The Purpose of Intercultural Learning. Teaching about British Culture in the English Foreign Language Classroom


Term Paper, 2010
14 Pages, Grade: 13

Excerpt

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 What is Culture and How Does It Connect to Language?

3 The Development and Relevance of Intercultural Learning in the English Foreign Language Classroom

4 How to Approach (Inter-) Cultural Learning with Focus on British Culture?

5 Conclusion

Bibliography

1 Introduction

When it comes to the English foreign language classroom, often people’s first associations are grammar rules or learning vocabulary. In fact, it needs much more to learn a language and be able to use it properly, than just achieving grammatical skills and knowledge in terms of vocabulary. In order to internalize and successfully apply English as a foreign language in spoken and written code, it will not suffice to merely learn about syntax, lexis, phonology and other features that structure the language. The learner should also be aware of the specific cultural background, which speakers of the English language have. Cultural awareness is necessary in order to show etiquette and avoid misunderstandings in intercultural communication. Thus, intercultural communicative competence is a quality, which helps speakers of English as a foreign language to successfully communicate with native speaker. English - as much as any other language - has developed over centuries and was shaped by culture. Therefore, intercultural learning plays an important role in foreign language learning and should be systematically integrated in the English foreign language classroom.

As a matter of fact, English has become the official language of many nations worldwide and every nation developed its own history and culture, there are many cultures involved when it comes to learning about English culture. Since the English language originates from Britain, this term paper will focus on approaching British culture in the English foreign language classroom and its necessity for the development of an intercultural communicative competence.

The term paper will commence by giving a definition of culture and what it has to do with language in general. In the next step, it examines the purpose and development of intercultural learning in the foreign language classroom. Finally, this term paper gives an overview of how intercultural learning can be approached. It works as a guide for teachers and offers practical examples for the English foreign language classroom with focus on British culture.

2 What is Culture and How Does It Connect to Language?

The term culture is frequently used when debated about essentials of foreign language learning. Before the purpose of intercultural learning in the foreign language classroom can be analysed and understood, a definition of culture and a discourse on the connection between language and culture is indispensable. As a fact, there are a variety of different definitions of culture, which try to define the term as precise as possible. The British anthropologist Sir E. B. Tylor defines culture as following:

"Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”[1]

Tylor’s definition makes clear that culture is a construct, which affects social life in every facet. A similar approach defines culture as a "way of life”[2], which includes certain customs, religious beliefs, rituals etc.. Culture can be either perceived in material manifestations or in non-material ones. The iceberg- model illustrates this phenomenon to the point.[3] A small part of a culture is visible on the surface for everybody, while the biggest part of it remains hidden under the surface for most people. Furthermore, culture never remains static but underlies a process of constant formation and change.[4] This change effects from communication between individuals.[5] Today, it is commonly agreed on that there is a reciprocal influence between culture and language. From a constructivist perspective language can be seen as a part of culture because it is used to describe and explain the world. Language is also coined by culture, since every individual uses language to describe his or her environment.[6] Therefore, culture determines how individuals encode messages in respective situations.[7]

From the point of view of foreign language acquisition pedagogy, culture can be defined in two different ways. On the one hand, culture - as heterogeneous structure - can be distinguished and compared in regard to national borders. This definition makes it easy for teachers to describe and explain the differences between cultures, but does not consider the diversity and complexity of a culture.[8] On the other hand, culture can be seen as a dimension in interaction between individuals, which is characterized by dynamic and convertibility. In this definition, culture is something highly elusive and hard to differentiate. This approach opens a new door to foreign language acquisition pedagogy: since humans, who communicate with people of another culture stand in between two cultures, a new culture is created.[9] Unfortunately, this definition of culture is harder to convey in the classroom, than the first one and may create confusion among pupils who have not yet achieved intercultural communication competences.[10] The reasons why culture is closely connected to language are manifold. First, language acquisition does not follow a universal pattern, but differs between cultures.[11] Second, the process of becoming a member of society and developing a habitus is realized via language exchange.[12] Third, the way children speak and utter meaning is already strongly influenced by the society they grow up in.[13] Furthermore, parents use language to convey sociocultural knowledge rather than grammatical rules.[14] As already explained in detail, culture influences language and vice versa. Since there is a reciprocal relationship between culture and language, this relationship is also of great importance for foreign language acquisition and it can be concluded, that "language teaching is culture teaching.”[15]

[...]


[1] Brunzel, Peggy (2001): Kulturbezogenes Lernen undInterkulturalität. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag. 15.

[2] ibid. 16.

[3] Amorim, Luis (2001): Intercultural Learning. A few awareness tips for US and European Fellows & Host Community Foundations. URL: http://www.efc.be/ftp/public/cpi/TCFF%20 Intercultural%20 Learning.pdf (30.07.2010, 6.12pm).

[4] Lessard-Clouston, M. (1997): Towards an Understanding of Culture in L2/FL education, Internet TESL Journal. URL: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Lessard-Clouston-Culture.html (01.08.2010, 9:41am)

[5] Brunzel, Peggy (2001): Kulturbezogenes Lernen und Interkulturalität. Tübingen: Gunter
Narr Verlag. 18.

[6] ibid.

[7] Lessard-Clouston, M. (1997): Towards an Understanding of Culture in L2/FL education, Internet TESL Journal. URL: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Lessard-Clouston-Culture.html (01.08.2010, 9:41am)

[8] Brunzel, Peggy (2001): Kulturbezogenes Lernen undInterkulturalität. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag. 23.

[9] ibid. 23f.

[10] ibid. 24f

[11] Lessard-Clouston, M. (1997): Towards an Understanding of Culture in L2/FL education, Internet TESL Journal. URL: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Lessard-Clouston-Culture.html (01.08.2010, 9:41am)

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

Excerpt out of 14 pages

Details

Title
The Purpose of Intercultural Learning. Teaching about British Culture in the English Foreign Language Classroom
College
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen  (Anglistik)
Course
Seminar: Teaching about Britain in the Foreign Language Classroom
Grade
13
Author
Year
2010
Pages
14
Catalog Number
V213785
ISBN (eBook)
9783656426202
ISBN (Book)
9783656434160
File size
676 KB
Language
English
Tags
purpose, intercultural, learning, teaching, british, culture, english, foreign, language, classroom
Quote paper
Nils Hübinger (Author), 2010, The Purpose of Intercultural Learning. Teaching about British Culture in the English Foreign Language Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/213785

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