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The Foreign Language Appropriation Conundrum

Micro Realities and Macro Dynamics

Thomas Szende

This monograph’s title reflects the need to articulate the classroom actions and strategies of an increasingly efficient technological environment with symbolic, cultural, and political issues, namely the multi-dimensionality of affiliations, which today condition the practices of learners, teachers, tool designers, and the dissemination (or not) of languages throughout the world.

Reflective testimony of a teacher who is passionate about his work, this book is also the result of research conducted by a linguist wishing to raise the field of foreign language education to the level of a coherent and rigorous discipline capable of presenting teaching/learning options to all languages/cultures.

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8. Normative Pressure


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8.   Normative Pressure

8.1    Conformity and Deviation

In a certain way, learning ‘a’ language (whatever it may be) means working with an abstraction. First, there is ‘the standard’, which frames our perception of majority vs. minority and prescribed/prestigious vs. proscribed/stigmatized language use. Then there are ‘the norms’, the ‘proper usage’ of language confronted with forms that may be less proper but are still appropriate according to the preferences of a community’s many circles and subgroups. To cover the specific needs of communication, language is forever developing flexible resources for socio-professional sectors. Quickly made emblematic, ‘identity words’ (Fiévet & Podhorná-Polická, 2008) express the symbols of a generation or group of individuals connected through gregarious sentiments. They frequently occur, forging a bond between groups (ex. fans of a musical style).

Every community needs its own procedures for functioning and establishing relationships between members. One word or cliché can trigger understanding and identity recognition. When talking about his assessments at school, my 17-year-old son uses the acronym ‘DS’ (‘devoir surveillé’, or ‘supervised assignment’). When I awkwardly ask him how his ‘partiel’ (as it is known at my university, meaning ‘midterm’) went, this results in resounding incomprehension on his part. The term is unknown in his immediate environment at the Lycée. I am not part of his norms. A community’s codes protect its members by integrating and distinguishing them. Undoubtedly, every language has broad consensual and relatively stable areas where...

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