Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Culture as the Cinderella of Foreign Language Curriculum in Iran: Efl Students and Teachers' Intercultural Sensitivity Levels

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Culture as the Cinderella of Foreign Language Curriculum in Iran: Efl Students and Teachers' Intercultural Sensitivity Levels

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

We are living in the world which has been regarded as a new age (Fantini, 2002) in which rapid technological progress has provided individuals with a variety of opportunities to have instant communications with the people throughout the world (Peng, Lu, and Wang, 2009) regardless of their nationality, identity, and cultural background. This trend has brought about drastic changes from the gradual disappearance of territoriality to emergence of interculturality and intercultural citizenship which have led to "bonding of internationalism" in Byram's (2011:17) terms. The issue is, then, how people and organizations should be prepared for pragmatic-failure-free interactions in intercultural encounters in today's glocalized world. This claim is further emphasized by Volet and Ang (2012) who assert, "One of the major educational goals of the internationalization of higher education is to prepare students to function in an international and inter-cultural context" (p.21).

Thus, the creation and improvement of the required abilities guaranteeing successful communications seem absolutely essential. Among these abilities, the first and the most problematic ones are language and culture. According to Novinger (2001), although speaking a different language is considered as an obstacle, speaking a different culture is a greater impediment. Thus, our foreign language programs need prodigious revisions to become capable of making language teachers aware of the importance of cultural dimensions of language teaching and learning. Foreign language teachers, if prepared enough, need to take this highly important point into consideration and take practical actions as to how to make it possible as one of the major objectives of their syllabi. It needs to be mentioned that knowledge of the target culture alone would not lead to successful communication, to achieve such a goal "cross-cultural skills", "positive attitudes", and "awareness" are also required (Fantini, 2002. P.16). Thus, the prerequisite for successful communication is intercultural communicative competence as well as a sufficient degree of intercultural sensitivity as one of its components.

Obviously, our foreign language teaching programs need to undergo some fundamental and prodigious revisions overshadowing all the relevant stages of curriculum design, implementation, and assessment. This new curriculum should be comprehensive enough to encompass all necessary ingredients including international, citizenship and political dimensions and can raise critical cultural awareness on the part of both teachers and students. Such a curriculum cannot successfully be designed unless it is informed by the necessary details as to individuals' intercultural awareness levels. To provide such details, the first step is to evaluate the current degree of sensitivity of teachers and students to intercultural differences technically termed intercultural sensitivity level. This important step on the part of curriculum designers can reorient teacher education to address intercultural issues which are nowadays considered as the prerequisite for successful intercultural encounters because "teachers might reach out from their local context, become aware of global trends and ideas, and then mediate these through the local realities of their language teaching context " (Motteram, 2016:152). These mediations and interventions which can be effectively made in the classroom, as reiterated by Rienties and Nolan (2014), would also benefit students considerably due to the fact that it can help them obtain a deeper understanding of both their own culture and of others.

2.Literature review

2.1.Bennett's Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity

As a theoretical tool to assess the intercultural sensitivity of students and teachers in Iran, Bennett's Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) was employed in the present study. According to his theory, communication among people could result in a decrease in their intercultural sensitivity. …

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