To the question of cultural approach in foreign language teaching

In the article was considered and analyzed communicative competence of students formed in the learning process and largely determined by how the students are aware of the content of thought, their communicative intentions, situationally determined, as well as they freely on this basis, how they control their speech activity in oral or written form in the field of professional communication. The issues of language, culture, intercultural communication and their interaction with the teaching of foreign languages are discussed. According to the cognitive model there are such stages of teaching professional rhetoric as a sensitivity, operational, analytical and creative rhetoric development stages. 

Introduction: Gradual sophistication in the «global» industry of learning and teaching English  created a lot of new dimensions in EFLT methodology. Today no one argues that EFL should not be taught as a formal linguistic system; it should be reoriented from knowledge-centered to culture-centered reflecting the socio-cultural reality, where the learners are to express and develop themselves. The main idea of this approach is not only personality enrichment by images of modern polyphonic world and ability to master all its diversity, but also the strengthening of in-depth fundamentals of the personality closely connected with the national culture and perception of universal spiritual values.

Materials and methods: In the design of EFL education and instruction, the question arises of how much and what kind of attention to devote to pronunciation. This paper proposes and highlights a sociocultural approach to teaching EFL pronunciation in the context of FL teacher training.

The peculiarity of teaching foreign language pronunciation (FLP) is that it takes place on the basis of the native language and culture, which determine the formation of FL skills and habits. «If a foreign language is acquired more successfully in parallel with the development of the native language skills, then the entry to the world of a foreign culture can promote to a higher degree the learner’s personality development as the subject of native culture».

Discussion: Pronunciation is always socially oriented testifying to its deep-rooted links to culture. It is vocalized in communication and can be considered as the voice of culture. In the process of speech acts, the man, interpreting and estimating spiritual experience of generations, builds up his/her individual cultural space «modus vivendi». This cultural space contains the system and hierarchy of values, the subjective estimates, and ways of attitudinal expressions and interpretations of events. The way we vocalize our thoughts directly corresponds both to an immediate situation, and to the entire context of culture, its values.

Besides, pronunciation as the vocal part of speech is most personalized; the man subconsciously controls pronunciation features of speech for reaching communicative goals. Thus, pronunciation is a means of realization of a personal communicative intention. Pronunciation characterizes a person not only in terms of his/her education and origin, but also in terms of his/her self-rating and social claims, it determines what role he/she claims in the eyes of other people. It is an in-depth component and a sign of the man’s personality [1]. An FL teacher-professional should understand all this and have an ability to feel the cultural background of vocalic speech and to transmit it to the learners for its adequate reception and interpretation.

No doubt, he/she should also possess perfect FLP skills permitting to understand fluent FL speech, employ various intonational styles, adapt pronunciation features according to the communicative situation, etc. not only on empirical, but also on linguistic basis. At the same time, he/she must be capable of pedagogically competent presentation of this or that language phenomenon in class: slow down, if necessary, the tempo of speech, increase its volume, emphasize the intonation, exaggerate the articulation providing the desirable educational and pragmatic effect on the learner. As we see, it presupposes a wider set of problems and aspects of FLP teaching, exceeding the level of simple mastering of its linguistic component.

Is an FL teacher ready to face these new challenges in teaching of FLP according to the modern demands?

The attempt to tackle this problem has been made in an elective course «EFL Professional Teaching Rhetoric», which was  taught  for  the  fourth-year  students  of  the  Department  of  the  English  Language at International Kazakh-Turkish University. In this course, we tried to implement the cognitive model of FL pronunciation acquisition, transferring cognitive operations from the native language to EFLP acquisition and taking into account

  • national spiritual heritage;
  • language traditions;
  • communicative individualities formed in the native language
  • pedagogically significant teaching

According  to  the  cognitive  model  we  defined  the  first  stage  of  teaching  professional  rhetoric  as a sensitivity stage, when the students do not yet imitate the teaching communicative behavior. They learn to see meaning in speech sounds patterning and respond to its modifications: they form an image of pronunciation style of the teacher, the outline of pronunciation system in action [2].

By this time the students have already subconsciously acquired communicative images of professional teaching rhetoric in L1 through their experience in class as students and teaching assistants. They have already gained some individual L1 communicative experience and have a store of images,  concepts, knowledge of acceptable communicative behavior in class and in a variety of culture bound situations. Thus they have already formed their communicative imagination in L1. We just help them to shape and develop awareness of it by the so-called sensory attack.

After this the students are shown some fragments from the well-known American films: «Dead Poets Society», «Teachers», «Clueless». Each fragment is followed by the teacher’s questions highlighting various rhetorical parameters of the professional speech.

  • How do Math and Chemistry teachers introduce their subjects?
  • What phonostylistic characteristic do they use to make their speech imposing and effective?
  • What does Mr.Keeting want to achieve?
  • How does he achieve the effect of his speech being arresting, thrilling, absorbing for the Why are the students carried along by his speech?
  • What’s the difference between the teaching communicative behavior of the Science and Humanities teachers? Are they opposed? How is this opposition characterized in phonological terms?
  • Do they differ in intonation, timber or tempo? How does the timber of their voice different?
  • What makes the voice of the Math and Chemistry teachers more categorical, imperative, patronizing?
  • What makes the voice of the Literature teacher sound persuasive, echoing, challenging, genuinely concerned, powerful and emotional?
  • What shouldn’t the teacher do to sound unpleasant and boring?

The students don’t try to imitate teaching rhetoric yet; they just describe it from different angles answering the questions. They collect more and more images of teaching communicative behavior in class, and gradually develop their own cognitive instruments sizing up this or that teaching rhetoric and style. The presented authentic materials are redundant and diverse to ensure the students’ sufficient accumulation of culture-bound communicative images [3].

The polyphonic images of various samples of teacher’s L1 and FL communicative behavior are stored to be later used as patterns for the communicative behavior in class.

The second stage is operational, where the students generalize and verbalize the accumulated communicative images. Here the students imitate the discussed and acquired subconsciously patterns of the teachers’ communicative behavior. Now they develop the ability to empirically assess and approximate the EFL speech authentic parameters, shaping their individual instruments of FL phonological analysis, specifying FLP characteristics for phonologically, socially and culturally acceptable performance in class. The students at this stage are given scripts of the fragments they have seen and asked to perform the following tasks trying their best to imitate the speech pragmatic characteristics of the teachers from the films [4].

  • Read the teacher’s speech samples observing the melody and intonation Try your best to demonstrate the same pragmatic characteristics of their speech.
  • Read a phrase and then say it without reference to the text using adequate gestures and

If the students do not feel confident at the second stage, they are offered to watch and to comment on the film fragments again.

The third stage is analytical where the students further specify the acquired communicative images at the basis of conscious phonological analysis of the professional teaching rhetoric. Here the future EFL teachers train to be consciously aware of the phonological modifications of the teacher’s speech and to make comments on these modifications in linguistic terms. Assessing various pragmatic characteristics of the professional teaching rhetoric they learn to control their speech and to adjust it to the pedagogical situation in class. Their tasks would be as follows:

  • Comment on your fellow-student’s reading from the point of view of teaching Assess the phonological and socio-cultural characteristics of the speech.
  • How would you instruct your students to read this text accordingly? What phonostylistic parameters would you draw their attention to?

The fourth-year students are already quite capable of assessing phonological characteristics of  speech, so this stage could be incorporated into the second stage. The point is to make sure that the students are confident in analyzing the phonological characteristics of the given speech fragments and know how to monitor them for the desired pedagogical and rhetoric effect.

The last stage is creative rhetoric development achieved by spontaneous activation of the accumulated images and their adjustment to the individual communicative means. This stage is aimed to demonstrate how the students can make use of their teaching rhetoric as speech pragmatics, how they can manipulate various forms of speech effects. They are asked to prepare a short fragment of the teacher’s speech (5–7 phrases):

  • Speak persuasively about the necessity to learn
  • Motivate the students to read the text about
  • Encourage the students to do the Make them be interested in making stories about their hobbies, school, etc.
  • Present the grammar theme conveying personal
  • Challenge the students giving them a test (a difficult task, etc).
  • Inspire the students to dramatize a
  • Explain giving examples how to use The Present Simple
  • Instruct the students how to do the exercise (filling in the blanks).

Performing these tasks the students develop the ability to operate the entire parameters of pronunciation system using communicative imagination. If they successfully coped with these and previous tasks, they are offered to prepare a lecture on teaching rhetoric with examples, where they can sum up their knowledge and skills to monitor and adjust their speech to various socio-cultural situations.

By the end of the course the students develop their individual instruments of EFLP acquisition and instruction, sufficiently develop their communicative imagination and professional rhetorical skills. The course proves to be effective allowing to implement the dialog of cultures in the process of EFL teacher education and providing the gradual growth of the overall EFL teacher’s proficiency.

Culture and language are means of collective co-existence and social practice kept in the memory of the society that is created by the people during the centuries. Cultural awareness helps people to become more understanding and tolerant of behaviors which are different from their own.

Difference between cultures causes some misunderstandings in the interactive communications between a foreigner and a native-speaker. Millions of people travel around the world and they all need to communicate in some way. They need to acquire not only linguistic competence but cultural awareness as well. Crosscultural investigations can provide materials that assist language learners to deal with the problems of unknown environments. The native speaker puts in language his world vision, mentality, and the relation to other people in cross-cultural dialogue, and the non-native speaker receives that vision. “It is clear that there is a difference between the native and the non-native speakers’ focus when they evaluate an oral discourse. The former focuses on the vocabulary related to the cultural and social factors. On the other hand, the latter lacks the ability to consider such factors. This is one of the major problems of the non-native speakers both at production and comprehension level [5].

The significance of teaching culture in and through language teaching has been recognized and widely discussed over the last two centuries. As research and practice have progressed over these years, the definition of culture and the relationship between language teaching and culture have been defined and redefined. Regarding the relationship between culture and language teaching, there are at least two main viewpoints: the static and the dynamic views. The earlier models including Brooks (1975) or Nostrand (1974) among others, tended to view culture as unvarying and composed of discrete, concrete facts that can be taught and learnt. Liddicoa (2002) maintains that this static view of culture does not recognize the link between language and culture. It merely transmits cultural information to learners and ignores the constantly developing nature of culture. This view treats cultural knowledge as either facts or artifacts. Students are expected to learn information about a country or people, their lives, their history, their institutions, or their customs or about the cultural icons these people have produced, such as their literature, their art, their architecture, or their music. A result of this orientation is that the cultural component becomes self-contained and is often very remote from the language itself. Moreover, the cultural component may be further separated from language by being taught and presented in the students' first language rather than in the target language. Although there may be some place for cultural facts in a languages curriculum, it is more important to study culture as a process in which the learner will eventually engage rather than as a closed set of information that he/she will be required to recall [6].

By contrast, the more recent models see culture as a dynamic and variable entity. The dynamic view of culture requires learners to actively engage in culture learning, rather than only learn about the cultural information of the target culture in a passive way. They are encouraged to view cultural facts as situated in time and space and variable across time, regions, classes and generations (Crawford & McLaren, 2003). In Liddicoa’s (2002) view, culture is seen as sets of variable practices in which people engage in order to live their lives and which are continually created and re-created by participants in interaction. These cultural practices represent a contextual framework that people use to structure and understand their social world and communicate with other people. As such, culture is not about information and things; it is about actions and understanding. In order to learn about culture, it is necessary to engage with the linguistic and non-linguistic practices of the culture and to gain insights into the way of living in a particular cultural context. Cultural knowledge is not therefore a case of knowing information about the culture; it is about knowing how to engage with the culture. It is important that the scope of culture learning move beyond awareness, understanding and sympathy, and begin to address the ways in which culture learning will be practiced by learners. Cultural knowledge is, therefore, not limited in its use to a particular task or exercise, but instead it is a more general knowing which underlies how language is used and how things are said and done in a cultural context. As such, it resembles very closely other types of language knowledge. The dynamic view of culture also requires learners to have knowledge of their own culture and an understanding of their own culturally-shaped behaviours.

This major transformation in perspective has also been characterized by conceptual shifts from culturespecific to culture-general models of intercultural competence. Culture-specific learning refers to the acquisition of knowledge and skills relevant to a given «target culture», i.e., a particular culture group or community. Culture-general learning, on the other hand, refers to knowledge and skills that are more generalizable in nature and transferable across cultures. This body of knowledge includes, among other things, the concept of culture, the nature of cultural adjustment and learning, the impact of culture on communication and interaction between individuals or groups, the stress associated with intense culture and language immersions (culture and language fatigue), coping strategies for dealing with stress, the role of emotions in cross-cultural, cross-linguistic interactions, and so forth. Culture-general skills include the capacity to display respect for and interest in the culture, the ability to be a self-sustaining culture learner and to draw on a variety of resources for that learning, tolerance and patience in cross-cultural situations, control of emotions and emotional resilience, and the like (Lustig and Koester, 1996, Kelley and Myers, 1995).

Now let’s examine various views proposed by different educators and scholars in respect to the relationship between culture and language teaching. Seelye (1976) claims that learning a language in isolation of its cultural roots prevents one from becoming socialized into its contextual use. Seelye (1976) maintains that knowledge of linguistic structure alone does not carry with it any special insight into the political, social, religious, or economic system [7].

According to Rivers (1981) the focus must be on both appropriate content and activities that enable students to assimilate that content. Activities should encourage them to go beyond fact, so that they begin to perceive and experience vicariously the deeper levels of the culture of the speakers of the language.

Kramsch (1993) sees culture as a fifth language skill besides the usual four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Out of those considerations, Kramsch develops a concept that she terms looking for third places. Rather than simply adopting the target culture, Kramsch explains that a third place emerges, a place that “grows in the interstices between the cultures the learners grew up with and the new cultures he or she is being introduced to” She points out that at the intersection of multiple native and target cultures, the major task of language learners is to define for themselves what this 'third place' that they have engaged in seeking will look like, whether they are conscious of it or not.

According to Brown (1994) culture is deeply ingrained part of the very fiber of our being, but language the means for communication among members of a culture is the most visible and available expression of that culture. And so a person’s world view, self-identity, and systems of thinking, acting, feeling, and communicating can be disrupted by a change from one culture to another. In a word, culture is a way of life. It is the context within which we exist, think, feel and relate others. It is the «glue» that binds a group of people together. It can be defined as a blueprint that guides the behavior of people in community and is incubated in family life. It governs our behavior in groups, makes us sensitive to matters of status, and helps us to know what others expect of us and what will happen if we do not live up to their expectations. Thus, culture helps us to know how far we can go as individuals and what our responsibility is to the group. Brown (1994) maintains that a language is a part of a culture and a culture is a part of a language. He believes that the two are intricately interwoven so that one cannot separate the two without losing the significance of either language or culture. As a result, cultural competence is an integral part of language learning, especially in foreign language learning [8].

Similarly, Tang (1999) propounds the view that culture is language and language is culture. He suggests that to speak a language well, one has to be able to think in that language, and thought is extremely powerful. Language is the soul of the country and people who speak it. Language and culture are inextricably linked, and as such we might think about moving away from questions about the inclusion or exclusion of culture in foreign language curriculum, to issues of deliberate immersion versus non-deliberate exposure to it.

Nida, a well-known linguist and translation theorist, also made some brilliant points concerning the relationship between language and culture. Nida (2001) held that culture is the totality of beliefs and practices of a society; nothing is of greater strategic importance than the language through which its beliefs are expressed and transmitted and by which most interaction of its members takes place.

Language and culture exist in each individual person. That individual is a thinker, a creator, a transmitter of the culture, he is the part of the society, and he uses the language for communication with other members of this society where he is supposed to be understood as they belong to the same community. But the indispensable condition of realization of any communication is that a speaker and a listener should have a mutual knowledge of realities or the background knowledge as a basis of a language interaction to understand each other. A «Language world picture» gives a non-native speaker the opportunity to realize the implicit meaning of the vocabulary through explicit meaning, to understand cumulated unconscious cultural information via background knowledge, to investigate cultural values via communicative process, to synthesize interrelation and interaction of the culture and the language [9].

The language major should be structured to produce a specific outcome: educated speakers who have deep translingual and transcultural competence. Advanced language training often seeks to replicate the competence of an educated native speaker, a goal that postadolescent learners rarely reach. The idea of translingual and transcultural competence, in contrast, places value on the ability to operate between languages. Students are educated to function as informed and capable interlocutors with educated native speakers in the target language. They are also trained to reflect on the world and themselves through the lens of another language and culture. They learn to comprehend speakers of the target language as members of foreign societies and to grasp themselves as Americans — that is, as members of a society that is foreign to others. They also learn to relate to fellow members of their own society who speak languages other than English.

This kind of foreign language education systematically teaches differences in meaning, mentality, and worldview as expressed in American English and in the target language. Literature, film, and other media are used to challenge students' imaginations and to help them consider alternative ways of seeing, feeling, and understanding things. In the course of acquiring functional language abilities, students are taught critical language awareness, interpretation and translation, historical and political consciousness, social sensibility, and aesthetic perception. They acquire a basic knowledge of the history, geography, culture, and literature of the society or societies whose language they are learning; the ability to understand and interpret its radio, television, and print media; and the capacity to do research in the language using parameters specific to the target culture.

Communication within a common culture, or intercultural communication, covers communication between people who share a commonality of experience, knowledge, and values. Intercultural relations are founded on such factors as shared heritage, gender association, religious affiliation, class distinction, and the like. People in this group may see the world in highly similar ways and may share a common value system.

Within the confines of a shared, general culture, communication has the greatest probability for success, if success is defined as a message being understood in the manner in which it was intended [10].

In an educational setting, the desire for effective communication at regional and global levels must arise first from the hearts and minds and choices of individual administrators, individual teachers, and individual students. You may be saying, or thinking, «What can I do about any of the world's problems or about barriers to effective cross-cultural communication?

Culture assimilators comprise short descriptions of various situations where one person from the target culture interacts with persons from the home culture. Then follow four possible interpretations of the meaning of the behaviour and speech of the communicators, especially those from the target culture. Once the students have read the description, they choose one of the four options they think is the correct interpretation of the situation. When every single student has made his choice, they discuss why some options are correct or incorrect. The main thrust of culture assimilators is that they are good methods of giving students understanding about cultural information.

Cultural problem solving is yet another way to provide cultural information. In this case, learners are presented with some information but they are on the horns of a dilemma, so to speak. For example, in analyzing, a TV conversation or reading a narrative on marriage ceremonies, they are expected to assess manners and customs, or appropriate or inappropriate behaviour, and to employ various problem-solving techniques [11].

Indisputably, conventional behaviour in common situations is a subject with which students should acquaint themselves. For instance, in the USA or the United Kingdom, it is uncommon for a student who is late for class to knock on the door and apologize to the teacher. Rather, this behaviour is most likely to be frowned upon and have the opposite effect, even though it is common behaviour in the culture many students come from. Besides, there are significant differences across cultures regarding the ways in which the teacher is addressed; when a student is supposed to raise her hand; what topics are considered taboo or «off the mark»; how much leeway students are allowed in achieving learner autonomy.

Cultural competence, i.e., the knowledge of the conventions, customs, beliefs, and systems of meaning of another country, is indisputably an integral part of foreign language learning, and many teachers have seen it as their goal to incorporate the teaching of culture into the foreign language curriculum. There is a relationship between language and culture.

Foreign language learning is comprised of several components, including grammatical competence, communicative competence, language proficiency, as well as a change in attitudes towards one’s own or another culture.

Alongside linguistic knowledge, students should also familiarize themselves with various forms of nonverbal communication, such as gesture and facial expressions, typical in the target culture.

Language is, or should be, understood as cultural practice, then ineluctably we must also grapple with the notion of culture in relation to language.

The role of literature in the foreign language classroom is great. Among four skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), culture can best find its expression through the medium of literature. Culture should be our message to students and language our medium. The teaching of culture should become an integral part of foreign language instruction [12].

And how is friendly interaction between teachers and students and among students most effectively fostered? Mutual understanding and mutual respect are two keys to successful ineraction.

But we must realize that teachers are the experts in the classroom, they are the ones whose opinions should carry the most weight, their voices should be heard most frequently in the classroom.

Yet, in a very real sense, out students are also experts at language study. They are experts by virtue of their long years of exposure to a wide variety of teachers and methods and textbooks and contexts. Because all students can speak with authority about their own experiences in language study, their voices deserve to be heard, as well. What do students think about their language programs? What have been their disappointments, their triumphs? What improvements in language study would they like to see implemented? What do they value most highly, both in class and out of class? [3].

o have better results we can: 1 — adapt our foreign language teaching at the national level to the frameworks and standards articulated by the Council of Europe's language policy and activities which are a planning instrument that provides a common basis and terminology for describing objectives, methods and approaches, skills and practices in language teaching; 2 — use innovative technologies and media which provide interaction with speakers of other languages. We need specific research on how technology can be best used to increase students' proficiency in other languages. The Internet and specialized databases for information retrieval is of special importance. Teachers try to develop successful strategies using television programs, films, computer games, and music videos; 3 — activate interaction and collaboration with speakers of other languages. Access to information on the World Wide Web and the use of new information technologies, especially networked computers, has contributed to increased communication among foreign language teachers and students in many countries; 4 — develop communicative teaching methods. It means a focus on communicative and intercultural learning which does not only stimulate a productive discussion of teaching objectives, methods, and underlying rationales, but also results in increased oral and written proficiency for their students; 5 — focus on raising students' awareness of various communication strategies, including strategies to bridge vocabulary gaps, reading and listening strategies, and general language learning strategies.

Other notable methods include the sole use of the foreign language in the classroom; a modular approach to teaching in which students are grouped according to proficiency level and project-oriented learning that emphasizes the use of authentic materials through technology and integrates learning about Englishspeaking countries with language and content learning [7].

The integration of cross cultural communication and foreign language studies contribute significantly to both the business community and the foreign language education profession. It is leading to increasingly successful global interactions. 



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Year: 2015
City: Karaganda
Category: Pedagogy