A comparative critical analysis of articles on “cultura in foreign language teaching”

It is analyzed in these four articles written about relationship between human-language and culture and importance of culture in FLT critically. They are compared by use of some synopsis used for critical comparative analysis. It has been reached up to some conclusions that all of them have some different perspectives in this area. However, they have some common points. The most remarkable common induction from all of the articles is that human-language and culture are indispensible and without applying culture in foreign language is not complete especially for intercultural communication competence.

Dr. Orwille Boyd Jenkings, “Culture, Learning and Communication”, 2000-2008, last updated 1 February 2010, and the other article is Aubrey Neil Leveridge, “The Relations Between Language & Culture and Implications for Language Teaching” for TEFL.net, Dimitry Thanasoulas, “Teaching of Culture into the Foreign Language Classroom”, 200-2009@ Developing Teachers.com, Bilal Genc and Erdogan Bada, “Culture In Language Learning And Teaching” The Reading Matrix, Vol. 5, No. 1, April 2005. A Comparative Critical Analysis of four articles on Language & Culture and Language Teaching-Learning.

I have read these four articles analytically to get some ideas about the relationship between language and culture and also the role, place and importance of culture in FLT from all aspects. To understand this relationship deeply, functionally and how we can apply this knowledge in the formation of language teaching especially to be able reach up to the ultimate goal of language education, Intercultural Communication Competence. To get the cognition of the place and function of culture in human communication and to apply it in intercultural communication. How we can use as language teachers, benefit from this information in language education.

They are all articles on language & culture and the application of this knowledge in teaching a language. Jenkings’ one expresses very general and subjective ideas in brief but persuasive with clear explanations on the other hand the Leveridge’s one is quite scientific and objective with rationale references and results of the experiments on this field. Thanasoulas’s article is rather rich and deeper than the both articles mentioned above in terms of given examples, scientific resources given. As for Genc’s and Bada’s article the theoretical part is quite satisfactory and efficient in terms of explaining the relationship between human-culture and language. Many author’s and researchers’ statements are given in their article.

Human-Language and Culture. O.B Jenkings tries to explain the relationship between culture and language by giving situational examples like Experience in Language, Experience to Worldview, and Language in Culture, Enculturation and Perception and so on. When you read the information given having been designed under these subtitles you feel that he has written his own practical experiences and observations. However, his statement “First of all each culture group has a language, which is usually the primary identifying factor” is quite good example to explain the relationship between language-society and culture. A.N. Leveridge describes his ideas by giving references like Analects (Xu, 1997), (Brooks, 1968), Hantrais (1989), Emmitt and Pollock (1997), (Emmitt & Pollock 1997), (Byram 1989) to prove his ideas about the background languages depending on the background of the people and also their environment. The example given to determine the relationship between culture-individual is very beautiful; “when an infant is born, it is not unlike any other infant born, in fact, quite similar. It is not until the child is exposed to their surroundings that they become individuals in and of their cultural group”. Thanasoulas uses highly rich quotations in his article to explain and prove the indispensible relationship between human-language and culture, he also gives rather theoretical background of his ideas supported by authors’ like (Eleanor ArmourThomas & Sharon-ann Gopaul-McNicol, 1998), (Fairclough, 1989: vi), (Duranti, 1997: 28-29), (Durkheim, 1912 [1947]). Especially the quotation given here “Language is a social institution, both shaping and shaped by society at large or in particular the 'cultural niches” rather striking. (Eleanor Armour-Thomas & Sharon-ann., GopaulMcNicol, 1998) In Genc’s and Bada’s article to prove and the interaction of language-human and culture, recourses are used and given like, Wittgenstein (1980; 1999), Saussure (1966), Foucault (1994), Dilthey (1989), Von Humboldt (1876), Adorno (1993), Davidson (1999), Quine (1980) and Chomsky (1968). No explanation is given; they are used just as proofs, I think, the article more depends on practical aspect of use of culture in language education. Their utterance is very original, “There is no such a thing as human nature independent of culture” for this topic. On the one hand Jenkings mentions how people get their awareness about culture and it affects their communication on the other hand Leveridge explains how people are shaped by their surroundings and it affects their learning a language. Leveridge also touches the point that even in the some culture the different languages that they speak limits and makes them different. So he discusses that not just culture but language is also important and shapes the people that use it. So he defenses that each culture or society of any language has its own points of view, perspective and beliefs. Thanasoulas gives rather long explanations and examples about this relationship and the history of vulture and society. As concentrated on practical side of the subject Genc and Bada do not give satisfactory knowledge about this subject. We, as language teachers, have to take the background of language that we teach, into consideration to be able to get rid of misconception. But Jenkings, Genc and Bada don’t give sufficient information in this area. Leveridge touches the points that people are born the same biologically and mentally but they are shaped by their surroundings later. He also says that their language limits them in expression of their concepts and causes them to create their points of views according to ability and limits of that language. But Jenkings doesn’t touch upon this like him deeply.

Jenkings gives very clear and convincing examples. However he doesn’t give any scientific proofs or references. But Leveridge gives realistic, rationale references like (Spence, 1985), (Hui 2005). Prodromou (1988), (Maley 1986) and results of experiments and researches done in this field to explain the relationship between the people and languages that they use and also the influence of the structure of the language on peoples mind and way of communication. Both Genc’s & Bada’s and Thanasoulas’ ideas given are rather efficient and scientifically supported by used resources given in this area. While Jenking’s ideas and claims are rather subjective and non-scientific, on the contrary Leveridge’s ideas and claims are quite persuasive, objective and scientific. Some of the Jenking’s sentences are so certain that I have personally had the impressions that he shows his personal opinions observations rather than supported ideas by scientific resources.

Application of Culture in FLT. In all of the articles it is claimed by some proofs and conclusions clearly that the role of culture is undeniable and un-ignorable in the formation of language and communication. So we can and also should apply this knowledge in language teaching as well. For example Leveridge says that “Teachers must instruct Teachers must instruct their students on the cultural background of language usage. If one teaches language without teaching about the culture in which it operates, the students are learning empty or meaningless symbols or they may attach the incorrect meaning to what is being taught. The students, when using the learnt language, may use the language inappropriately or within the wrong cultural context, thus defeating the purpose of learning a language”. In terms of explaining the importance of use of culture in FLT, Genc’s & Bada’s example given is quite remarkable; “From the perspective of learners, one of the major problems in language teaching is to conceive of the native speakers of target language as real person. Although grammar books gives so called genuine examples from real life, without background knowledge those real situations may be considered fictive by the learners. In addition providing access into cultural aspect of language, learning culture would help learners relate the abstract sounds and forms of a language to real people and places (Chastain, 1971). Thanasoulas also has given very striking example like; 'Students will indeed need to develop knowledge of and about the L2 or FL culture, but this receptive aspect of cultural competence is not sufficient. Learners will also need to master some skills in culturally appropriate communication and behavior for the target culture… Cultural awareness is necessary if students are to develop an understanding of the dynamic nature of the target culture, as well as their own culture.' Depending on their sayings and our experiences I think we must inform our students about the cultural even historical background of language that we teach when necessary to be able to prevent misconception and misunderstanding in target language communication. They also claim that we cannot teach a language without teaching its culture. They state that we should enable our students to understand the cultural differences of other societies and not react against them. If we do that we can succeed in having our students to get the level and skill of Intercultural

Two of them (Jenking and Genc & Bada give valuable information, practical, concrete results of experiments that we can apply in formation of communication competence in the target language while the others (Thanasoulas and Leveridge) give information about the background of this communication competence more theoretical. They all complement each other. We can apply and adapt their interferences in conclusion and other parts of their articles in designing our language teaching strategies. I myself teach English abroad even having very similar culture to that of the students’. However we sometimes come across some difficulties, conflicts and even misunderstanding while teaching. For example their sense of humor is different from mine. What is very interesting and comic for me sometimes doesn’t make any sense to them. So we should take care of these valuable conclusions, inductions and ideas into consideration in forming our language teaching especially if our goal is Intercultural Communicative Competence for our students.

Communicative Competence in teaching a language as an ultimate goal. Leveridge points out that we should be careful about our language teaching policy because of the values and even beliefs of the students. He also mentions that teachers who teach language without culture teach symbols without meaning, concepts and spirits. From this point of view Thanasoulas supplies this utterance; “As a result, people from different cultures weave their lives into an international fabric that is beginning to fray at the edges by virtue of miscommunication and propaganda. In order to avoid this ignominious cultural and political disintegration, and foster empathy and understanding, teachers should 'present students with a true picture or representation of another culture and language' (Singhal, 1998). Genc’s & Bada’s example is also interesting for this point; “In an age of post-modernism, in an age of tolerance towards different ideologies, religions, sub-cultures, we need to understand not only the other culture but also our own culture”. All the articles give valuable, good and reasonable information about what the culture and language are and also relationship between them. I think we can apply this information in language teaching. They all provide us useful information about the process of acquiring culture and language depending on it. They will / may be useful in understanding the importance of culture in formation of communication competence and language teaching. We can take into consideration their ideas in forming the policy of language teaching on the behalf of teachers, students and administration.

 

 

  1. http://orvillejenkins.com/ethnicity/culturelearn.html, Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD, Culture, Learning and Communication, First posted 1 April 2000, Last updated 1 Febuary 2010
  2. http://www.developingteachers.com/articles_tchtraining/culture1_dimitrios.htm, Dimitrios Thanasoulas, Language and Culture a thesis, , 200-2009
  3. http://www.readingmatrix.com/articles/genc_bada/articl e.pdf,Genc. B and B. Erdogan, Culture In Language Learning And Teaching, The Reading Matrix, Vol. 5, No. 1, April 2005.
  4. http://edition.tefl.net/articles/teacher- technique/language-culture/,
  5. Leveridge. N. A, The Relationship between Language & Culture and the Implications for Language Teaching, TEFL.net.
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2011
City: Almaty
Category: Philology