Cross cultural awareness training should be part of any English language instruction (more so for adult language students) since culture teaches us what is appropriate to say and do. Culture provides a frame of reference and explains why things are done the way they are. There's a strong connection between language and culture. Helping English language learners see the connection can help them understand more clearly the meaning of language and help them to communicate more effectively. Is it really necessary? I think so. Just learning vocabulary and grammar isn't enough. Language students should be given opportunities (role-plays are good for this) to develop an understanding of the culture and the society in which the English language is used.
Culture involves simple things like knowing when to shake hands and making and maintaining eye contact when speaking. For example, North Americans shake hands when introducing and greeting each other and maintain eye contact when they are speaking to show that they are sincere. Eye contact in North America shows the person's willingness to relate to the other. When addressing persons we do not know, the person's last name and his or her title such as Mr., Mrs., or Dr. is used. Words such as 'please' and 'thank you' are used a lot in North American speech. In North America and many Western societies, the concept of self is revered and valued above all other mental concepts while in Asian societies, it is the very opposite, it's the group. Therefore, individuals do not hesitate to express their views and opinions. Culture can explain why some holidays such as Thanksgiving is celebrated in North America and not in other English speaking countries.
Facilitating an understanding of the cultural context of English would help language students communicate more clearly and effectively and give them a better insight and understanding into its usage.
Copyright (c) 2005 Stefan Chiarantano- all rights reserved.
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