Teaching culture in English classes
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2007
Автор: Королева С.М.
creates a world in which an increasing number of people are moving between
countries for overseas work or studies. A major challenge that expatriate
workers and international students face is how to function successfully in a
new cultural environment, in a country with different values, sociocultural
rules and norms of behavior. One of the main features of successful person
nowadays is the ability to find the path when communicating with people.
survey of contemporary research reveals that success or effectiveness in
sociocultural interaction depends to a large extent on the degree of
sociocultural competence a person possesses. To function effectively in
crosscultural context one must have sufficient skills and knowledge to
accomplish his job, must be able to adjust properly in a new culture or
multicultural environment, and be able to establish interpersonal relations
with co-workers and within the culturally differing community. Thus, sociocultural
competence helps not only to survive but achieve success in an increasingly
interdependent global society.
nowadays the intensive development of intercultural contacts makes the
methodology find others way of teaching foreign languages.
question about learning language through culture in teaching English is
investigated by Z.I.Nikitenko, B.V. Sysoev, R.P. Mirolubov, Paula R.
Heusinkveld, L.R. Kohls Alvino, E.Fainti and many others. They are sure that
when the teacher sticks to the way of teaching a foreign language through
culture, the students get a clear idea about global and linguistic picture of
to learn a language through culture is considered to be very efficient and
actual. All the needs and demands of society determine the aim of teaching and
reform the educational system, the content of study, and its organizational
the strategic aim of teaching was to develop students’ communicative
competence. Nowadays this definition widens. According to the Program of
Development of Education the main aim of teaching today is to develop student’s
personality in connection with studying culture of the country of the target
language. The most important long-term benefits of teaching culture may be to provide
learners with the awareness and the tools that will allow them to achieve their
academic, professional, social, and personal goals and become successful in
their daily functioning in the second language (L2) environments.
teaching and research on language, the term culture includes many
different definitions and considerations that deal with forms of speech acts,
rhetorical structure of texts, sociocultural behavior, and ways in which
knowledge is transmitted and obtained. Culture may find its manifestations in
body language, gestures, concepts of time, hospitality customs, and even
expressions of friendliness. While all these certainly reflect the cultural
norms accepted in a particular society, the influence of culture on language use
and on the concepts of how language can be taught and learned is both broader
and deeper. To a great extent, the culture into which one is socialized defines
how an individual sees his or her place in society.
Culture can be
visible and invisible. When asked about the native culture, many L2 learners
and teachers would undertake to describe the history or
geography of their country because these represent a popular understanding of
the term culture. In addition, some definitions of culture can include
style of dress, cuisine, customs, festivals, and other traditions. These
aspects can be considered the visible culture, as they are readily apparent to
anyone and can be discussed and explained relatively easily.
Yet another far
more complex meaning of culture refers to sociocultural norms, world-views,
beliefs, assumptions, and value systems that find their way into practically
all facets of language use including the classroom, and language teaching and
learning. The term invisible culture applies to sociocultural beliefs
and assumptions that most people are not even aware of and thus cannot examine
intellectually. Scollon and Scollon (1995) state that the culturally determined
concepts of what is acceptable, appropriate, and expected in one's behavior is
acquired during the process of socialization and, hence, becomes inseparable
from an individual's identity.
emphasizes that the learning of culture is an integral part of language
learning and education because it crucially influences the values of the
community, everyday interaction, the norms of speaking and behaving, and the
sociocultural expectations of an individual's roles. He further notes that
those who do not follow the norms of appropriateness accepted in a community
are often placed in a position that exacerbates social disparities and
Today when the
numbers of students learning foreign languages have grown dramatically
worldwide, it is becoming increasingly clear that learning a second culture
does not take care of itself. Thus, L2 learners cannot always make the best of
their educational, professional, and vocational opportunities until they become
familiar with fundamental L2 cultural concepts and constructs. Most
importantly, an ability" to recognize and employ culturally appropriate
ways of communicating in speech or writing allows learners to make choices with
regard to linguistic, pragmatic, and other behaviors.
learning culture the students form all the components of communicative
competence, develop their personality qualities that help in accomplishing of
cross-cultural communication. Therefore, sociocultural communicative approach
is widely used in teaching all international languages. It makes the students
ready to the spontaneous communication in a foreign language. As a result, the
object of studying a foreign language is the foreign speech as the main means
of cross-cultural interrogation. In the process of acquiring and assimilating
grammar and stylistic structures of the target language, the students form their
second language personality. “To become proficient and effective communicators,
learners need to attain second language sociocultural competence”. According to
Galskova, the second language personality is the ability to communicate in the
international level, and includes ‘language and global acquisition’.
Stewart (1972) comments, “The typical person has a strong sense of what the
world is really like, so that it is with surprise that he discovers that
‘reality’ is built up out of certain assumptions commonly shared among members
of the same culture. Cultural assumptions may be defined as abstract,
organized, and general concepts which pervade a person’s outlook and behavior”.
To members of a particular community and culture, these assumptions appear to
be self-evident and axiomatic. On the other hand, they are not always shared by
members of other cultures whose values are similarly based on unquestioned and
unquestionable fundamental assumptions and concepts. It is also important to
note that ways of using language (eg., speaking, listening, reading, and
writing) and sociocultural frameworks in different communities may conflict to
varying extents (Hinkel 1999)
awareness of sociocultural framework and the concepts they acquire as a part of
their socialization into beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors remain
predominantly first-culture bound, even for advanced and proficient learners.
As Byram and Morgan (1994) point out “learners cannot simply shake off their
own culture and step into another… their culture is a pert of themselves and
created them as social beings”
learning of language through culture becomes the teachers’ subject of interest
in the last decade.
to Galskova N.D. the second language personality forms with the help of both
the language and global picture of the world
V.V. defines the following components in the language personality:
world outlook component (language is a means of communication)
cultural component (culture is a means of increasing of student’s interest to
personal component (inner attitude to the language)
a student’s personality is a total of all the components in the real
to I.L. Bim, crosscultural interrogation takes place when the students have had
all the components of foreign communicative competence developed.
& Starosta (2003) defines intercultural communication competence as a
complex notion and may be viewed as comprising three interrelated components:
intercultural sensitivity (affective aspect, which refers to the
development of a readiness to understand and appreciate cultural differences in
intercultural awareness (cognitive aspect that refers to the understanding of
cultural conventions that affect thinking and behavior);
intercultural adroitness (behavioral aspect that stresses these skills that are
needed to act effectively in intercultural interactions).
nowadays a great attention is given to sociocultural component in teaching a
foreign language which serves as a means of usage of a foreign language in the
definite situations. Sociocultural component is the basis of formation of
student’s knowledge about foreign life, disposition, customs and traditions of the
Sysoev considers the content of sociocultural component in the three
directions: means of communication, national mentality, and national property.
Sociocommunication is a total of all the means
of oral and written transmission of information that is carried out by the
representatives of the definite culture. For instance, language and its
variations (in vocabulary: to prepare/to ready, football/soccer, shop/store
-British/American variants; in Grammar: Past Simple Tense in American English
is the same as Present Perfect Tense in British English; in phonetics: the
difference in pronunciation of people in different states, social
position,etc.). Moreover, the communicators must know the language of sounds
(Eg. hoops- in sudden collision, or woah- in delight), gestures, and non-verbal
design of dates, addresses, resumes belongs to the written communication. For
example, lack of knowledge about the rules of way of writing of dates (in
Kazakhstan: day/month/year, in the USA: month/day/ year) can lead to the wrong
understanding of information.
By national mentality the way of thinking of the representatives of the
definite culture is meant. It determines their behavior and the expectancy of
the same actions from other people. Moreover, national mentality is a sum of
conceptions, ideas, opinions, feelings of community of people of definite
epoch, geographical position, that influence historic and social processes.
of people is considered in three measurements: general, situational, and
self-determination. R.P. Milrud refers knowledge, attitudes, and behavior to
the general characteristics. He believes that in this respect the most
important in teaching a foreign language is communicative behavior, and
sociocultural stereotypes of the verbal communication. The brightest example of
such components will be holidays, customs, and ceremonials of the native
characteristics include traits of character, perception, and production. For American mentality
such characteristics as individualism, personal space, naturalness,
rationalism, orientation to future, etc. are usual. These characteristics will
influence people’s behavior, and perception of outer world. Perception,
interpretation, and evaluation of the phenomena of the target culture is based
on the personal experience in the native culture. In other words, the native
culture is the measurement of norms, values, standards of the foreign culture.
about mentality we also must mention about cultural self-determination,
that is person’s realization of his/her place in the variety of cultures and
belongings to the definite group and culture.
property as a
part of cosiocultural component includes such cultural directions as the science,
art, history, religion, national parks, historical reserves and other things
and concepts that have cultural value.
sociocultural knowledge is the main condition of realization of the adequate
dialogue of cultures. The thing is that on the bases of sociocultural component
of TFL, the students get used to the new way of communication, to foreign
culture, to national specifics of behavior, etc. However, the teaching of
students through the dialogue of the native national culture and the target culture
must be accomplished constantly. It develops student’s skills to communicate
verbally and non-verbally with the representatives of another culture. As a
result of the use of sociocultural component in teaching English the students
form their sociocultural competence that determines the usage of the language
in the definite situations and influences on the communicative competence.
the approach of Z.I. Nikitenko and O.M. Osianova sociocultural competence is
presented by knowledge of the language (non-equivalent and normal vocabulary),
knowledge of national culture, and the norms of behavior. I.A. Zymnaya
considers sociocultural competence as both the aim and the result of teaching.
According to I.A. Zymnaya, communicative competence is a student’s ability to
play as a subject of communicative activity.
Vereschagin marks out the developing of the language and communicative
competences as the aim of teaching a foreign language. In this case the
student’s language competence implies the student’s ability to reproduce all
the learnt grammar structures correctly. Communicative competence implies the
total of social, national, and cultural norms and rules, values and evaluation
of foreign culture.
defines sociocultural competence as the ability to behave appropriately in the
specific situations, to choose the appropriate form of social etiquette, to
decode the social code of the partner, to use different vocabulary, to
understand the meanings of the words in definite context,etc.
teacher should form the process of study in such a way that the target language
was a means of exploring the foreign culture. The English language being a
“language model” in the world serves as a source of formation of student’s’
students must be acquainted with the culture of the target language, because
only in the process of the union with the culture, traditions, and customs of
the foreign culture the person is able to understand their way of thinking,
national character, stereotypes, behavior, etc.
formation of sociocultural competence helps the students to be the adequate
participants of sociocultural communication in the intercultural dialogue, who
feel on equal terms with the native speakers.
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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2007