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Language and Culture Interaction in English Language Teaching Analytical Essay


Introduction

Language has so far been the evolutionary device that has created a sense of cultural identity for people in the world today . There has also been a growing interest when it comes to the subject of culture and language in practice of English language teaching. This growing interest raises concerns of the survival of cultural identity. Language is said to have a dual character. This is according to Wei (2005). It is both a carrier of culture and a means of communication.

It is unthinkable to have language without culture and similarly culture without language. The relation between language and culture is described by Brown (1994) to be mutual whereby each is part of the other. This implies that the two are interwoven and they cannot be separated.

If in case they are separated, the significance of the other is lost. However, looking at these concepts in the context of teaching and learning, Goa (2006) says that they are interdependence. This is in the sense that when one teaches language, culture has to be taught simultaneously. Similarly when students learn language they simultaneously learn culture. This paper discusses how language and culture interaction raises for the practice of English language teaching.

Language and culture

Tomlin (2008) considers teaching culture as a language skill among writing, reading, speaking, and reading. In the context of teaching English language, Tomlin (2008) says that globalization and the global role that English language plays in the world today are the two main reasons for teaching culture.

Teaching culture when teaching English provides the students with the opportunity to appreciate and understand values. It also equips them with the knowledge of different ways of doing things. The students are made to use as a way of accepting differences in the global society.

In order to teach culture in practice of ELT, the teacher has to have cultural knowledge, cultural value, cultural behavior, and cultural skills. Cultural knowledge is the entirety of culture within the society. Cultural skills refer to the ability to be aware and have intercultural sensitivity when using English language to communicate and interact with others.

Cultural knowledge refers to the awareness of daily routines within the society, whereas cultural value is the awareness of what people regard to be important in the society. All these aspects have to be displayed during practice of English language teaching.

It is not quite easy to teach culture when teaching language. Basically, the role that teachers play when teaching culture is that of guidance. This means that the teachers only get to show the way of how things are supposed to be done. The teachers make students become sensitive and aware of important cultural traits.

Curriculum developers and teachers have to take into consideration the social cultural background of learners especially when coming up with materials for learning and when developing and implementing curriculum. When teachers act oblivious to the norms and expectations of the students, is simply denying the experiences of the learners. This means that teachers are not taking into account the variation of culture in a classroom and therefore it can lead to difficulties in teaching language.

Cultural implications for language teaching

Teachers have to engage the students in the cultural background of English language usage. Since English is an international language, its usage is within the global context.

Without giving students the cultural background of English, the teachers are simply giving the students empty symbols and expect them to attach meaning to them. Therefore, English student may find themselves using the language within a context where they are not supposed to use. The students would lack knowledge of proper cultural context to use the language. As a result conflict may arise.

Within a classroom, teachers must know that there is variation of cultural background of the students. Students come from different areas and regions of the world. Therefore teachers have to realize that whatever content they deliver can be interpreted differently by different students.

Basically, students give meaning to the content material based on their cultural context. According to Bruner (1990) students taking English as a second language have a varying sensory preference. Cultural influence is asserted to be the main contributor to this variation. Students with Asian background are identified to have high preference of visual learning style. Auditory learning among ESL students is high among students with Hispanic background.

Importance of culture in teaching and learning

It is easy for teachers to notice the obvious differences within different ethnic groups. In order to have an impact in teaching and learning, teachers have go further and be aware of the diversity that exist within each of the ethnic groups. The importance of culture in teaching and learning process is that it helps provide equity. Students will be treated equally and be given equal opportunities to succeed. Access to curriculum will also be equal.

These therefore are the main reasons why culture has to be taken into serious consideration during practice of ELT. The structure of the lessons by English teachers must take into account the individual differences of each student in a classroom. When teachers address this issue, students will always see themselves as individuals.

Similarly they will see their fellow peers as individuals. According to psychologist John Piaget, learning normally occurs when information and ideas are transferred from earlier experiences and knowledge. Based on this assertion, teachers have to facilitate the transfer of knowledge. The best and most effective way to do this is to understand the cultural background of each and every student within their class.

The role of culture in English language classroom

When it comes to identifying and defining the role of culture especially in language classroom, several issues are raised. Some of the concerns include the appropriate moment for teaching culture when teaching language, the best way of teaching culture in a language lesson, and the necessity of a target culture for the students. As it was mentioned earlier, culture and language are inseparable.

It is not enough to make the learners aware of a target culture but they also have to be shown how to use the knowledge of culture to interact within the society. Students have to be taught how to address different people in a culturally appropriate manner. They have to learn how to address their peers, and how to address their elders within the standards accepted in the society. The best moment to teach culture according to Tomlin (2008) is immediately after the students gain knowledge of basic grammar.

Many studies have been done in the area of culture and language and there is a wide range of complexity due to various findings reported. Most of the findings reported are based on theories and concepts in the field of psychology such constructivist, cognitive and behavioral . This therefore implies that studies in culture and language began as early as studies on these concepts were conducted.

The chief proponent of behavioral theory is B.F. Skinner . The theory basically talks about observing changes in behavior either through negative reinforcement or positive reinforcement . Whenever learner display desirable behaviors, the instructors can encourage recurrence of the behavior through positive reinforcement of the behavior. This can be through rewards.

The final theory upon which culture and language are built on is the constructivist theory. This theory was developed by Bruner and it asserts that students construct knowledge by actively interpreting every learning experience that they go through.

This implies that the assertions that learners store information are insufficient for learning to take place . The students have to draw conclusions from every learning experience and as a result construct knowledge. Therefore it is not only a matter of receiving information but also a matter of constructing knowledge .

Culture and language have therefore been developed from the influence of the theories mentioned above. Development of culture and language began by Myers (1962) and has so far been advanced and expanded by Thellen in 2001. The studies conducted to develop the concept of culture and language has played a significant role in the learning of English as a foreign language and similarly as a second language.

The studies conducted by Rayner (1998) reveal how culture and language exist in the field of literature. The study tends to categorize individuals in two main areas, wholist and analytical. Analytical individuals tend to have structured kind f thinking and use logical sequences as the basis of their decisions. Their preferred style is mostly systematic and structured. On the other hand, individuals who are wholist, rely more on a combination of creativity and spontaneity.

Their decisions are mostly based on random methods unlike analytic individuals who base their decisions on systematic approaches. The study therefore has proved significant since it helps researchers determine how learners gain knowledge using each of the perceptual learning styles . Teachers have to engage the students in the cultural background of English language usage. Since English is an international language, its usage is within the global context.

Without giving students the cultural background of English, the teachers are simply giving the students empty symbols and expect them to attach meaning to them. Therefore, English student may find themselves using the language within a context where they are not supposed to use. The students would lack knowledge of proper cultural context to use the language. As a result conflict may arise.

Learning as a process is achieved whenever individual experiences are transformed into memorable knowledge that can be transferred or applied in a different situation. Learning styles therefore play a very important role in enhancing learning. This is the reason why individuals with ability to use multiple learning styles have an increased level of learning whereby they can easily gain information and retain it for long.

New information is used to build upon the one that has already been acquired. According to the theory, the way learning is organized in the memory is such that there are chunks of information that are built in the memory bank of learners for future use . For instance before a learner develops full knowledge of a learning concept, they first have to acquire the basic knowledge of the concept at low levels of learning.

Development of the concept progresses as the learner progresses in learning and continues to be met with experiences to enhance understanding of the concept . Instructors therefore can make use of this theory in the teaching and learning process by engaging learners to be proactive.

Emphasis needs to be laid upon learning activities that provide for variety and originality. In this way learner’s attention will always be captured during the process of learning . One issue that needs to be considered when incorporating cognitive theory in the learning process by instructors, is providing only enough and required information. When too much is provided, the learners are likely to be confused and unable to properly develop concepts

Conclusion

This paper has discussed how language and culture interaction raises for the practice of English language teaching. Language has been seen to be the evolutionary device that has created a sense of cultural identity for people in the world today. Language is said to have a dual character. It is both a carrier of culture and a means of communication. It is unthinkable to have language without culture and similarly culture without language.

Looking at these concepts in the context of teaching and learning, Goa (2006) says that they are interdependent. This is in the sense that when one teaches language, culture has to be taught simultaneously. Similarly when students learn language they simultaneously learn culture. Basically, the role that teachers play when teaching culture is that of guidance. This means that the teachers only get to show the way of how things are supposed to be done.

The teachers make students become sensitive and aware of important cultural traits. Curriculum developers and teachers have to take into consideration the social cultural background of learners especially when coming up with materials for learning and when developing and implementing curriculum Teaching culture when teaching English provides the students with the opportunity to appreciate and understand values. It also equips them with the knowledge of different ways of doing things. The students are made to use as a way of accepting differences in the global society.

References

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IvyPanda. "Language and Culture Interaction in English Language Teaching." October 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/language-and-culture-4/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Language and Culture Interaction in English Language Teaching." October 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/language-and-culture-4/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Language and Culture Interaction in English Language Teaching'. 7 October.

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