Promoting Target Culture In Teaching English

Abstract

Learning another language involves more than learning the literal meaning of the words and expression. One needs to know what these words and expressions mean in the cultural context in which they are normally used. Hence, the goal of language teaching at any levels should be enhancing students’ communication skill in the target language within the target culture respectively. It applies also in teaching English. The teaching of English should involve not only teaching new vocabulary and expression but also link to the culture of native English-speaking countries. In language teaching, culture plays linguistic and pedagogical roles. Linguistic dimension of culture involves semantic and pragmatic level and pedagogical aspect deals with teaching materials and methods.

Key words: target culture, language teaching, communicative competence

1. Rationale
Language is part of culture. So, the goal of language teaching should be enhancing students’ effective communication skill in the target language, appropriate in target culture respectively. Learning another language involves more than learning the literal meaning of the words and expression. One needs to know what these words and expressions mean in the cultural context in which they are normally used. It involves some understanding of the cultural and social norms of their uses (Holmes, 2001). Type may be the same but not the tokens. Widdowson (1990) states that understanding what people mean by what they say is not the same as understanding the linguistic expressions they use in saying it.

It applies also in teaching English. The teaching of English should involve not only teaching new vocabulary and expression but also link to the culture of native English-speaking countries. Grammatical competence has to be complemented by understanding of culture-specific meaning (Byram, Morgan et al 1994 in Thanasoulas 2001). Cultural mores or “good” behavior in the students’ culture may be different to those in English-speaking countries. It is common in Indonesia to break the ice between strangers by asking personal information as name, address, etc. Yet, people will consider us odd if we do such thing in England or America.

2. Literature Review: Culture in English Language Teaching

2.1. The role of culture in English language teaching

Culture plays a role in language teaching in two important ways. First, culture is significant in the linguistic dimension of the language itself. Second, culture is operative in a pedagogical sense in that choices need to be made regarding the cultural content of language materials.

Linguistic Dimension of Culture

On a semantic level, culture is embedded in many of the lexical phrases of English. One important choice that teachers need to make is what lexical phrases should be included in the curriculum. In reference to the pragmatic level, many current English textbooks devote attention to teaching appropriateness in language use. Some texts, for example, point out that, when receiving a compliment, learners of English should acknowledge and accept the compliment with a simple response, such as “thank you.” However, research in cross-cultural pragmatics has clearly demonstrated that there are vast differences in how various cultures enact a particular speech act. A similar situation occurs at the discourse level of language teaching. Research in contrastive rhetoric has demonstrated that there are differences in how various cultures develop particular genres, such as that used in a business letter or an argumentative essay.

Pedagogical Dimension of Culture

Culture also plays an important role in teaching materials and methods. Cortazzi and Jin (1999) in McKay (2003) distinguish three types of cultural information that can be used in language textbooks and materials:

  1. source culture materials, which draw on the learners’ own culture as content
  2. target culture materials, which use the culture of a country where English is spoken as an L1
  3. international target culture materials, which use a great variety of cultures in English- and non-English-speaking countries around the world

2.2. The goals of teaching culture in language teaching

Robinson-Stuart and Nocon (1996) in Brown (2001) state that learning a second language implies some degree of learning a second culture. They suggested that by doing so the learner should consider it as a way of perceiving, interpreting, feeling, and relating to where one is and who one meets. Thus, teaching culture in this context should come to the following goals:

  1. to help students to develop an understanding of the fact that people exhibit culturally-conditioned behavior
  2. to help students to develop an understanding that social variables such as age, sex, social class, and place of residence influence the ways in which people speak and behave
  3. to help students to become more aware of conventional behavior in common situations in target culture
  4. to stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity about the target culture

3. Conclusion

Teaching target culture (of English-speaking countries) needs to be considered when making the curriculum because politeness is culturally defined. It involves not just the language, but also the social and cultural values of the community. Being polite means being able to express a range of speech function in an appropriate way. Being polite in Indonesian way may not be appropriate in other countries.

4. References

Brown, H. Douglas. (2000). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

Byram, Morgan et al 1994 in Thanasoulas, Dimitrios. (2001). The Importance of Teaching Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom, in http://radicalpedagogy.icaap.org/content/issue3_3/-thanasoulas.html, 8 November 2006

Cortazzi and Jin (1999) in McKay, Sandra Lee. (2003). The Cultural Basis of Teaching English as an International Language. TESOL Matters Vol. 13 No. 4 in http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/sec_document.asp?CID=192&DID=1000, 10 November 2006

Holmes, Janet. (2001). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics.2nd Ed. Essex: Pearson Education Limited

Kramsch, Claire. (1996). The Cultural Component of Language Teaching, in http://www.spz.tu-darmstadt.de/projekt_ejournal/jg-01-2/beitrag/kramsch2.htm. 8 November 2006

McKay, Sandra Lee. (2003). The Cultural Basis of Teaching English as an International Language. TESOL Matters Vol. 13 No. 4 in http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/sec_document.asp?CID=192&DID=1000, 10 November 2006

Robinson-Stuart and Nocon (1996) in Brown, H. Douglas. (2000). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

Thanasoulas, Dimitrios. (2001). The Importance of Teaching Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom, in http://radicalpedagogy.icaap.org/content/issue3_3/-thanasoulas.html, 8 November 2006

Widdowson, H.G. (1990). Aspects of Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

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