July 08, 2005

Intercultural communication

Being always on top of my mail, I have just got around to reading the April 2005 issue of the ELT Journal (Vol. 59 #2) :-(
Two articles of interest. I'll deal with the second one in a separate posting
1) Intercultural communication in English language teacher education:
In recent years, discussions on culture have expanded ... to encompass the cultural appropriateness of various language teaching methodologies... especially as they were exported across contexts....This...was probably fuelled by data emerging from classrooms across the world, where the teacher's/school's chosen methodology showed a lack of 'fit' with the students' and teacher's cultural norms, and their expectations of what 'good' language teaching needs to involve. Indeed, classroom research has revealed how 'behavior in language classrooms is set within taken-for-granted frameworks of expectations, attitudes, values, and beliefs about what constitutes good learning, about how to teach or learn, whether and how to ask questions, what textbooks are for, and how language teaching relates to broader issues of the nature and purpose of education.' (Cortazzi and Jin 1996:169). These 'cultures of learning' (ibid.) into which children are socialized, are outcomes of the educational and cultural transitions of a community or society. Scholars have pointed out how a lack of consideration of variations in cultures of learning can lead to frustration and subsequent failure in language classrooms (Li 1998, Holliday 1994). As a result, teachers ... are now asked (Coleman 1996, Holliday 1994, McKay 2002) to take the learners' sociocultural backgrounds into consideration in choosing materials and pedagogical approaches for particular context of teaching because ignoring the students' norms and expectations - that is, what students bring to the classroom - is denying the learners' experiences.

The author, Seran Dogancay-Aktuna, points out that some argue against taking such considerations because they
can further the 'othering' of non-western cultures, and reinforce stereotypes...
I agree with this:
we cannot ignore that problems can and do occur as we export methodologies across contexts.
Dogancay-Aktuna provides many examples of such problems.
We have...witnessed...a large body of research reporting on problems arising in the process of exporting methodologies in an attempt to make language classrooms more interactive and communicative. For example, Hu (2002) reports that communicative language teaching (CLT) has failed to have the expected impact on ELT in China because assumptions underlying CLT conflict with the Chinese culture of learning....others...have shown how Chinese teachers and students view explicit grammar analysis as crucial to foreign language learning, and believe that the teacher should dominate the classroom. A teacher who does not ... risks being seen as lazay or incompetent. Chinese students, on other hand, have problems in accepting group work, debates, and other interactive activities as meaningful or relevant to their learning. Instead, they value mastery through memorization because they perceive it as knowledge that will bring them confidence and a feeling of success (Cortazzi and Jin 1996)....in Indonesia some educators and administrators viewed communicative language teaching as 'socially polllutive' because its tenets countered the traditional norms of school culture (Tomlinson 1990). In Japan, the most popular activity for students was the whole class working with the teacher. Japanese classrooms did not emphasize interaction, and the mother tongue was used heavily in the lssons (LoCastro 1996). In Korea teachers preferred discrete-point grammar tests to communicative language teaching, and lacked confidence in their own English, while their students showed resistance to classroom participation (Li 1998).

I'm thinking about this because
a) my colleague and I are frequently discussing the cultural elements of what we are trying to do and of students' behaviour in class, and
b) because of my previous posting

1 comment:

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