By Sanaa Amrani
By Sanaa Amrani
Morocco World News
Fez, March 21, 2013
Culture learning and language learning are considered to have a strong relationship in most of the communicative approaches. The teaching of English as a foreign language is very important; however less importance is given to the teaching of its culture. Studying the language without studying the culture of the native speakers is a lifeless endeavor. Good teaching requires not only the teachings about the language but rather teaching the language as such. Moreover, linguistic competence is not enough in the learning of a second language and it is not sufficient to be really competent in that language. Foreign language learners need to be aware of the target culture; they need to know how to address people, make request, show agreement, express condolence and feelings, to cite but a few.
There is a need to know and understand the other culture in order to have an appropriate and a successful communication. Language must not be used in isolation from culture; it needs to be associated with cultural aspects. Scarcella & Oxford (1992:183) argue that “culture learning is an ongoing process in which learners’ cultural perception can change, unfold, and mature over time.” The process of foreign language learning stands as an opportunity for learners to be knowledgeable of the target culture. It is crucial to understand that a second language cannot be mastered unless the target culture is grasped and appreciated. Therefore, teachers are supposed to transmit cultural values through language not only structures.
Developing Cultural Awareness
There are various degrees and levels of developing cultural learning awareness among foreign language learners. Hanvey (1976) argues that the learners’ cultural awareness is developed through four main levels:
1- Facts, stereotypes and deficiencies:
When learners start learning a foreign language, their information about the target culture consists of facts, stereotypes and deficiencies. Learners may have certain conceptions about a given culture. For example: American females are sexually free, they live in luxury, and they are rich. The learner’s at this level are concerned to have stereotypes about the target culture.
2- Shallow Comprehension:
It is Hanvey’s second level of developing cultural awareness. At this stage, learners are believed to be exposed to different aspects that are beyond their level of understanding. The learners, however, at this stage of learning process can have a shallow understanding of certain cultural aspects.
3- In depth Comprehension:
At this level, learners start to show a high degree of understanding the target culture. They go beyond level two and they start to understand the aspects of the target culture, appreciate them, and accept them after all.
Schumann (1978) refers to this level as “true acculturation.” At this level, foreign language learners see a slight difference between their culture and the target culture. Moreover they feel a kind of belonging to the target culture, they may convert to another religion, celebrate ceremonies the way foreigners do. The level of acculturation is not reached by all learners; there are learners who prefer to stick to their culture and identify themselves within their culture
Goals of Teaching Culture
The goal of EFL teaching is not only raising awareness about the target culture. The main and the basic goal is to help learners know and understand the similarities and differences existing between the native and the target culture, as well as to know what is considered to be appropriate and what is not. Four goals can be set:
1– Teachers are supposed to help learners move beyond level one and help them correct the already believed stereotypes through providing them with facts.
2– The least of things is to make students able to have a shallow understanding of the target culture and later on help them to move from a shallow to an in depth understanding of the target culture and other cultures.
3– Teachers are expected to provide learners with opportunities that can allow them to develop an understanding of the different cultures discussed in the classroom.
4– The teaching of culture can stand as a good opportunity to help learners become autonomous via the activities implemented in the teaching and learning processes.
Problems involved in teaching culture
There are some problems that are involved in teaching culture; they are summed up in four main problems: overcrowded curriculum, psychological problems, negative attitudes, and lack of adequate training.
EFL teachers find themselves obliged to complete a curriculum which is long all the time. Unfortunately, they put their focus, on: grammar, lexis, reading, writing, etc. They, moreover, consider the teaching of culture as a waste of time.
It is considered to be the fear of not knowing enough. Teachers feel afraid to teach culture because of their low background about certain cultural aspects; they just do without it and give it a cold shoulder.
Sometimes, teachers find themselves in a situation that they cannot solve quickly. This is the case when students have negative attitudes about the target culture. Teachers find it better not to teach culture in this case.
Lack of adequate training:
In practicum, teacher’ trainees are trained to teach the four skills. They are not given the opportunity to teach culture. Moreover, the seldom have access to the didactic and strategies of teaching culture.
Types of Cultural Instruction Activities
There are many types of cultural instruction activities among which we can name: native informants, teachers’ presentations, music, pictures and real objects, role plays, project work, proverbs to cite but a few.
An activity used in EFL teaching and learning. It involves a variety of activities like lectures on cultural aspects, open discussions, cultural exchange, social event discussions and so forth. In this type of activities, teachers most of time invite informants who have the same age of students.
They consist of lectures by teachers about different cultural aspects. Normally, this type of activity ends up with a group discussion which is learner-centered.
Music is the international language shared between different people belonging to different backgrounds; it has gained its importance in raising the students’ cultural awareness. It is used as a way to develop learners’ cultural understanding.
Pictures and real objects:
It is referred to as authentic materials that can be used in the process of teaching culture. For a better understanding of the target culture, learners need to see: pictures, images, signs, videos, etc. This type of activities can give students a clear idea about the target culture and its conventions.
As mentioned earlier, learners start their learning of EFL with having wrong information regarding the target culture; however, during the process of learning many misconceptions are corrected. This is an opportunity for students to understand the differences and similarities of the native and target culture.
Learners are supposed to choose projects that fit their interests, for example: different kinds of food from all over the world, means of transformation, clothes, sport, etc. the learner’s understanding of the target culture is developed throughout the project work.
Even proverbs can be implemented and discussed in the target language. Discussions based on understanding proverbs related to the target culture help in understanding the extent to which native proverbs and target proverbs are different.
The position of culture in the Moroccan textbooks
As far as the position of culture in the Moroccan text book is concerned, in every unit there is a section dedicated to ‘Cultural Slot’. It is the ultimate section, however, in every unit. The chosen textbook to be taken into consideration is Visa to the World which consists of ten unites. In every unit, the target culture is present through the use of: names, countries, cities, expressions, etc. However, culture in Visa is not given its importance, because there are only three unites in which the target culture and other cultures are tackled along the units.
Scarcella, R. C. & Oxford, R.L (1992), The Tapestry of Language Learning: The individual in the communicative learning, P.P, 182-192
Crawford-language, L.M, & Lange, D.L. (1987).Doing the Unthinkable in the Second Language Classroom: A process for integration of language and culture
Hanvey, R.G. (1976). Cross- Cultural Awareness. In R.G. Hanvey (Ed.), an Attainable Global Perspective. New York: Center for Global Perspectives
Kramsch, C. (1990). Discourse and Culture, keynote presentation at the annual meeting of Alabama association of Foreign Language Teachers, Brimingham
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