Sociocultural Variables that Affect Second Language Acquisition

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Comparing Communication in Cultures with High & Low Tolerance for Ambiguity

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Language Learning
  • 0:50 Sociocultural Variables
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Being a foreign language learner is challenging enough as it is, but it can become really difficult if certain sociocultural factors are in place. This lesson analyzes those factors and how they can affect second language acquisition.

Language Learning

Can you imagine being a student who has to learn a foreign language? Let's suppose you go to live in Portugal but you do not like the place at all. You feel homesick and disoriented and, thus, have zero motivation to learn Portuguese. This shows how the sociocultural environment that surrounds students of foreign languages can motivate or discourage students during the learning process. In short, language is attached to a society and a culture. Thus, students who, for any reason, do not appreciate the society or the culture in connection with the language they are trying to learn, can find it very hard to make any progress. In this lesson, we overview some factors that affect language learning along with examples.

Sociocultural Variables

Before we begin, let's define sociocultural variables. Each society or culture has characteristics that make it different from others. Sociocultural variables are factors relating to customs, behaviors, and belief systems that a group of people adhere to or follow. For instance, in the U.S. people celebrate Thanksgiving, which has its traditional food. This holiday and its traditions would be unfamiliar to someone from, say, Ukraine.

Let's take a look at sociocultural variables that can affect language learning in a negative way.


Ibrahim is a Kenyan student who joins a school in Colorado. It happens that in his school population, there are only white and Hispanic students. This makes Ibrahim the only black student at the school and, thus, he stands out. Ibrahim soon notices that many white and Hispanic students avoid social contact with him despite his efforts to make friends. While no one says it to his face, the issue is many students at the school have racist ideas about black people. As you can see, racism, which involves negative beliefs or attitudes regarding people of a specific race, can negatively influence a student because the lack of positive social relations at school make a student feel rejected. In turn, this leads students to drop in their academic performance, including learning a new language.


Mohammed is a student from Saudi Arabia. He joins fifth grade in the U.S. and shortly after classes begin, students murmur that Mohammed is a 'terrorist.' Mohammed hears perfectly well what others say and this affects his overall well-being in school, including his progress in learning English as a second language. This example shows how stereotyping can have a huge negative impact on students. Stereotyping is about applying generalizations to individuals just because they belong to a certain group.


Camille is a French student who attends an English language learning class. Camille's teacher has a negative attitude towards French people. This makes Camille's teacher ignore her often. Also, sometimes when there is a group activity that requires the class to be divided into the same number of members in different groups, the teacher leaves Camille the odd one out. Discriminatory attitudes can occur due to gender, country of origin, race, etc. and leads to unfair treatment of students.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account