Academic journal article International Research Journal of Arts and Humanities

Culturally Distant Discoursal and Linguistic Patterns Experienced and Learned through Museums

Academic journal article International Research Journal of Arts and Humanities

Culturally Distant Discoursal and Linguistic Patterns Experienced and Learned through Museums

Article excerpt

Introduction

Smith (1976) argues that non-native speakers do not need to internalize the cultural norms of native speakers of that language, because the purpose of teaching an international language is to facilitate the communication of learners' own ideas and culture. Adaskou et. al. (1990) as reported by McKay (2004), summarize that cultural component in language teaching can promote international understanding, deepen understanding of one's own culture, facilitate learners' visits to foreign countries, and motivate learners. Adaskou et al. (1990) criticized the inclusion of Western culture in the teaching materials. They argue that such a thing can not only demotivate but compel students to compare their culture with a supposedly advanced culture creating discontentment among the students about their own culture also.

Contrarily, our contention is that this opinion is Euro-centric. Suzuki (1999:264) believes that Japan must fight against the subtle form of Western imperialism that suggests the need to emulate everything Western, including the English language. He attributes this trend to mental colonization. He also calls this 'Auto-colonization' which takes place gradually and unconsciously. On the contrary, Smith (1976) argued that English no longer needs to be linked to the culture of those who speak it as a first language. However, the 'study of any language, spoken by a people who live under conditions different from our own and possess a different culture, must be carried out in conjunction with the study of their culture and of their environment' (Malinowski, 1923:303).

This paper underscores the importance and relevance of the museums and art galleries for pedagogical purposes, in particular for those involved in an area as culturally-sensitive as language teaching. 'There is a greater potential for miscommunication in a society where there is increasing mutual dependence among citizens who share neither the same language nor the same world-view. Such misunderstandings may have unintelligibility as an immediate cause but more particularly derives from uninterpretability, itself stemming from alternative, and at times conflicting, systems of value and belief (Candlin in Smith, 1987:22). One can imagine the difficulties in learning and understanding culturally distant discoursal and linguistic patterns experienced and learned through museums.

When we are unable to communicate to real people and are dependent, for information, on the museums only, the chances of misunderstanding distant and alien cultures are maximized. Then why do we want our students to be exposed to the inanimate world of museums and the complexity of arts? The reason being that cross cultural understanding enhances the appropriate use of one's linguistic competencies. In the global village that we live in today we need to have harmonious intercultural relations to move around smoothly. Thus an awareness of cultural differences and understanding what appropriate action needs to be taken in unique cross-cultural situations becomes essential. 'The knowledge of cultural difference and selfknowledge of how we usually respond to those differences can make us aware of hidden prejudices and stereotypes which are barriers to tolerance, understanding, and good communication' as discussed by Matikainen and Duffy (2000: 40) which is the ultimate goal of learning a foreign / second language.

Here the question arises, why use museums for this purpose? These past experiences, handed down from generation to generation and preserved in the museums influence our values of what is attractive and what is not, what is acceptable behavior, and what is right and wrong. The museums are an important source of teaching/ learning about Culture, History, Language and Communication because of the element of curiosity and discovery associated with them.

The review of literature in this area reveals that a certain dichotomy between the learning emphasis in a museum environment and that in a traditional ELT classroom exists. …

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