On Target Language Culture in English Language Teaching And Learning

减小字体 增大字体 作者:李 芸  来源:www.zhonghualunwen.com  发布时间:2010-02-09 10:38:57

  【Abstract】This paper presents some meditations on culture and language; culture and language teaching; target language culture and English language teaching and learning; target language culture and developing language skills. The aims are to highlight the importance of target language culture in English language teaching and learning; to advocate teaching language and culture simultaneously.
  【Key words】Culture Target language culture Language teaching Language skills
  【中图分类号】G642 【文献标识码】A 【文章编号】1674-4810(2009)12-0037-02
  
  
  1.Culture
  
  Kramsch regards culture as “1 Membership in a discourse community that shares a common social space and history, and a common system of standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating, and acting. 2 The discourse community itself. 3 The system of standards itself”(Kramsch, 2000b:127). In its broadest sense, “it includes a wide variety of constructs such as the mental habits, personal prejudices, moral values, social customs, artistic achievements, and aesthetic preferences of particular societies” (Kumaravadivelu, 2003:267).
  By the anthropologists’ thought, “it fit to distinguish between Culture with a capital C and culture with a small c. The former is a relatively societal construct referring to the general view of culture as creative endeavors such as theater, dance, music, literature, and art. The latter is a relatively personal construct referring to the patterns of behavior, values, and beliefs that guide the everyday life of an individual or a group of individuals with a cultural community” (Kumaravadivelu, 2003:267).
  
  2.Meditations on culture
  
  Different scholars and experts have got such different views on culture that culture has been defined in many ways by many scholars representing various discipline. As Kumaravadivelu argues, “culture is such a complicated concept that it does not lend itself to a single definition or a simple description”(Kumaravadivelu, 2003:267).But it is for me, from the perspective or special sphere of language teaching, a better definition for culture should be the combination of capital C and small c.
  Accordingly, culture is defined as a framework to our lives, something that affects our values, attitudes and behavior. As culture is so inclusive, it actually permeates every aspect of human life and predominantly influences people’s behavior including linguistic behavior. Therefore, culture is a wider system that completely includes language as a subsystem. Actually, linguistic competence is one variety of cultural competences, and speech behavior is one variety of social behavior. The relation of language to culture is that of part to whole.
  
  3.Culture and language
  
  It is extremely difficult to separate language and culture. On the one hand, language both expresses and embodies cultural reality. First of all, it expresses facts, ideas, or events, which represent similar world knowledge by its people, but also permeates people’s attitudes, beliefs, the way of thinking and viewing of the world. Besides, as a system of signs with their own cultural values, language may be viewed as a symbol of social identity. For instance, when we learn a new word, we tend to look for its meaning in the word itself. In addition to its dictionary meanings, the same word may stir up different associations in people. People are identified by using their language. In this sense, language symbolizes cultural reality.
     As Brown vividly describes the two as follows: “A language is a part of a culture and a culture is a part of a language; the two are intricately interwoven so that one cannot separate the two without losing the significance of either language or culture” (Brown, 2000:177). In this way, I can compare the relationship between culture and language to the relation of fish and water: language is fish; culture is water. Without water fish would be dead. Similarly, without culture, language would be meaningless; without language, culture would not be shaped.
  
  4.Culture and language teaching
  
  Language is a social phenomenon and a tool of communication, which was conventionalized in the long history of social practice inasmuch as language learning is not an isolated process. Every language is used by its people to express themselves in spoken and written forms in communication. Meanwhile, a people’s language is always closely-related to its religion, history, culture and social background. Culture and language are inseparable as language is deeply rooted in culture. Language and culture are closely linked to each other. Language knowledge is a part of cultural knowledge.
  Therefore, learning a foreign language enables you to learn its culture and in turn, learning about a new culture enables you to have a deep understanding of its language. Kramsch indicates that second and foreign language learners necessarily become learners of the second culture because a language can’t be learned without an understanding of the second cultural context in which it is used (Kramsch, 2000a). As an example, when I say lunch in the UK, my classmates who have western culture backgrounds may be referring to hamburger or pizza but my Chinese classmates may be referring to streamed bread or rice. It follows that special attention should be paid to the teaching of the target language’s culture.

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作者:李 芸
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