One of the possibilities is to analyse languages in context by focusing on the written information that is available on language signs in a specific area. This perspective is known as the study of the linguistic landscape, which has been defined as follows:
The language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings combines to form the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region, or urban agglomeration. The linguistic landscape of a territory can serve two basic functions: an informational function and a symbolic function. (Landry & Bourhis, 1997: 25)
But, how might language learners benefit from studying (in) the linguistic landscape?
The use of the linguistic landscape as a pedagogical resource within multilingual educational contexts is an area of increasing interest in sociolinguistic research. The study of publicly displayed texts, such as advertisements and road signs, is now beginning to find favour in L2 classrooms, particularly in English as Second Language (ESL) contexts.
As an example of EFL classroom project related to the Linguistic Landscape I would like to mention the “English Literacy Walk”.
This is an excursion taken for the express purpose of teaching and learning about written English: The students are required to collect and analyse photographs of English used on signs in our streets.
It has roots in activities developed for emergent readers and English language learners in English dominant societies: ‘walking field trips’ and ‘environmental print walks’. These activities were created to encourage the emergent literacy of children, speciﬁcally the capacity to recognize environmental print long before entry into school and formal literacy instruction.
The activities typically required students to read signs, billboards, and so forth while teachers took photographs for follow-up work in the classroom. Pedagogical linguistic landscape projects can be valuable to EFL students in a variety of ways, particularly in the development of students’ symbolic competence and literacy skills in a multiliteracies sense.
To learn more about the Linguistic Landscape and how does it affect to minority Languages, I suggest you to read this paper / research done by Jasone Cenoz, University of the Basque Country, Donostia_San Sebastian, Spain and Durk Gorter, Fryske Akademy/Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam,The Netherlands.
- The linguistic landscape as an additional source of input in second language acquisition. Jasone Cenoz / Durk Gorter
- Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality. An Empirical Study. Rodrigue Landry and Richard Y. Bourhis
- Scott Thornbury blog: http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/l-is-for-linguistic-landscape-2/