Traditionally, language and culture are intricately related. However, the fundamental relationship between language and culture has not been effectively incorporated into the language learning materials. According to Gudykunst (2003), the explicit view of English as language without considering English culture in school curriculum could be the root cause of its failure. The present study aims to examine the relationship between language and culture with heightened emphasis on the English language. To a larger extent, the study will be based on the a critical review of three academic articles on the language and its social aspects.
The first article titled "How Native English Speakers Can Be Better English Teachers in Russia" was aimed at reviewing the Russian teaching culture and further provide a recommendation for effective English language teaching mechanism for native English speakers. The second article by Lin Zu titled A Study on the Approaches to Culture Introduction in English Textbooks expounds on the role of culture in furthering language proficiency through the promotion of cultural awareness. While the third article is titled An interview study of inter-cultural contact and its role in language learning in a foreign language environment by Judit Kormos and Kata Csizer. The objective of the study was to investigate the role of intercultural contact on the development of cultural attitudes towards specific language. It is intended that critical review of the aforementioned articles will provide insight into the nature and pivotal role of culture in learning language in classrooms.
How Native English Speakers Can Be Better English Teachers in Russia
In his article, Millrood raises alarm over the challenges facing teachers who are native English speakers in Russia. However, the author begins by highlighting the core successful factors that underpin Russias English teaching fraternity. According to Millrood (1999), the triangle of success includes language, techniques, and culture. The author, however, asserted that the cultural aspect of the Russian teaching community was below excellent. Having noted this aspect, the study was hypothesized to ascertain whether limited comprehension of the Russian culture was the reason for the dismal performance by native English teachers in the country (Millrood, 1999).
The study employed observational and interview methodologies where class lessons and interactions teacher-student interactions were examined. On the other hand, direct interviews were conducted to record the attitudes and opinion of teachers, students and parents. The study was limited to three provinces Tambov, Ryazan and Samara from 1995-1998 (Millrood, 1999). Millrood's article conspicuously lacked theoretical review of the state of English language in Russia. While the author explicitly identified the absence of cultural education as the reasons for failure of native English teachers, the study lacks the statistical backing of these claims and incorporation support from academic materials that support his claims (Trousdale, 2010). Additionally, the methodologies employed in the study also lacks statistical and empirical support. The authors only mention the broad nature of the data collection methodologies utilized, observation and interview, without outlining the specifics. These specifications could include how many students, teachers and parents were interviewed or observed? Which questions were included in the interview?
The better part of the article constituted of the findings and discussions. Based on the two methodologies that the study employed, the following aspects were outlined; organization of lessons in Russia, Russian learners expectation of teachers and Russian teachers professional beliefs. In his examination of the structure of the Russian lessons, Millrood (1999) noted that Russian lessons largely constitute of three phases, checking of homework, introduction of new material and the emphasis on the new material. It emerged that the learning process in the Russian schools was majorly teacher-centered as opposed to the most contemporary student focused approach. The Russian classroom was depicted as dominated by teacher who commences the lessons, asks questions and awards the marks at the end of each period. Furthermore, the learning system lacked effective communicative system. Students largely work on their own while the teachers stressed individual answers. This curriculum failed to introduce group based activities and, therefore, limited positive teacher-student interactions.
While it is evident that Russian teacher lacked effective pedagogical tools relating to the cultural aspect of language, the findings of the research on the Russians learners expectations also had far-reaching implications. Russian learners expected teachers to stringent in classrooms, readily assign higher scores, and translate teaching materials into Russian for ease of comprehension. These factors cumulative hinder cultural develop of students in grasping English as a second language. Vis a vis, Russian students could also be viewed as a hindrance to the progressive development of Russian curriculum by clinging to their native cultural practices and attitudes (Millrood, 1999). Closely related to the Russian learners expectations was the Russian teachers professional beliefs. The study found out that Russian teachers highly promoted teacher-centered classroom environment, restricted of students freedom of self-expression, emphasized home-based tasks and error intolerant. These factors strongly negate the principles of student-centered learning.
Having identified the cultural attitudes and practices of Russian teachers and students with regards to language development, Millrood (1999). went further and noted recommendations for the Russians English teaching community. The recommendation focused on the following, aiding English teachers develop appropriate cultural teachings skills, identification of general interest and streamlining of the Russian Education system. To develop Russian teachers, the study recommended teachers become agents of change, adopt modern teaching practices, introduce interactive learning and finally incorporate culture-based approaches in teaching. The recommendations succinctly recognized the limitations that had been identified in findings. In doing so, Millrood (1999). therefore adequately related his findings and discussion and deduced the most appropriate course of action for the Russian English teachers. Similarly, by listing the general interest of teachers, the study provided the frame for the development of effective teaching packages that could be employed by teachers to incorporate a cultural aspect of learning.
The research paper offered an exquisite perspective into the education system of the Russia. The contents clearly brought out the situation facing teachers who are native speakers of English. The structure of the paper was relatively impressive although not at par. While the paper constituted of majority of the elements of research papers such as the hypothesis, research question, methodology and discussion, it lacked the theoretical background and abstract. Consequently, the presentation of information lacked one essential element of scholarly studies, inclusion and referencing of outside sources. The majority of the information was presented as original texts without backing from other studies. All these shortcomings notwithstanding, the paper constituted an effective informative source for the Russian education system.
A Study on the Approaches to Culture Introduction in English Textbooks
In the article titled "A Study on the Approaches to Culture Introduction in English Textbooks" by Lin Zu, a probe is conducted to assess the nature and effectiveness of the approaches employed to introduction culture into language studies. In an attempt to deconstruct modern approaches embedded in English textbooks to incorporate English culture, the study focused on a Chinese-English textbook for secondary school level entitled Learning English. The study goes ahead to provide the comparison of the textbooks with previous edition of the same textbooks that lacked cultural dimensions of the English language. Zu and Kong (2009) began by providing an overview of culture and language. From their point of view, one cannot exist without the other. Metaphorically, language could be viewed as the flesh and culture as the blood. Zu and Kong (2009) further stressed that the inseparability of language and culture demands that teaching of foreign language include cultural incorporation. While exploring approaches to cultural inclusion into the English teaching materials, Zu and Kong (2009) narrowed down on the approaches depicted in Learning English could majorly be divided into direct and indirect introductions.
The study commenced with an elaborate theoretical review of contents relating language and culture. The credibility and professionalism of the Zu and Kong (2009) work was further underlined by inclusion of academic materials that relate to the subject matter. The authors commenced by providing an overview of intricate relationship between culture and language. The review comprehensively draw definition of the key terms and concepts from cited scholarly works that are appropriately cited. Having defined and elaborated the concept of language and culture, Zu and Kong (2009) went further to expound the inseparability of the two by use of metaphors and diagrammatical texts. These approaches clearly underlined the academic prowess of the author in presenting their thoughts and existing knowledge. However, one of the key limitation of text constituted the lack of precise methodological framework and statement of hypothesis (Putz, 1994). It is hence unclear to comprehend the core objective of the research without reading the entire study. The methodology entailed the use of secondary research methods through the examination of secondary English textbook although not explicitly stated. It appears that the review examined the contents of the book with regards to the creation of cultural awareness.
Findings and Discussions
The findings of the study were majorly drawn from the analysis of the English textbook, Learning English. While focusing on the cultural characteristics of learning English, the probe examined six cultural elements that were presented in the book. These included presentation of wide range of cultural topics, presence of culture-based activities, appropriate presentation of both native and foreign culture, reflection of emerging cultures, emphasize on everyday life and the use of authentic pictures (Zu and Kong, 2009). Indeed, the listed items highly propagated the transfer of culture knowledge from one community to another and therefore tacit grasp of delicate elements of language particular foreign one. Considering that the book under review was for the Chinese secondary, it often Chinese students excellent avenue into English culture concerning language. For instance, the book stressed the grandness of both the Chinese and English culture. It is quite riveting to capture how Zu and Kong (2009) managed to campaign for English culture while at the same time ensuring that analysis did not discriminate against the relevance of the native cultures. His depiction of the Chinese textbook portrays balanced criticism of subject matter without being carried away.
Consequently, it is in the findings that Zu and Kong (2009) outlined approach to cultural introduction in the Learning English. Based on the study, cultural introduction in the textbook occurs either directly or indirectly. Direct introduction of cultural elements to students happens either thro...
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