Cultivation of Intercultural Awareness in EFL Teaching | Cross Cultural Communication | English As A Second Or Foreign Language

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Language and culture are inseparable. Foreign language learning is not only the language learning, but also the culture learning. Intercultural awareness, therefore, should be cultivated so that students can have the competence to use language to fulfill the successful intercultural communication. By analyzing a survey which investigates the students’ present condition of intercultural awareness, this paper tries to put forward some measures to cultivate the students’ intercultural awareness in EFL teaching.
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  Cultivation of Intercultural Awareness in EFL Teaching    Chenlu Liu School of Foreign Studies, Nantong University, 226000, China Abstract  s  —  Language and culture are inseparable. Foreign language learning is not only the language learning, but also the culture learning. Intercultural awareness, therefore, should be cultivated so that students can have the competence to use language to fulfill the successful intercultural communication. By analyzing a survey which investigates the students’ present condition of intercultural awareness, this paper tries to put forward some measures to cultivate the students’ intercultural awareness in EFL teaching. Index Terms   —  intercultural awareness, cultural differences, EFL teaching I.   I  NTRODUCTION  For quite a long time, English as a foreign language (EFL) teaching in China mainly emphasizes on teaching students’ grammar and languag e skills, ignoring the introduction of cultural differences. Nowadays, however, with the increasing international connection, people begin to realize that vocabulary and grammar can’t ensure real success in intercultural communication. Language and culture are inseparable. Therefore cultivating intercultural awareness is necessary in language teaching, which helps to strengthen E nglish learners’ understanding of the language and improve their performance in intercultural communication. This paper first introduces the relationship between language and intercultural awareness based on the related theories and research achievements at home and abroad. Then through a survey including cultural test and questionnaire, this paper aims to take a deep look at the college students’ current condition of intercultural awareness and tries to explore the appropriate approaches for efficient cultural teaching so as to enhance students' intercultural awareness. II.   I  NTERCULTURAL A WARENESS    A. Language and Culture What is culture? There are various def  initions. Actually it’s hard to give “culture” a scientific and integrated definition. British anthropologist Edward Tylor (1920) gave a profound scientific description of the term. He defined it as complex whole including knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. In the early 1920s, American linguist Sapir (1921) once mentioned that there is something behind language, and language cannot exist without culture. Language is a part of culture and influenced  by culture. Gladstone (1972) once pointed that Language and culture are linked closely, language is the product or result of culture and it is the vehicle to shape and communicate culture. Language is the carrier and manifestation of culture. It is the tool of carrying and expressing cultural information. Rivers (1983, p.263) thought that “Language is deep ly embedded in culture”.  A Chinese linguist Dai (1989, p. 158) thought “l anguage is the primary means by which a culture transmits its beliefs, values, and norms. It gives people a means of interacting with other members of the culture and a means of thinking” . Shu and Zhuang (2008) regarded language as an inalienable part of culture. Language is the carrier of culture, and culture is the foundation and circumstance of language. Culture and language are inseparably integrated. One cannot hope to really master a target language without profound knowledge of the culture linked to that language.  B. Intercultural Awareness in Language Intercultural awareness, according to Chen and Starosta (1996), refers to an understanding of one’s own and others’ cultures that affect how people think and behave. Robert G. Hanvey developed the idea of global perspectives that has  been widely used as a framework in intercultural awareness. According to Hanvey (1979), a global perspective consists of certain modes of thought, sensitivities, intellectual skills, and explanatory capacities, which is a combination of many things and any person may be rich in certain elements while relatively lacking in others. Hanvey describes four levels of intercultural awareness: (1) awareness of superficial or visible cultural traits, such as isolated facts or stereotypes; (2) awareness of significant and subtle cultural traits that contrast markedly with one’s own and interpreted as unbelievable and irrational; (3) awareness of significant and subtle cultural traits that contrast markedly with one’s own  but can be understood cognitively; (4) awareness of how another culture feels from the standpoint of the insider.   It is supported by a grant from Nantong University (13W45). ISSN 1798-4769Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 226-232, January 2016DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17507/jltr.0701.26 © 2016 ACADEMY PUBLICATION  Seelye, H. N. (1975) proposed some practical teaching principles for improving cultural awareness in his book “Teaching Culture”: (1) Acquiring cultural knowledge through language learning;  (2) Making cultural behavior an important part of class; (3) Letting student have the capacity of occupying their social economic status; (4) A better understanding of native culture and target culture; (5) Making students know that people’s behavior was affected by culture. The cultivation of students’ c ultural awareness in EFL teaching can encourage students to break the obstacles of intercommunication and master the culture of the target language, and in turn, promote teaching effect. Therefore, to gain knowledge on culture difference and to promote the students’ c ultural awareness is one of the aims of the present language teaching. III.   A   S URVEY I  NVESTIGATING S TUDENTS ’   I  NTERCULTURAL A WARENESS   The purpose of this tentative survey is to find out the present condition of the students’ cultural awareness in their English learning and whether it is important to teach intercultural knowledge and cultivate intercultural awareness in English teaching.  A. Research Questions 1. What is the current condition of the students’ intercultural knowledge?   2. What are the students’ attitudes towar  ds intercultural awareness? 3. What are the students’ main sources of acquiring intercultural knowledge?  4. What are the problems existing in the teaching of intercultural knowledge?  B. Research Subjects The subjects for this survey are 50 sophomores selected randomly from Nantong University. C. The Content of the Survey The survey includes one cultural test and one questionnaire. The cultural test was designed to find out how much cultural knowledge students have learned about English and English speaking countries. It consists of four parts, as shown in Table 1. T ABLE 1 T HE CONTENT OF THE CULTURAL TEST  Category Content No. of items Part A Literature, geography and history 1-10 Part B Social conventions 11-15 Part C Religious beliefs, values 16-20 The questionnaire for students was designed to investigate students' intercultural awareness, their main sources of acquiring cultural knowledge and the possible problems of English teaching in cultivating intercultural knowledge. It consists of 16 questions. Question 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 15, 16 were designed to investigate students' attitudes towards the cultivation of intercultural awareness. Question 1,3,5,7,10,11,12,13,14 were designed to investigate the students' main sources of acquiring cultural knowledge and the possible problems of English teaching in developing intercultural knowledge .  D. Data Collection The cultural test and questionnaire were given to 50 subjects. Students were required to finish the test in 30 minutes and the questionnaire in 10 minutes. 50 copies of test paper and questionnaire were finally collected back. And all of them prove to be valid after careful examination.  E. Data Analysis The total score of the test are 100, with 5 points per question. The mean of all participants’ answe rs was calculated by Statistical Package for Social Sciences 17.0 (SPSS). As for the questionnaire, the descriptive analysis was used. IV.   R  ESULTS AND D ISCUSSION    A. Students' Intercultural Knowledge From the data shown in Table 2, we can see that the highest score of cultural test is 90 and the lowest score is only 20. Of the 50 students, only 28 pass the test, with a passing rate of 56% and a mean score of 50. These data clearly show that the students did n’t do quite well. They have a li ttle knowledge of typical English speaking countries’ cultures and have some difficulties in communication in English. That is to say, the students are in lack of the intercultural communicative competence. The reason may be that stu dents don’t have full  learning awareness of cultivating themselves the cultural knowledge, or teachers pay less attention to the cultivation of students' cultural awareness when teaching. JOURNAL OF LANGUAGE TEACHING AND RESEARCH227© 2016 ACADEMY PUBLICATION   T ABLE 2 S CORE OF THE CULTURAL TEST  Participants Full Score Maximum Score Minimum Score Mean Score Passing Percentage 50 100 90 20 50 56% Through the comparison of the scores of part A, part B and part C, it can be found that students do better in part B than in part A and part C (shown in Figure 1). Part B is about social conventions, while part A and part C focus on literature, geography, history, religious beliefs and values. This comparison shows that students are much more familiar with social conventions or in other words, general knowledge about English speaking countries which can be obtained easily from movies, TV, newspapers and other public media, and have mastered the basic intercultural knowledge. And for the part of literature, geography and history, most of which are taught by teachers in class and remembered by mechanical mem orizing, students don’ t have a good command of that. Figure 1 The accurate rate of the cultural test  Note: Part A: Literature, geography and history Part B: Social conventions Part C: Religious beliefs, values.  B. Students' Attitude towards Intercultural Awareness As is shown in Figure 2, only 3.64% of the subjects think intercultural awareness is useless. 34.70% think it is useful. And 76.45% of subjects think it is very useful. We can see that most subjects have fully realized the importance of cultivating the intercultural awareness in English teaching, Figure 2 Students’ opinions of intercultural awareness in English teaching   As for students’ interest in learning intercultural knowledge, question No. 2 can give the answer. As is shown in Figure 3, 66.65% of the students like to learn different cultures very much, 13.35% of them are more willing to learn it, 20.00% of them are less interested and only 6.67% of them don’t like it. So it is obvious that most subjects are eager to learn knowledge a  bout English speaking countries’ culture.   228JOURNAL OF LANGUAGE TEACHING AND RESEARCH© 2016 ACADEMY PUBLICATION   Figure 3 The percentage of student s’ interest in learning intercultural knowledge C. Students' Main Sources of Acquiring Intercultural Knowledge About students' main sources of acquiring cultural knowledge, we get the following result (shown in Figure 4). 23.54% think that they obtained the cultural knowledge from teachers. 13.76% think that they obtained the cultural knowledge from English books, newspapers and magazines. 21.57% think that they obtained the cultural knowledge from interactive activities in class. 35.67% think that they obtained the cultural knowledge from English TV programs and movies after class. Figure 4 Students’ main sources of acquiring intercultural knowledge   Note: A= cultural knowledge from teachers in class B= cultural knowledge from English books, newspapers and magazines C= cultural knowledge from interactive activities in class D= cultural knowledge from English TV programs and movies after class So it seems that students’  sources of acquiring intercultural knowledge are not limited to their teachers. Most students think it is helpful to know the English speaking countries’ culture by reading literature works, attending lectures, watching movies, and doing role play in the class, which may shed some light on teaching. As for the way teachers cultivate students’ intercultural awareness, as is shown in Figure 5, 72.23% students think it is helpful when teachers utilize multimedia and other means to assist cultural teaching or through sitcoms and other  performance forms and only 4.23% of them think it is helpless. Thus we can conclude that the majority of students think that it is helpful to have a deep understanding of cultural knowledge if teacher use some unconventional means to assist cultural teaching. Figure 5 S tudents’ opinions about unconventional teaching method   JOURNAL OF LANGUAGE TEACHING AND RESEARCH229© 2016 ACADEMY PUBLICATION
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