Sociolinguistic Competence (Michael Canale & Merrill Swain)
Explanation of Main Features

Communication occurs across contexts. To explicate the notion of Sociolinguistic Competence Diaz-Rico & Weed write, "To communicate well, one must know how to produce and understand language in different sociolinguistic contexts."(pg. 58). In producing and understanding language when confronted with varying contexts it is important to take into account what the reason is for communication, who the speakers and listeners are and, finally, what language conventions are necessitated. The short form for this is, how, why, what and to whom am I communicating to. Speciffically as it regards pedagogy, when speaking of sociolinguistic competence, Diaz-Rico & Weed state that, "One of the tasks of teachers is to help learners use both appropriate forms and appropriate meanings when interacting in the classroom." (pg. 58).

One of the reasons sociolinguistic competence assumes such tremendous import is because language acquistion has a "social nature." Freeman and Freeman write, "As they use language in different contexts, they modify their inventions in light of the responses they receive from the community." (pg. 10). While engaged in conversation, learners continually monitor if what they say is both understood and acceptable. As Goodman and Goodman write, a definate "tension" of this type occurs as learners develop language proficiency. The learners learn that they navigate a number of different, what are typed "language registers" while doing so. Adding to this that while students are traversing this linguistic landscape they are also wrestling with issues of identity formation while developing sociolinguistic competence. Miller (2004) writes, "Identity is represented and negotiated through speaking and hearing." (pg. 828). In order to achieve what Miller terms "audibility" or legitimacy in this regard, speakers must achieve sociolinguistic competence.

Diaz-Rico, L.T., & Weed, K.Z. (2010). The crosscultural, language, and academic development handbook: A complete K-12 reference guide (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson
Freeman, D.E., & Freeman, Y.S. (2004). Essential Linguistics: What You Need to Know to Teach Reading, ESL, Spelling, Phonics and Grammar. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
Swain, M., & Deters, P. (2007). "New" mainstream SLA theory: Expanded and enriched. Modern Language Journal, 91(5), 820-836.

Classroom Implications
Sociolinguistic competence highlights the fact that a perfect knowledge of linguistic form is not enough to make a language learner a competent speaker. A language learner must also know how to properly use the target language in different sociolinguistic contexts. One way a teacher can help the language learner acquire this competence, is to role play potential social encounters. For example, if a student were to accidently bump into someone on the street, it would be polite for him to say, “excuse me.” However, if the same student accidently knocked someone down, just saying "excuse me" would not be enough, it would be better to first express an apology and then say "please excuse me." It is important for the teacher to set up the classroom as a social/cultural test ground to help language learners gain the sociolinguistic competence they will need to achieve second language mastery.

Reference:
Diaz-Rico, L.T., & Weed, K. Z. (2010). The crosscultural, language, and academic development handbook: A complete K-12
reference guide (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.