Sociocultural Factors in Language Teaching and Learning


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Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. H. Douglas Brown

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Sociocultural Factors in Language Teaching and Learning

  2. 2. CultureLarson and Smally (1972: 39) describedculture as a ‘blueprint’ that guides thebehaviour of people in a community and is incubatedin family life. It governs our behaviour ingroups, makes us sensitive to matters of status, andhelps us know what others expect of us and what willhappen if we do not live up to their expectations.Culture helps us to know how far we can go asindividuals and what our responsibility is to the group.
  3. 3.  Culture might also be defined as theideas, customs, skills, arts, and tools thatcharacterizes a given people in a given period oftime. Culture is more than that… ‘it is a system ofintegrated patterns , most of which remain belowthe threshold of consciousness, yet all of whichgovern human behaviour just as surely as themanipulated strings of a puppet controls itsmotion’ (Candon 1973: 4)
  4. 4.  Culture establishes for each person a context ofcognitive and affective behaviour, a template forpersonal and social existence. People perceive reality in within the context oftheir own culture, a reality that they have creatednot necessarily a reality that is empiricallydefined.
  5. 5. From stereotype to generalization Mark Twain: “French always tangle up everything tothat degree that when you start into a sentence younever know whether you are going to come out alive ornot” German is the most difficult language: “a gifted personought to learn English in 30 hours, French in 30days, and German in 30 years”. Thus, he calls forreforming German: “if it is to remain, it ought to be gently and reverentlyset aside among the dead languages, for only the deadhave time to learn it”.
  6. 6. Stereotype! Our cultural milieu shapes our world view… reality isthought to be objectively perceived through our owncultural pattern, and a different perception is seen aseither “false", or ”strange”. If people recognize and understand differing worldviews , they will usually adopt a positive and open-minded attitude toward cross-cultural differences.
  7. 7. Attitudes Stereotyping usually implies some type of attitudetoward the culture or language in question. “The Chinese language is monosyllabic anduniflectional…with a language so incapable ofvariation, a literature cannot be produced whichpossesses the qualities we look for and admire inliterary works. Elegance , variety, beauty ofimagery- these must all be lacking. A monotonousand wearisome language must give rise to a forcedand formal literature lacking in originality..” (Newstandard Encyclopedia)
  8. 8. Such biased attitude is based oninsufficient knowledge , misinformedstereotyping.Attitudes like all aspects of cognitivedevelopment, develop in earlychildhood and are a result of parents’and peers’ attitudes , of contacts withpeople from different life styles.
  9. 9.  Gardner and Lambert (1972)… motivation is a constructmade up of certain attitudes… Group specific The attitudes learners have toward the members of thecultural group whose language they are learning. For Gardner & Lambert, an English-speaking Canadian’spositive attitude toward French Canadians- a desire tounderstand them and to empathize with them –willlead to an integrative orientation to learn French.
  10. 10. Second culture acquisition Most learners of a second language learn thelanguage with very little sense of the culture of itsspeakers. A foreign language course should present culture as alist of facts to be cognitively consumed. Nocon (1996): language learners undergo culturelearning as a “process, that is, as a way ofperceiving, interpreting, feeling, being in the world, …and relating to where one is and who one meets”
  11. 11. Acculturation! Second language learning involves the acquisition of asecond identity. Creation of a new identity is in the very heart ofculture learning, Acculturation. Sometimes learners experience culture shock. Cultureshock refers to phenomena ranging from mildirritability to deep psychological panic and crisis. Culture shock is associated with feelings ofestrangement, anger, hostility, indecision, frustration,unhappiness, sadness, loneliness, homesickness andeven physical illness.
  12. 12. Stages of culture shock1. Stage 1: is a period of excitement and euphoria over thenew environment2. Stage 2: -culture shock- emerges as individuals feel theintrusion of more cultural differences into their ownimages of self and security. (help of their fellowcountrymen in the second culture).3. Stage 3: gradual recovery.. Some problems are solvedwhile others remain. A general progress is made4. Stage 4: near or full recovery, either assimilation oradaptation, acceptance of the new culture and self-confidence in the “new” person that has developed in thisculture.
  13. 13. Social distance!Gives explanatory power to the place ofculture learning in second languagelearning.Social distance: the cognitive and affectiveproximity of two cultures that come incontact within an individual.Distance: used metaphorically to denotedissimilarity between two cultures.
  14. 14. John Schumsnn (1976)1. Dominance2. Integration: is the patternassimilation, acculturation, or preservation?What is the L2 group’s degree of enclosure-itsidentity separate from other contiguous groups?3. Cohesiveness. Is the L2 group cohesive? What isthe size of the L2 group?4. Congruence. Are the cultures of the two groupscongruent- similar in their system!5. Permanence. What is the L2 group’s intendedlength of residence in the target language area?
  15. 15. “bad”/”good” language learningsituation! Schumann use good/bad learners to describe the learninglanguage situations.1. TL group views L2 group as dominant, the L2 group viewsitself in the same way, both groups desire enclosure forthe L2 group, the L2 group is both cohesive and large, thetwo cultures are not congruent, the two groups holdnegative attitudes toward each other, and the L2 groupintends to stay in the target area for a short time2. The second bad situation has all the characteristics of thefirst except that in this case, the L2 group considers itselfsubordinate and is considered subordinate by the TLgroup.
  16. 16. Culture in the classroom Stevick (1976) learners can feel alienation in the process oflearning a second language , alienation from people in theirhome, culture, the target culture, and from themselves. In teaching an alien language we need to be sensitive to thefragility of students by using techniques that promote culturalunderstanding. Role-play (Donahu & parsons, 1982): helps students overcomecultural “fatigue”, promote the process of cross-culturaldialogue, provides opportunities for oral communication
  17. 17. Other techniques!ReadingsFilmsSimulation gamesCulture assimilatorsCulture CapsulesCulture games