Module 1: Defining Language, Dialects, and Dialectal Variation


Introduction: Learning Objectives and Goals

Module 1: Defining Language, Dialects, and Dialectal Variation

During this week, the goal will be to understand what is a dialect and the differences between languages and dialects. You will also be able to understand what dialectal variation entails, and how dialectal variation appears within the Spanish-speaking world. Upon completion of the corresponding assignments for this module, you will be able to:

Define what is a language and how languages differ from dialects of a language.

Describe the concept of dialectal variation and how dialectal variation appears within the Spanish-speaking world.

Explain the sociolinguistic impacts and beliefs surrounding  dialectal variation.

Defining Language and Dialects

[Guiding Questions]

As you watch the video, describe the primary differences between a language and a dialect.

[Watch] What`s the difference between a dialect and a language?



What is a language?

A language refers to a mode of communicating between human beings through the means of written codes, oral communications or the creation of signs in a method that can be comprehended by others. Languages possess two primary aspects, a written code and an oral form of communication. Oral communication is the primary component of a concrete language, as forms of literacy of a language such as reading and writing are centered around this oral communication (Hasa, 2019).

Moreover, language is continually changing throughout the course of time, as novel creations of forming sentences and words are continually being developed in the language, and signification of particular words or phrases can also evolve throughout the course of time (Hasa, 2019). Speakers of a particular language are active participants in this evolution and the creation of new words and phrases developed in the language (Hasa, 2019).

On the other hand, a dialect is a mode of a language that is specific to a particular group or area and differs from what would be considered the standard variety of a particular language (Hasa, 2019). Within dialects, they may possess differences in the lexion, phonological properties, or grammar from the standard variety of a language. Examples of dialects of English include British English, American English, Australian English. Examples of dialects of Spanish include Panamanian Spanish, Venezuelan Spanish, and Chilean Spanish.

Moreover, dialects can be separated into non-standard and standard dialects (Hasa, 2019). A non-standard dialect is generally not support by establishments or institutions, whereas a standard dialect is recognized, validated, and supported by establishments or institutions (Hasa, 2019). Additionally, an important difference between a language and a dialect is the idea of mutual intelligibility (Hasa, 2019). Speakers of two different dialects are able to comprehend each others speech, however, separate languages do not possess mutual intelligibility (Hasa, 2019).

Dialectal Variation in the Spanish Language

What are some examples of dialects of Spanish? What are their primary differences?

Watch this short video about various dialects of Spanish. Write down a few key features of each dialect that you noted throughout the course of the video.




What are the sociolinguistic impacts of dialectal variation in the Spanish language-learning classroom?

As you watch the video below, reflect on the following questions:

1) What were the primary findings of the study?

2) How is dialectal variation implicated in the study?

3) How do biases surrounding particular dialects of Spanish appear in the foreign-language learning classroom?

4) What important take-aways surrounding the pedagogical implications of dialectal variation did you receive from the video?

[Watch] Subtle Bias? Spanish Teachers' Beliefs About Dialectal Variation



[Reflection Writing Prompts]

As you complete this mini-course module, record all your answers in a Word Document.

Unit Assessment

Questions: Reflect on what you have learned from this module.

1) What are the primary differences between languages and dialects?

2) What are some examples of dialects of Spanish and their key features?

3) Think about how you have displayed dialectal variation in the past in the foreign-language classroom. How do biases surrounding particular dialects appear in pedagogical tools or in your own ways of thinking?

4) What are some methods you can now use to teach dialectal variation?

Submit your answers here through the following google forum.

[Link] Google Forum Submission

Click here to continue to Module 2.

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Hasa. (2019, April 14). Difference between language and dialect in Sociolinguistics. Compare the Difference Between Similar Terms. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from