Dissertation Abstracts

A Study of Socio-linguistic Factors affecting the learning of English by Muslim Women in Delhi, India

Author: KAZIM, RAFIA , rafiakazim@gmail.com
, India
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Muslim Women , Language Learning , Motivation-Exposure , cultural and linguistic capita
Areas of Research: Language and Society , Women in Society , Education


The present study seeks to identify those sociolinguistic factors which either promote,
or, inhibit the learning of English by Muslim women in Delhi. Muslim women who
had at least twelve years of formal education, participated in the study. In non-native
countries, exposure to the English language is primarily through formal linguistic
environment, such as educational institutions, administration and commerce.
Learning of any target language is contingent upon the learner’s attitude towards the
TL, her motivation to learn it, the opportunities available to her and the extent she is
able to exercise her agency.
A review of literature revealed that apparently no study was available on the English
language education of Muslim women. Nor was there any study on the proficiency of
Muslim women in English.
The study employed a variety of tools to generate data, such as the questionnaire,
proficiency test, in-depth interviews, observations and content analysis. Besides, the
participants were selected from diverse social backgrounds. They were students,
home-makers, professionals and businesspersons.
A multitude of theoretical perspectives was used to gain insights and enhanced
understanding of the phenomenon of the learning of the English language by the
Muslim women. For instance, Gardner and Lambert’s model on SLA provided the
framework with which we were able to identify the stimulus leading to the learning of
English. Bourdieu’s model proved useful in examining the role of educational and
political systems in the reproduction of social inequalities and how English was
positioned in the linguistic market.
The findings of the study suggest that Islam does not discriminate against the genders
and encourages pursuit of knowledge among its followers, irrespective of class,
gender, race and region. It was also found that Muslim women did not hold any
negative attitude towards the English language. During the colonial regime, Muslims,
as is known, were apparently reluctant to embrace the English language education.
However, no such evidence was found during the field work.
It was found that exposure to the English language through schooling correlated with
the proficiency levels. Socio-economic status was another correlate that exhibited
association with the proficiency in English. Parents were found to be enthusiastic
about the education of their daughters, especially English language education. The
demand for English was found to be more in the lower income groups due to the fact
that they see ‘English’ as an escape route from poverty.
The findings of the study suggest that in addition to motivation, exposure, and
attitude, an individual’s agency is equally significant for the successful learning of the
The study suggests measures to make English language education accessible to a
larger part of the population which remains in the state of relative deprivation.