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Language empowers people

What is it that someone knows, when we say that he or she knows a language? How does knowing a language empower people socially, culturally, intellectually, and economically? Likewise, what are the adverse social and economic repercussions when someone does not have competency in the dominant language of a country or society he / she lives in?

Knowledge of language can be broken down into at least the following four components: 1) phonology: how sounds are put together to form larger units, such as words; 2) syntax: how words are put together to form sentences; 3) semantics: how the meaning of sentences is determined from the meaning of the words and the way that they are combined; and 4) discourse structure: how sentences are put together into larger discourse structures.

When it comes to language acquisition, however, there is also a social justice element involved. The goals of language education in the United States have always been informed by the social, historical, and political contexts in which the instruction takes place. Applied linguistics plays a key role in research to increase understanding and challenge inequalities and injustices in society.