Language socialisation

From childhood onwards, we learn, in contact with those around us, the grammar of our languages and how to use them according to the situation and our interlocutors. We also learn what values are associated with languages, accents, words and intonations, and can thus anticipate how we will be judged by the way we speak. However, this does not mean that socialisation is a process that is achieved at a certain age or stage of life. On the contrary, it continues throughout life, and will be embodied in endless linguistic instructions laden with social and cultural values that we will face on a daily basis. First in the family, where it is not uncommon to be addressed with phrases such as, “does it seem normal to you to speak like that”, and later at school, when we are taught which language we should speak and which is only used at home, “at school you only speak Spanish, you speak Arabic at home”. If we change country, we will have to resocialise ourselves and it is possible that the language we learned, which was the prestigious variety, will not be so in the new context. Thus our way of speaking may be considered a vulgarism, a deviation or even a crime, like those Latino parents who are denounced for the possible harm they cause their children by speaking to them in Spanish instead of English. As these examples show, our socialisation occurs simultaneously “in” and “through” language and discourse.

In EquiLing research

  • We reflect with the co-participants on the keys to their linguistic socialisation: what languages, values and norms of appropriateness they learnt, how these were embedded in their life trajectories – for example if they changed city and/or country – and what consequences this has had for their participation in society and their image.
  • Throughout this reflection, we collaboratively generate other values, norms and linguistic ideologies.

If you want to know more

Duff, P. A. (2010). Language socialization. Sociolinguistics and language education, 427-452.

Ochs, E. & Schieffelin, B. B. (1984). Language acquisition and socialization: Three developmental stories and their implications. In R. A. Shweder & R. A. LeVine Ikeda, E. 95 (Eds.), Culture theory: Essays on mind, self and emotion. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Language socialisation is the process by which people belonging to a society or culture learn and internalise a set of competences, norms, values, and ways of perceiving language, which equip them with the skills necessary to participate in that society.