English Language Learning."  14 April 2014.  Web.  22 November 2019. <>.

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"Socio-Cultural Influences in English Language Learning."  April 14, 2014.  Accessed November 22, 2019.