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Cultural Background Knowledge And English Teaching Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2329 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Language is a mirror which reflects the entire culture, and every nation has its own culture. Language learning is inseparable from the understanding of cultural background knowledge. Cultural background knowledge is very important in language teaching. Here I want to talk about the relationship between them and how to teach.

I. Introduction

Language is a product of society, cultural differences led to many difficulties language learning, if you want to learn English as well, you must grasp cultural knowledge. Language learning is inseparable from the understanding of cultural background knowledge. It is necessary for teachers to pass on cultural background knowledge to students.

II. Cultural background knowledge and English teaching

1. Problems aroused by different cultural backgrounds

Cultural plays an important role in language. They are linked closely. Different countries have different languages and cultures. Because of cultural differences, misunderstandings may arise, although the language used in communication may be faultless. The same words or expressions may not mean the same thing to different peoples. Because of cultural differences, a serious question may cause amusement or laughter¼›A harmless statement may cause displeasure or anger. On the one hand, without language, culture would not be possible. On the other hand, language is influenced and shaped by culture; it reflects culture. Each culture is unique. Learning a foreign language means more than merely mastering the pronunciation, grammar, words and idioms. It means learning the ways in which their language reflects the ideas, customs, and behavior of their society, learning to understand their “language of the mind”. Learning a language, in fact, is inseparable from learning its culture.

In china, dragon means lucky, but in the foreigners eyes dragon is the embodiment of evil. In China, we can free to ask a person’s age, salary, or an item’s price, in the West, this is very impolite.

A foreign teacher see a female student wearing a beautiful dress, she looks very nice. The teacher said happily, “You look very beautiful today!” The girl said shyly, “No, no. This is an ordinary dress. “The teacher praise a student’s English is pretty well,” Your English is quite fluent. “The student at once modestly said,” No, no, my English is quite poor. “The two Student’s answer is that the teacher never thought; and the teacher doesn’t understand is that obviously female student wears the dress which looks pretty, the second student’s English is very good, but why both of them say, “No.” They make the teacher feel that they don’t have their own opinions and don’t know how to distinguish what is good, what is bad.

A student, he met a foreigner in the park, he would like to practice his own spoken language, he said, “What’s your name? What are you doing here? Follow me!” The foreigner confused and thought that he did something wrong, and he had to be arrested and inquired.

At last, let us see the following dialogues in many textbooks:

1. A: What’s your name?

B: My name is Xiao Hong.

A: How old are you?

B: I’m eleven.

2. A: Where are you going?

B: I’m going to the zoo.

In china, when people meet each other, they always say, “Where are you going?” “Are you out?” although people do not want to know where you go. All the above dialogues, although forms are correct, they are not appropriate. So in language teaching, we should not only pass on knowledge of language and train learners’ competence of utilizing language, but also enhance teaching of relative cultural background knowledge.

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2. Importance of cultural background knowledge in language teaching

As we all know, “Language is a part of the culture, they can not be separated each other.” Therefore it’s necessary to understand the cultural background knowledge. In Modern high schools, the teachers mainly cultivate ability in listening, speaking, reading and writing, the ultimate aim is to train students to use English communicate with each other, the four aspects are inseparable from the cultural background knowledge. “Without language, culture would not be possible. Language is influenced and shaped by culture; it reflects culture.”

Some people say that “listening” is an important aspect of communicative competence. Listening ability, reading ability, the listener’s language skill, cultural background knowledge, thinking skill are closely related. If the language capability of the listener is relatively strong, but he knows a little cultural background knowledge, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the listening materials, even he makes a mistake in understanding. From this, culture plays an important role in English teaching. Speaking is not merely concerned with pronunciation and intonation. Students can only improve their oral English and reach the aim of communication by means of enormous reading, mastering rich language material and acquaintance of western culture. Therefore, in oral training, teachers should lay stress on factuality of language and adopt some material approaching to daily life, such as daily dialogues with tape, magazines, newspapers and report etc., because the material is from real life, and it helps students to be well acquainted with standard pronunciation and intonation, to speak English appropriate to the occasion, to understand western way of life and customs etc. Otherwise, misunderstanding and displeasure are inevitably aroused. In English, there are so many euphemisms that sometimes it’s hard to know the other one’s actual mood. So we should pay attention to our answer.

Reading English articles requires a certain language basis, but the competence of reading comprehension is not entirely related to one’s language level. Knowledge of cultural background is also important. You can guess the meaning according to available language material, cultural background and logical reasoning. However, when we read English articles, differences between Chinese and western cultures often bring us many difficulties.

People always recognize which kind of articles wrote by foreigners, which kind of articles wrote by Chinese. There are three main reasons, first, the writers’ English level is not so high, second, Chinese and western have different thinking ways, third, the articles’ style is very different because of different cultural. These three aspects show cultural play an important role in writing. In writing, we often use some modifiers to enhance the color of the article, and the articles are so vivid. Western thinks the magpie is not a sign of good luck, but Chinese think magpie is a symbol of celebration. People always say: “Magpie call, something good will be happened.” Therefore, cultural difference is the key that makes the articles be natural or not. If you want to achieve the level of writing of foreigners, you must grasp cultural background knowledge. Every aspects of language always reflects cultural, It means language learning and cultural background knowledge learning are not separated. The content of cultural is very abundant, in the teaching process, the teachers shall explain cultural background knowledge in any time, make the students take language and cultural knowledge into listening, speaking, reading, writing skills, so as to the students can easily communicate with foreigners and read foreign materials.

Translating and writing can’t be separated from cultural background knowledge. We shall take the word “dog” as an example. To English-speaking people and Chinese, there are very different meanings. “Lai Pi Gou” and “Sang JiaZhiquan” are often used to describe disgusting people. But dog in English, especially in proverbs, is a commendatory term. If we translate dog into Chinese “dog” without exception, we may make jokes. For example:

1. Every dog has his day.

2. You are, indeed, a lucky dog.,

3. Last night my father came home dog-tired.

Because some learners are not well aware of the cultural differences, they take it for granted that the three sentences should be translated into the following:




In fact, the right translations are as follows:




It is clear that cultural background knowledge is necessary in language teaching. Teachers should help students to solve the difficulties in language as well as in culture. Thus, teachers should further improve your quality of teaching. Especially you should teach cultural background knowledge as possible as you can.

3. How to carry out the teaching of cultural background knowledge

Firstly teachers should choose proper teaching material. Especially the foreign material should be used, just like dialogues, next, teachers should explain cultural factors involved in the material with purpose. There is an example like this:

Helen: Hello, Susan, where are you going?

Susan: I’m going to get a magazine and some chocolate.

Helen: Let’s go to that newsagent in the corner. I want some cigarettes.

Susan: I want to go the one down the road. I’ve got to send off this parcel and there is a post-office in that one.

It tells us in England some newsagent‚those shops not only sell sweets and cigarettes, but also install post office where people can send off letters and parcels. But in China, there are not such shops. If teachers don’t explain for this, students may feel puzzled.

Secondly, Teachers should take cultural background knowledge and English teaching into four aspects of language learning, they are listening, speaking, reading, writing skills. Teachers should give some information about cultural background knowledge in listening course. A lot of students’ listening level is not so high, not only because they do not grasp English words and their grammatical concept is unclear but also they don’t have cultural background knowledge. There are two jokes here:

â‘ A: Where are you from? B: I’ll ask her (Alaska) A: Why do you ask her?

â‘¡A: Where are you from? B: How are you? (Hawaii)

In the two jokes, to A, B do not understand question, but if you know the United States has two states: Alaska and Hawaii, then A will not make a mistake. From this, in listening course, teachers give cultural background knowledge to students, not only enhance the listening skill of them, but also enable students to obtain knowledge. In reading course, teachers should explain cultural background knowledge. If you want to read, you must have English basic. Cultural background knowledge is so important.

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Thirdly, in the classroom, teacher should pay attention to proper language forms as well as suitable use of language. One way of classroom teaching is to ask students to make similar dialogues to the text. A student inevitably needs to play a role and carry on a conversation according to a certain role. Teacher should attract the student’s attention to his role and point out his expressions which are improper for his character or the occasion. Furthermore, remind students to pay attention to details such as pronunciation, intonation, countenance wording, gesture etc.

Fourthly, teachers should use good native English videotapes and films in teaching, and then organize discussions. Teachers should use pictures, movies in teaching, students can easily understand some cultural background knowledge, and Western social and cultural factors.

Fifthly, encourage students to communicate with native English speakers. But so far, we haven’t carried out such activities enough. In contact with native speakers, in such relaxed conversations, students can learn much knowledge, which cannot be learned in the classroom.

Sixthly, hold some lectures about cultures and customs, comparing Chinese culture with western culture.

In teaching, teachers should pay attention to cultural differences and study these differences. As English teachers, we should not only help students to learn a foreign language, but also to learn social and cultural background knowledge. Only so, students can widen their knowledge and thus further learn English well.

III. Conclusion

Language is a mirror which reflects the entire culture, and every nation has its own culture. Language learning is inseparable from the understanding of cultural background knowledge. Language is a product of society, cultural differences led to many difficulties language learning, if you want to learn English as well, you must grasp cultural knowledge. It is necessary for teachers to pass on cultural background knowledge to students. In short, there are great differences between Chinese and Western culture, language and culture are inseparable, if you do not understand the foreign language and cultural background, you can not correctly understand and use language. Not only enable students to master the basic knowledge, but should also strengthen cultural Background Knowledge in teaching, so that they learn and come from different social background, cultural practices, political systems of the people live in harmony, so as to really reach in English teaching purposes


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