Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Foreign Culture Awareness Needs of Saudi English Language Majors at Buraydah Community College

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Foreign Culture Awareness Needs of Saudi English Language Majors at Buraydah Community College

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although many EFL learners have a command of internalized foreign language knowledge, they may have difficulty using this knowledge in different contexts. This is due to many interacting factors affecting their performance, mainly lack of target culture awareness. This study intended to identify the cultural aspects suitable to be integrated into the Saudi EFL classrooms, search for the sources upon which students get their knowledge of the target culture and examine their attitudes towards it. The study was administered to three main categories of subjects: students, teachers, and experts in the field of teaching EFL. The required data were collected using a Culture-awareness Diagnostic Test and a Culture-Awareness Needs Assessment Questionnaire. The results revealed the students' need to learn about different aspects of foreign culture to develop their culture-awareness and that they depend mostly on audio-/visual media to learn about the target culture. The findings also showed that students possess positive attitudes toward the target culture and its people. Introducing authentic materials such as DVDs, video tapes, newspapers in the foreign language classroom was highly recommended for enhancing culture awareness and improving language proficiency. Therefore, the current research suggested modifying the entire EFL education programs to introduce culture in the foreign language classroom.

Keywords: culture awareness, linguistic competence, communicative competence, stereotyping

1. Introduction

The British Council estimates that English is spoken as a second language by about 375 million speakers and as a foreign language by about 750 million speakers. The majority of these speakers would have been taught by indigenous NNESTs, Ling & Braine (2007). Despite the strong presence of these teachers world wide, they are considered as second in knowledge and performance to native speakers. Differences are attributed to many factors mainly lack of foreign culture awareness, Rafieyan et al. (2014). Language and culture are part and parcel of each other. Culture governs the behaviors which a person encounters and it also governs how a person acts in or reacts to certain situations, Chinh (2013). It is very usual that cultures have different ways of practices that indisputably reflect (verbal and nonverbal) language problems. Many others involve subtle differences in etiquette, rituals, values, norms, and systems, Al-Qahtani (2003). Therefore, it is important to embrace as much experiences of the target culture as possible, especially for those integrated into or learning about a foreign language (Gobel & Helmke, 2010).

The inclusion of cultural content in language teaching materials for English language majors is essential to help students interpret and understand the target culture, to raise students' awareness of their own native culture, and to achieve communicative competence (Cheng, 2013; Baker, 2012; Zaid, 2011; McKay, 2010).

2. Context of the Problem

Recent studies have shown that language is bound to culture in multiple and complex ways and that culture is important to language acquisition (Cheng, 2012; Byram, 2012; Norton & Toohey, 2011; Aguilar, 2007). They also confirmed that a foreign language cannot be learned successfully without having knowledge of its cultural aspects. If the learner is not integrated into the target culture, s/he should, at least, learn its aspects that are necessary to communicate with its speakers. Otherwise, the learner will be regarded as fluent in using the language, but "inaccurate" in manipulating the language in real-life situations. Therefore, Cheng (2013) suggested that learning a language in isolation of its cultural roots prevents one from becoming socialized into its contextual use. Knowledge of linguistic matters alone does not guarantee insight into the political, social, religious, or economic system necessary to build up cultural competence which is required for appropriate use of language. …

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