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Looking At The Importance Of Tefl English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5276 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Teaching and learning English as a foreign language has increasingly become more important at the present time than ever. Many interrelated economic, political, and educational reasons have pushed a head the process of teaching/learning English as a foreign language. Due to the fact of the importance of English, developing the techniques and methodology for teaching English language has never stopped. Different scholars from different areas in the world have dedicated their time, knowledge, and efforts to develop the various fields of language towards their ultimate goal which is facilitating the teaching/learning process for achieving language proficiency. Culture, as a means to reach this goal, has become an important component of English language teaching in recent times. This is because understanding a language includes not only the understanding of grammar, phonology, and lexis. Certain features and characteristics of the culture are important too. To communicate internationally, intercultural communication unavoidably has to be stressed in language classrooms. This importance represents the essence of the present study which gains its support through reviewing the literature related to the role of culture in learning English. Most of the scholars through over the world tried to deal with this phenomena that exists in their countries. Non native English language students in different parts of the world has been constantly disappointed in using English appropriately because they lacked sufficient awareness of the English culture. This literature review will examine the developmental stages that culture teaching has gone through.

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Many various studies by different researchers from different areas of the world have discussed the issue of culture from different angles. The discussion is organized in a sort of a hierarchy that begins with the early stages where culture was ignored in the teaching process. Then, some studies and assumptions made on the way culture seen as negatively effect the hosting culture will be presented. After that, the beginning of accepting culture in classrooms although not significant will be shown. Eventually, The views of the supporters of culture/language relation, and ending in the realization of the necessity of culture in the classrooms will be introduced. Through this process, it is hoped that the intended proposal will illustrate to the reader the necessity of teaching the target culture appropriately and hand in hand with the language.

To begin with, This study draws heavily on recent PhDs and M.A dissertations done on the issue of culture and its role in language learning . Journals’ essays have a lion’s share too in the contributions to the present study, as well as book references. As mentioned earlier, the presentation of the literature review has been organized in away that shows the universality of the need for culture existence in foreign language classrooms .

I found it very important to let the reader know that my view has been strongly influenced by the writings of Jorstad (1981), Seelye (1981, 1994), Crawford- Lange and Lange (1984), Byram (1988), and Kramsch (1993), all of whom have proposed models for integrating culture and language teaching. These works share a common conceptual core and set of intricately related assumptions regarding the teaching and learning of culture.

Combination of English Language with local national Culture

Some researchers have tackled the issue of culture in their foreign language classrooms from a different angle; i.e. They attempted to present and select appropriate cultural elements that are suitable for their students. In the Libyan example, Text book writers have tried to present the linguistic form of English language in the context of Libyan national norms. The Libyan researcher Mr. Abdulhameed Ali Salem (2004) in his unpublished thesis, under the title: The Importance of Teaching the Cultural Elements of English as A foreign Language, reached the conclusion that the amount of English cultural elements was not sufficient to make the students aware of that culture and the people who speak English as a native language. A consequence of text book writers’ attempt who resorted to Arabic culture to present English language to secondary school students. Nevertheless, they could not avoid including English cultural elements, because of the fact of the inseparability of language from its culture.

The author’s recommendation was that the teaching of culture should become an integral part of foreign language instruction. This integration enhances the learning process because it develops the students’ communicative competence and stimulates their motivation.

Although Libyan Ministry of Education has tried to partially concentrate on culture from the Libyan cultural aspect, however, through the researcher’s conclusion, which I believe has revealed the sort of confusion on the students side. i.e. the attempt of combining a language with another language’s culture is somehow sounds impossible, due to the differences that exist in both Arabic and English culture.

Fears of negative impacts of Culture on one’s national identity

Much has been written on globalization and the sort of reactions it arouses in different people. Some regard it as an insidious way of penetration into cultures. Thus, adopt a hostile attitude. Others see it as an inescapable reality of modern times. The following studies illustrate the effects of globalization in the area of English Language -Language Teaching: A Turkish Perspective, looked at the effects of globalization in the area of English language teaching with specific reference to Turkey. It explores Teaching (ELT).

Rana Yıldırım and Zuhal Okan in their study under the title: Question of Global English the possible impact of the English language on the Turkish culture. In order to gain insights into the above mentioned issue in Turkish context, The researchers used a questionnaire with ten open-ended questions has elicited teacher trainers’ perspectives working at ELT Departments of 12 different universities in Turkey. Additionally, 10 teacher trainers at Çukurova University have been interviewed. The paper presents the data together with pedagogical, ethical and methodological considerations that are suggested with reference to Turkish context.

A great majority of the participants (73%) think that English has no positive influence on the Turkish culture and another vast majority (71%) is of the opinion that English does not have any positive impact on the Turkish language.

The participants also emphasized in the interviews on the negative influence of English on the Turkish language and culture in a sense that in 20 years or so, Turkish words will be replaced with the English ones. This is how target culture penetrates into Turkish culture. “This is what the authors term as cultural imperialism.”

On my side, I think that the impact does not necessarily have to be only and always negative on Turkish, because I see it as an issue of diversity. One language can contribute to another by introducing new concepts and vice versa. This is known as mutual borrowings among languages.

Anita Dewi, in his M.Ed. thesis at Monash University under the title: Shifts in

NNESTs’ Professional Identity: An Impact of Language and Culture Immersion,

explores the shift in professional identity of Indonesian English as a Foreign Language (EFL) educators currently studying at Monash University, particularly the influence of English language and cultural immersion on how these people perceive themselves prior to returning to Indonesia. Specifically, this study examines the identity formation of NNESTs; what professional identities Indonesian EFL educators bring with them, the identity changes during the period of their studies at Monash University; whether there is a professional identity shift happening for these people within the time range of arriving in, staying in and leaving Australia, and its influences on identity transformation. 

The study revealed the wide and the constant coverage of possible change on Indonesian educators’ professional identity through out the research. Although the thesis is partially concerned with the theme of culture (sense identity is a component of the culture), However, by the end of the study, This may have a similar implications and assumptins to that of the previous Turkish example (possible negative drawbacks of target culture on Indonesian identity or vice versa). In both results, I would hold the belief that the conclusion will participate in the enhancement of English language teaching methodology.

Culture is not Apriority

Some researchers have went far to believe in the insignificance of Culture. This can be clarified through the questions that Peter Dash’s raise in his essay Culture Rejected as an Individual Difference in the SLA Process: Not significant, separate and appropriate, overall -nor for Northeast Asia. Whether culture needs to be considered as a significant and/or separate individual difference factor in SLA. The author argued that the impact of culture on SLA, too often, is not so readily identifiable, or of priority significance for the specific impact it has on individual students. Rather, a more established approach should better serve the teaching professional, than one which gives unnecessary separation and significance to a “culturalfactor”.

The writer further referred to the work of a number of scholars (McNamara 1973, Genesee and Hamayan, 1980) who concluded that most children have neither a positive nor negative attitude to the target language or the people who speak it. Justifying that an individual may succeed in learning (or not), irrespective of social conditions which would seem to include cultural ones at times. The author went to say in his essay that certain cultural influences should be analyzed as to whether they really are affecting in a significant way an individual given learner’s processes of SLA. For supporting his position, Peter Dash presented many views of scholars such as Krashen, who does not refer to culture as being front and center in lowering the affective state of an individual learner. Unesco, 1982 was also reducing the importance of cultural differences as a significant factor in SLA-at least in a variety of settings and conditions. (Dash, 2001; Dash 1999) limited the culture to be “facile platitudes”, denoting to cultural differences which (as they commented) may mask more practical and important affective factors relating to non-cultural differences such as degree of difficulty of pronunciation and syntax of the L2 versus the L1.

Moreover, Mingsheng Li’s essay: Culture and Classroom Communication: A Case Study of Asian Students in New Zealand Language Schools supports the previous study, because the paper has reported findings of a qualitative study conducted from December 2002 to March 2003 at two New Zealand English

language schools. Forty Asian students participated in the survey. The study revealed that, in spite of the positive learning experiences in the schools, there also existed a significant mismatch with Asian students’ learning expectations. The recurring themes that reflect Asian students’ negative perceptions and experiences related to issues of teacher competence, teacher quality, teaching approaches, course content and learning materials. It was found that the interactive teaching methods adopted by New Zealand teachers are culturally incompatible with Asian students’ learning conceptualization. The findings suggest that some teachers’ adoption of the communicative or interactive teaching approach led to Asian students’ negative learning experience in New Zealand. The paper recommends that New Zealand teachers has to develop three sets of interrelated skills in order to cope with the complex ESOL teaching situations, and to ensure quality teaching: linguistic skills, pedagogical skills and intercultural communication skills.

In the two former studies above, culture is viewed as unimportant particularly in the Asian Example. However, I believe that the authors of these works have over generalized their result to include other Asian countries, such as Malaysia and India, who highly succeeded in solving the problem in terms of intercultural prospect.

Culture as a means of respect towards other cultures

Intercultural language learning has become an important focus of modern language education, a shift that reflects greater awareness of the inseparability of language and culture, and the need to prepare language learners for intercultural communication in an increasingly multicultural world.

Prof. Reima Sado Al-Jarf in her paper :Cross-cultural Communication: Saudi, Ukrainian, and Russian Students Online described the participation of a number of foreign language teachers from different countries (Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Russia ) and their undergraduate students, who are also included in the online project intended to educate students about the intercultural issues. Another goal was allowing students to interact and communicate with each other irrespective of their various backgrounds and culture. The essay presented a number of earlier studies that employed the online activities’ technique and the analysis and statistics of students output . Most of these studies have reached positive conclusions, with the exception to only few studies of which negative result was achieved. Finally, the author Prof. Reima Sado Al-Jarf concluded that students have developed a positive attitude towards other cultures and learnt to accept and respect differences in points of views, beliefs, and traditions.

Si Thang Kiet Ho Addressing Culture in EFL Classrooms: The Challenge of Shifting from a Traditional to an Intercultural Stance reports on an on-going study into the presence and status of cultural content in tertiary EFL teaching in Vietnam and the effect of intercultural language learning on learners’ EFL learning.

In the paper, the writer critically analyzes the underlying assumptions about culture in two traditional EFL textbook units currently used in a Vietnamese university. The cultural components of the units will then be proposed using a set of standards for intercultural language learning drawn from the literature. The proposed cultural components aim at raising learners’ cultural awareness and engaging them cognitively, behaviorally and affectively in culture learning. The approach may be implemented in any language courses and is appropriate for the study of any target culture. 

Culture/Language Interrelation

In an unpublished master degree thesis written by Aisha Mohammed Ramadan (2007) under the title, Bridging the cultural Gap: A study of Teaching Selected English Literary Texts to Secondary School Students. Aisha intended to explain and examine the role of such literary texts in increasing the students’ knowledge of the target culture. The researcher dedicated the third chapter of her thesis to discuss culture, literature, and language teaching.

Borrowing Cem and Margaret’s(1984:17)claim on culture, Aisha wrote: A language cannot be used if it is emptied of its cultural content in teaching English while, for example, referring to culture of the student would be useless.

The findings of the research revealed that literary texts have a crucial role to play in bridging the gap between students own culture and the target one. In addition, this study approved to some extent that both language acquisition and cultural awareness can be achieved by providing learner with a non- threatening, meaningful, and stimulating experience of literature and by guiding learner’s exploration of the language and culture of the text.

Aisha’s suggestion was that language teachers themselves must be aware of the cultural items in order to be able to interpret them for their students. Teachers who for a variety of reasons don’t read widely and deeply, are unaware of the cultural behaviors. Therefore, they constitute a serious problem which needed to be solved. Understanding the cultural items and values and presenting them to students is an absolute requirement for the teacher. without this understanding, cultural explanation is impossible. The writer was influenced by Brook’s words(1964:123) who claimed that:

As a language teachers we must be interested in the study of culture….not because we necessarily want to teach culture of the other country but because we have to teach it. If we teach language without teaching at the same time the culture in which operates, we are teaching meaningless symbols to which the students attaches the wrong meaning.

The study under the title CULTURAL PROBLEMS OF TURKISH STUDENTS WHILE LEARNING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE done by Genç Ä°lter Cem and Oktay Güzeller has attempted to help teachers understand and solve their students’ cultural problems in the classroom. It also aimed at examining the students’ ideas about the cultural differences.

Although the author looked at culture from the angle of motivating and keeping students interested in the classroom, however, culture also provides students with useful models of authentic use of the language in the classroom too. The writer rests his argument on the views of many writers such as Adaskou et al 1990, Widdowson 1990, Ellis 1990, and Jiang 2000. In an attempt to introduce the term ‘culture’, the author was highly influenced by Adaskou et al 1990 who sums up culture as composed of literature, music, fine arts, films and plays. Moreover, culture shows the life style in the target community. Thus, culture must be taught while teaching a target language. If languages are taught without their cultures, students are only the strangers who aren’t familiar with the target languages.

The writer gained the support from Mr. Widdowson’s 1990 claims that, while a child on one hand acquires the semantic and syntactic systems together with his cultural knowledge, the student on the other hand while learning a foreign language, tends to acquire the language code of another community.

The idea that a child acquires his native language together with its culture, indicated that language can not be taught without cultural background.

Ellis 1990 states that students who are interested in the social and cultural life of the native country can learn a foreign language better than the other students,

therefore students should be given support which will enable them to acquire the

necessary cultural knowledge.

Jiang 2000 implies that it is impossible to teach the target language without

teaching the target culture. The students can be exposed to an empty frame of

language if they don’t learn cultural aspects of the target country.

According to Chastain 1988 teaching culture in EFL classrooms has got a

crucial role of the course. It is a well-known fact that language teaching and culture

are bound and during international communications students require social and

cultural awareness.

In conclusion, it can be inferred that the students from different high schools in

Turkey have a tendency of learning different cultures by learning the target

language. However, they believe that the course books used in EFL classrooms aim

at teaching only the target language’s culture. The result appears to be very

important because it shows that the students wanted to see some cultural values of

Turkish people in their course books. Turkish students are conscious enough of the

language teaching methods and they know that culture and language learning

cannot be separated. Hence, English cannot be taught without British/American


Necessity for culture teaching in foreign language classrooms

This part of the literature review comprises the views of whom I am highly influenced. In this part, many researchers all over the world felt the necessity of shifting from old teaching methodologies that were very often based on pure linguistic information, to the new teaching methods that call for the necessity of teaching and stressing the culture in foreign language classrooms.

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In his essay, PRESENTATION OF CULTURE IN ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE (EFL) READING TEXTBOOKS IN JAPAN, Yasue Oguro states that In order to improve teaching culture, materials have been examined and revised. The purpose of his exploratory study is to describe how culture is addressed in the fourteen high school EFL reading textbooks in Japan, that were approved by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) at the time of this study.

In previous studies on EFL textbooks in Japan by Kitao (1979, 1988) and Iwata, Ogawa, Wen, Sakamoto, Takarada, Horio, Muto, and Mogi (2001) among others, the findings included the cultural elements categorized by various criteria in addition to the unnatural use of the English language that are edited for grammatical correctness, and the lack of elements that are usually present in the natural course of conversations or in the authentic passages. This led to the necessity of the readers’ own cultural knowledge (C1) should be activated in understanding the culture of others (C2), comparing and contrasting C1 and C2 so that the differences and similarities will be more evident. The results showed that the reading passages were edited mostly by deleting and altering portions of the originals, and thus the culture was not present as in the original passages, and pre-reading and post-reading activities/questions were literal and not designed to foster cultural understanding. So, in both earlier and current studies, I believe that the target culture should be introduced to students in its correct original form, and apart from comparing/contrasting (C1 and C2) in order to serve its purpose, which is communicating in the target language appropriately instead of confusing students of similarities and differences in both cultures.

Moreover, From the essay written by Zhang Xue-wei, Yan Ying- Culture Influences on English Language Teaching, It’s obvious that the teaching methodology used in English Language Teaching in China needs to be changed to involve culture instead of language knowledge only. The authors further explain the importance of culture teaching through explaining teachers’ need to know to what extent cultural background knowledge influences language learning and teaching, and how teachers can take advantage of that influence. To account for the roles culture plays in language learning and teaching, the writers exhibit the necessity to demonstrate the functions that the culture may perform in the components of language learning and teaching, such as listening, speaking, reading, and translating.

Therefore, the writers reached the conclusion that language teaching is indeed culture teaching. The authors were highly influenced by the view of the writers’ Samovar, Porter, & Jain, 1981: 24 who hold the belief that ”Culture and communication are inseparable because culture not only dictates who talks to whom, about what, and how the communication proceeds, it also helps to determine how people encode messages, the meanings they have for messages, and the conditions and circumstances under which various messages may or may not be sent, noticed, or interpreted. Culture is the foundation of communication. ”

Again, the Chinese experiment exhibits the need for culture to be present in the process of language teaching/learning process, because as it is mentioned above that: “culture and communication are inseparable”.

Another Japanese study by the authors Yuko Iwai and Miguel Mantero under the title: Reframing English Language Education in Japan tried to explore how English Education in Japan should be planned and performed from the sociocultural perspective, based on the belief that mediation plays a significant role for human development and learning. Unlike the teaching styles in the past were they represented in teacher-centered styles.

The traditional purpose of English curriculum in Japan was to train students to read and write English, relying on grammatical analysis and translation to and from Japanese. To achieve this, students practiced a lot of drills and repetitions so that they could get accustomed to grammar. As for teacher quality, a high level of English proficient was not necessarily required. Teachers needed to have basic grammar knowledge of English.

Although there were some improvements educational system in Japan, due to the efforts of MEXT in taking the advantages of applying the sociocultural theory , however, several challenges emerged before a true sociocultural perspective can be fully implemented in Japan. Such as grammar focused teaching style is still popular, students still do a lot of drills, repetitions, and memorization of idioms and vocabulary. Moreover, teacher-centered instruction still dominates. Unfortunately, the actual main purpose of learning English for students is still to pass entrance examinations. Last, most English teachers do not really understand the real purposes of English Education and the content of the new course of study. The study was ended in the conclusion that, in order to help teachers and schools reach the goals established by MEXT, five major issues must be addressed.

First of all, English teachers should be aware of purposes of English teaching by MEXT and communicate with their colleagues to develop their teaching approaches toward the ideal goals of English teaching. Second, teachers must teach students how to learn and think independently so that they can extend their abilities later. Third, it is essential for language learners to become motivated. Last, the cultural perspective should be emphasized for English teaching. Facilitating cultural awareness is essential, to be a global person and have wider view of the world, culture has to play be an integral role of the language classroom.

Yahya Karrat’s article: Infusing culture with language teaching , For today’s foreign language instructor, competence in a foreign language involves both linguistic mastery and an understanding of the values and traditions of the people who speak that language. An important emphasis in foreign language instruction should be in gearing the student to become aware of the cultural norms and behavioral patterns of that language. Moreover, sociolinguistic studies have made it clear that languages differ immensely in their patterns and norms in social interaction. Foreign language students must learn that the people of other cultures react to the realities of life in many different ways. Because they often have little or no exposure to the cultural patterns and beliefs of the language they are learning, they are inclined to make premature value judgments about the speakers of that language. They, like most learners throughout the world, may assume, quite innocently, that their own cultural patterns are right, while the practices of others are acceptable only to a degree.

Every culture imprints a value system on its members. Many students, therefore, react with bewilderment and intolerance to a set of values different from their own. Languages cannot also be translated word-for-word; referential meaning of an utterance is often different from its underlying meaning. As people converse, their interactions are based on their needs to create certain relationships and make connections with one another. However, when the conversation is between people of different cultures, many things can go wrong. Although both parties have the best of intentions, they may perceive one another as unfriendly. They are not aware that they are operating on different sets of rules for communication. The teaching of foreign language words and utterances isolated from their sociocultural contents may lead to the production of linguistic curiosities which do not achieve their communicative purposes. Language is not only a means of communicating information. It is also a means of establishing and maintaining relationships with other people. If we teach a foreign language without introducing, at the same time, the culture in which that language operates, we are merely conveying words – to which the student might attach the wrong meaning. Unless students understand the underlying cultural implications of a statement, they will attach their own cultural meaning to the statement.

In his PhD dissertation entitled: Developing Cultural Awareness In Foreign Language Teaching, Ismail Cakir a citizen of Turkey, stresses the important place that culture has taken in foreign language teaching and learning and aimed at providing the necessary cultural information for both foreign language teachers and learners. believing that through this process, students can establish a good connection with the target language and its culture. The writer’s view centers on the conclusion that he achieved which is ” pure information is useful, but does not necessarily lead learners’ insight; whereas the development of people’s cultural awareness leads them to more critical thinking.” His justifications were based on the case of the students who frequently know the rules of language, but are not always able to use the language adequately as it requires because they are not knowledgeable enough about the target culture. This balance between the pure information(as the author termed) and the target culture in my view is so logical and necessary. Both pure information and cultural knowledge should be employed together for a better result on the students side. Furthermore, this necessity will be approved later by the majority of the scholars of this field.

The thesis : Language and Culture by Dimitrios Thanasoulas,is concerned with the contribution and incorporation of the teaching of culture into the foreign language classroom. More specifically, some consideration will be given to the why and how of teaching culture. It will be demonstrated that teaching a foreign language is not tantamount to giving a homily on syntactic structures or learning new vocabulary and expressions, but mainly incorporates, or should incorporate, some cultural elements, which are intertwined with language itself. Furthermore, an attempt will be made to incorporate culture into the classroom by means of considering some techniques and methods currently used. The main premise of the paper is that effective communication is more than a matter of language proficiency and that, apart from enhancing and enriching communicative competence, cultural competence can also lead to empathy and respect toward different cultures as well as promote objectivity and cultural perspicacity.


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