Human beings are social animals and so language learning cannot be dissociated from the social environment surrounding the learner. If the atmosphere in the English class is oppressive then it will definitely have an effect on learning. For example, if the teacher is harsh and the pupils live in fear then they will not learn well and their attitude towards the language will be affected.
So what is the best social environment for optimum language learning? It is the class where children experience positive feelings from being there. Some of those feelings include anticipation, excitement, curiosity, wonder and joy, and the positive feelings that come from a sense of accomplishment whereby the pupil thinks: “I can do this!” They build confidence in their abilities.
This type of environment does not come about automatically or by chance. The social environment in the classroom is determined by the teacher. It starts when the teacher ensures that the classroom is a safe environment for the children. That means that a pupil can try to speak in English without being laughed at by other pupils, or receive demeaning comments from the teacher. No-one likes to feel stupid. On the other hand, if the teacher praises the pupil for trying, even if their attempt is not perfect, then the pupil will want to keep trying, and so will the other pupils.
An important part of the social climate of the classroom is created when the teacher organizes activities that enable the pupils to interact with each other. This can be challenging when the size of the classroom is small or the number of pupils is large. However, getting pupils to work at least in pairs should be feasible in every classroom. Furthermore, it is the ideal way to give pupils the maximum opportunity to use English in a non-threatening situation.
Effective language learning comes from effective classroom management where the teacher is not only competent in English, but also able to create a positive learning environment. In later years, the ex-pupil might not be able to tell you exactly what they learned, but they will be able to remember how they felt. If they look back with happy memories, you might also note that their English is quite good.