Awareness of variation in FL/SL teaching

Claudia Kunschak


Language variation has long been an issue in first and second language acquisition, particularly in the US. Battles are raging over standardized tests, ebonics, the remedial or non-remedial character of freshman composition classes, to name only a few. In the foreign language classroom, the language and culture of francophone countries other than France, Latin American countries, or Austria and Switzerland in the case of German, are slowly making their way into textbooks and teachers' and students' awareness. Based on the example of Austrian German, the paper will discuss the linguistic, political, and pedagogical ramifications of awareness of variation in language teaching. Data from a survey conducted among basic language faculty, teaching assistants, and students will demonstrate a wide range of variety awareness both about L1 and L2. As a framework for these findings, major differences between Austrian standard and German standard usage will be introduced, the concept of pluricentricity (Clyne, 1992) will be used to make a case for non-dominant varieties, and pedagogical implications for for foreign/second language teaching will be examined. In the light of related concepts like World Englishes (Kachru, 1981), increasing internationalism, and recent developments in Europe, it is high time for language variation to make the move from language policy research into the classroom to contribute to the deconstruction of cultural bias. It is hoped that this paper may serve as a stepping stone in this process.