Hamad S. Aldosari, Ph.D.Associate ProfessorHead, English DepartmentCollege of Languages & TranslationKing Khalid University
What is culture?Culture means to gain extensive knowledge of a particular communityof people living in a particular area of land.The big-C genre of culture is usually easy to explore, as it constitutesall the factual knowledge about fine arts in a particular humancommunity such as literature, music, dance, painting, sculpture,theater, and film. The small-c culture, on the other hand, comprises awide variety of aspects, many of which are inter-connected, includingattitudes, assumptions, beliefs, perceptions, norms and values, socialrelationships, customs, celebrations, rituals, politeness conventions,patterns of interaction and discourse organization, the use of time incommunication, and the use of physical space and body language.
Culture & LanguageIncorporating target culture knowledge in EFLlearning and teaching is essential in thesecond/foreign language classroom in generalbecause language, as Willems (1998) pointed out,maintains culture and culture produces language.Integrating culture in the language classroomthrough teaching English literature can beunderstood as important and necessary.
The present studyThis study aims at identifying the impediments thathinder culture teaching as embedded in the teaching ofEnglish literature to EFL students in Saudi Arabianuniversities as perceived by a sample of teachers andstudents. Therefore, the problem object of the study canbe expressed in the following research question:What are the attitudes of faculty and students in theEnglish Department of the College of Languages andTranslation, King Khalid University (KKU), Abha, towardsculture-embedded literature teaching?
Research MethodThe method of research deemed appropriate for this study was thedescriptive method, using a questionnaire.In order to explore the perceptions of and attitudes towards culture inthe classroom and the teaching of English literature, as perceived bylanguage instructors and students in the English department, College ofLanguages and Translation, King Khalid University, a questionnaire (intwo formats, one for teachers and the other adapted for students) wasdesigned to elicit instructors and students’ views on three major aspectsidentified in relevant literature: (1) feelings about both the importance ofteaching culture and literature in EFL classrooms; (2) perceptions aboutculture in the current literature curriculum; and (3) inhibitors andimpediments to EFL literature teaching in Saudi universities.
FindingsFirst, teachers indicated that novels, short stories,and drama are the major genres of creative writingthat can best depict a particular culture in a givenlanguage; as such, informants, from amongstteachers, indicated that these genres have to beextensively included in the English literaturecomponent of the BA programme in the college.
Findings ….Students indicated that novels and stories areextensively loaded with culture, and they oughtto study many of these courses across thelanguage curriculum, in lieu of the intensive skillscourses they are immersed in.
Findings …Given that teachers and students believe that culture shouldbe there in the EFL curriculum, still they all believed thatenough culture was taught in the language curriculum andthe current literature curriculum is not adequate to provide anappropriately balanced quantity of culture learning; theyindicated that even some of the literature courses have beentuned to address Islamic topics, such a course titled Islam inWorld Literature, which cannot be claimed as teaching theEnglish culture.
Findings …Nearly half the informants do not agree that the barriers cited are deemed inhibitiveimpediments except for item 12, addressing availability of material and teaching technology,such as video and audio clips. They think so because (1) some courses do not give them theopportunity to use drama video clips for introducing the target culture to the students inattractive formats, (2) literary texts available cannot be integrated with audio-video materialeasily due to time constraints in the classroom as well as lack of lab facilities, (3) teachers donot incorporate video clips available with these courses due to native cultural barriers,mostly associated with religious or socio-religious factors; and, finally, (4) the literaturecourse instructors do not provide their students with supplementary material (e.g. texts,graphics, advance organisers, audio, video, etc.) that integrate culture and literaturelearning.
Findings …In addition, informants perceived the following factors as inhibitors and impediments tointegrating culture within English literature teaching in KKU in the following order according tothe perceptions of the informants as determined by Chi2 and weighted percents:• lack of enough native-language speakers on the teaching staff;• lack of time and adequate material covering overt and covert cultural aspects within literary texts;• socio-cultural and religious factors;• lack of teaching technology enabling culture learning in classrooms.
Conclusions …It can be concluded that EFL instructors and students in SaudiArabia already recognize the important role that literature canplay in culture learning in EFL classes. Identifying the importanceof literature in the conveyance of culture is commensurate withprior research which can be implicitly or directly can be used toacculturate EFL learners into the English language culturre.
RecommendationsEFL instructors need to integrate cultural information as partof their language teaching, since it appears to be introducedmore randomly than other aspects of their teaching. Thereason is that there is no overt, explicit courses in developingcultural awareness in the EFL programme in ELT colleges,except for a language awareness course, which taps intocultural technical terminology without delving deep beyondthe introduction of cultural terms.
Suggested research in culture teaching requires that more adapted researchon large-sized samples be conducted. Both non -native English-speakinginstructors and ESL instructors may express different views about theteaching of culture which could prove useful for either model -building ortextbook authors and publishers, which requires an orientation towardsreconsidering the TEFL course-texts available in Saudi Arabia. Thus,teachers by using literature teaching derived from the different varieties ofEnglish (e.g., American, British, Australian, New Zealandish, South African,etc.) within language learning curriculum more than it is being used willlead EFL students to understand more effectively the representations of thedifferent English cultures to be found in these varied literary texts, and willinduce them to achieve higher levels of multicultural literacy, which makesthem more effective intercultural communicators.Further research is also required to verify whether there is a direct nexusbetween openness to cultural and linguistic patterns and the ability to learna second or foreign language. Such a link could take on special significanceat a time when the nature of intercultural competence is receivingwidespread international attention.