С. Е. Мельчагова Дизайнер обложки icon

С. Е. Мельчагова Дизайнер обложки

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Градская Т.В. (Нижний Новгород)


In Classical-Humanist models of language education, culture traditionally occupied a prominent position. More recent models have tended to stress the behavioural aspects of culture, and in particular its role in communication. Indeed, the concept of ‘culture’ has become a valuable component of foreign-language programmes in recent years. This article attempts to show what teachers of English as a foreign language can do to raise their students’ awareness of cultural factors.

^ Cultural awareness is the term used to describe sensitivity to the impact of culturally induced behaviour on language use and communication. ‘Cross-cultural awareness’ in this article covers some of the aspects of British life, beliefs, values, as well as everyday attitudes and feelings conveyed by language.

Although cross-cultural interaction is one of the fastest-growing areas of language study, the systematic study of cross-cultural interaction may be new for many teachers. In normal speech situations the speaking skills and the listening skills are interdependent. It is impossible to hold any meaningful conversation without understanding what is being said and without making oneself understood at the same time. To facilitate the development of cross-cultural communication skills Alan Maley suggests modifying ‘seven goals of cultural instruction’ [2, 41]:

1. To help students to develop an understanding of the fact that all people exhibit culturally-conditioned behaviours.

2. To help students to develop an understanding that sociable variables such as age, sex, social class, and place of residence influence the ways in which people speak and behave.

3. To help students to become more aware of conventional behaviour in common situations in the target culture.

4. To help students to increase their awareness of the cultural connotations of words and phrases in the target language.

5. To help students to develop the ability to evaluate and refine generalizations about the target culture, in terms of supporting evidence.

6. To help students to develop the necessary skills to locate and organize information about the target culture.

7. To stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity about the target culture, and to encourage empathy towards its people.

These ‘seven goals of cultural instruction’ must be kept in mind as we do our lesson planning, and it’s important to incorporate them into the following practical teaching principles:

  1. Access the culture through the language being taught.

  2. Make the study of cultural behaviours an integral part of each lesson.

  3. Aim for students to achieve the socio-economic competence which they feel they need.

  4. Aim for all levels to achieve cross-cultural understanding – awareness of their own culture, as well as that of the target language.

  5. Recognise that not all teaching about culture implies behaviour change, but merely an awareness and tolerance of the cultural influences affecting one’s own and others’ behaviour.

One of the chief tasks for a language teacher is to promote cross-cultural interaction in the classroom by using different activities in the context of teaching English as a foreign language. Some activities focus on the lifestyles of people in English-speaking cultures, and on what people in these cultures do in common situations (for example, employment, dating, shopping) that are part of their everyday experience.

Information-oriented activities are designed to raise awareness of culturally-appropriate behaviour in English-speaking countries, as well as activities involving experiential learning and awareness of the students’ own culturally-influenced behaviour.

Other activities allow students to increase awareness of the students’ own culturally-influenced values, as well as the cultural values and attitudes of people in English-speaking cultures, and finally, to explore and to share their own experiences of the target culture.

Every culture offers distinct options, and exhibits distinct patterns associated with areas of everyday life such as employment, housing, and shopping. As increasing numbers of learners have the opportunity to travel, work and study in English-speaking countries, they need to become aware of the lifestyles of people in these cultures. The activities used in the classroom are intended not only to reveal information about the lifestyles current in English-speaking cultures and the patterns usually followed by members of these cultures, but also to encourage comparison and discussion of how these options and patterns may be similar to or different from those in the students’ culture. In this way, students arrive at a deeper understanding of both English-speaking cultures and their own, and they are better prepared to communicate with native speakers and handle the everyday situations they are likely to encounter in the English language environment.

Teachers should require their students to use authentic sources of information such as newspaper advertisements, TV and radio programmes, video films and the Internet resources to gather information and deduce facts about everyday life in English-speaking countries. In other activities, such as ‘Is it true that …?’ students are given the opportunity to evaluate their own perceptions of everyday cultural patterns in English-speaking countries and to modify any misconceptions they may have.

In the contemporary teaching of English as a foreign language, more and more attention is being paid to culturally appropriate behaviour – what native speakers of English say and do in specific social situations. Video, the Internet and the British press are widely used to encourage students to become more aware of the subtleties of cultural bahaviour.

Linguistic studies in the field of pragmatics (the ways in which language use is influenced by social context) have heightened awareness of the degree to which cross-cultural communication is affected by culturally-related factors. Such factors include people’s expectations regarding the appropriate level of formality and degree of politeness in discourse.

British people are often thought to be reserved – quiet and not showing their feelings – and to “keep a stiff upper lip” – to accept bad luck or unpleasant events without appearing upset. They are also thought to use understatement – to talk in a way which makes things seem less serious or important than they really are. However bad things get, the true Briton knows that it doesn’t do to make a fuss. The British way of dealing with a disaster is to refuse to take it too seriously, to dismiss it with a droll joke or euphemism. The proper responses are “Oh, well. Can’t be helped. I was going to replace it/them anyway”. Or “Never mind. It could have been worse” [1, 19].

As far as the true Briton is concerned, it is very bad form to crow about one’s successes. The British take modesty a step further into actual self-disparagement. This is simply a question of good manners. In order not to be written off as a ‘big head’, one must learn to play down his or her accomplishments. In Russia, for example, if you rise to the pinnacle of your profession you will tell your friends: “They wanted the most talented and dynamic person they could get, so they hired me”. This would be very bad form in Britain, where you should say: “Oh I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Luckily, they’ve accepted me!”

The whole point of social life here is not to antagonize others. The Britishers are guided by the rule ‘Don’t go on about the size of your nest-egg or how gifted your children are; instead, pull a face and tell us how your recent holiday was ‘an absolute nightmare’. You’ll soon be drawing on an inexhaustible fund of sympathy and commiseration’ [1, 20].

It is all too common these days in England, especially in big cities like London, to hear rail travellers grumbling into their mobiles about delays, cancellations and failed trains. ^ We apologise for the late running of this train, which is due to the length of the journey. All of them at some time have sat on a train, wondering why it’s not moving or the lights have suddenly gone out. But it’s all too easy to criticise and to forget that the railways have had to deal with years of under-investment. Getting from A to B is not the straightforward business it used to be. At least they can now listen to a cheerful recorded announcement informing passengers of the driver’s name, the reason for the delay. It’s advised to stop grumbling, sit back and enjoy the ride. Or, rather, the wait. I myself faced a similar problem when my friend and I took a train to Cambridge at Liverpool Street Station in London on Saturday, January 20th last year. The problem was that the train broke down in the middle of our way and we had to change for a replacement rail service bus which brought us to another station from where we boarded another train that eventually brought us to Cambridge. So, an hour’s journey turned into a few hours’ one. The best expression to learn and use in such situations is ‘Take your time, driver, we’re not in a hurry’.

Cricket is not merely a sport, but part of the English soul, and visitors should treat it with the quiet respect. Although the general aim of the batting side is to score runs and the bowling side to take wickets, the main priority for all is to enjoy a pleasant afternoon in the fresh air and work up an appetite for tea. It should be treated not so much as a contest, but as a shared activity, like building a bonfire or putting up a tent. Cricket is a common topic of earnest conversation in pubs and places of work, particularly in the summer. Even if you never play or watch a match it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with some basic cricketing terms in order not to be socially and culturally disadvantaged, Perkins is out – caught in the slips off the bowling of Glover for 9. Or, what a splendid cover drive by Wilkins! [1, 8].

The foreign visitor invited to a British home for a meal should be aware of the precise terminology they use to describe what they eat and when they eat it. This is to avoid the embarrassment of arriving a few hours early or late, too hungry or not hungry enough.

Lunch: almost certainly in the middle of the day at 12.30 – 13.00. May consist of anything from sandwiches to a three-course meal.

Dinner: in the south of England around 7 or 8pm, or up North probably a hot meal in the middle of the day.

Tea: could be sandwiches, tea and cake at 4pm, or up North a hot meal around 5.30pm.

High tea: a larger meal than tea, probably involving pork pie and sliced beetroot at around 5.50pm.

Supper: used by metropolitan sophisticates to mean dinner (braised ptarmigan and halloumi patties with a blueberry coulis, etc) eaten fairly late in the evening at 10pm; to humbler folk, a bedtime snack such as cheese biscuits with a hot milky drink.

And, of course, your idea of typical English meals would be incomplete without the so-called ‘Full traditional English breakfast’ which is a very substantial meal indeed: fried sausages, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans, black pudding, fried bread, a pot of tea. Learners of English may be misled by the name ‘Black pudding’ as it isn’t a pudding but boiled pig’s blood in the shape of a sausage. I myself hadn’t known what it was like before I tried it on my back from London on board the plane. Too fatty, for my liking. But tastes differ, of course.

Don’t confuse the full traditional English breakfast with the Typical English breakfast: porridge, cereal, fruit, cornflakes, orange juice, tea or coffee.

As everyone knows, the right word at the right moment can make all the difference to a successful social encounter. Fortunately, there is one word in particular that will endear the visitor to Brits of all ranks and conditions. This acme of adjectives is lovely. It makes no difference whether you’re being invited to admire the speaker’s new hair-do, flowering shrubs, sitting-room curtains or grandchildren – they will all, inevitably, be lovely. It is not enough that you both know everything is lovely, it must be stated, emphatically, with a rising intonation on the first syllable. But despite the versatility of this little word, it is important to observe the speaker’s facial expression and tone of voice to determine his or her attitude to the news they are imparting. This is to avoid pragmatic errors such as the following:

Hostess: And this is a photo of my late husband, who was gored by a warthog on our honeymoon in Bongandanga.

Visitor: Oh, lovely! [1, 15].

A respect for privacy is one of the most esteemed social virtues in Britain, and those who offend against it are branded ‘nosey Parkers’. Householders in foreign lands may sit outside their front doors, shelling peas and chatting to the world at large, or else hang from their balconies calling down to passers-by in the street. Such behaviour which is rather common for us, Russians, makes the British deeply uneasy. The semi-detached suburban house has a garden back and front, but it is an unwritten rule never to sit in the front garden. That would appear to invite casual conversation with every passing person.

By culture most people understand ‘culturally-influenced beliefs, virtues and perceptions’, especially as expressed through language. A lot of people might say nowadays that the British are losing their traditional virtues of modesty, inhibition, irreverence, reserve, tolerance, irony, fair play, nostalgia and eager inebriation [3, 7]. But something is sure to survive. I mean, there’ll always be fish and chips on the menu. And there’ll always be a Royal Family, won’t there? And the British will always be proud of their Britishness and teachers of English as a foreign language must promote cross-cultural understanding – awareness of their own culture, as well as that of the target language.

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