Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Teaching Culture-Bound Texts: A Technique to Enhance Efl Learners' Reading Comprehension Ability

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Teaching Culture-Bound Texts: A Technique to Enhance Efl Learners' Reading Comprehension Ability

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Reading is the most important academic language skill (Carrell, 1987, Grabe & Stoller, 2002). Reading is an interactive process of analyzing the message of a text which entails simultaneous coordination of attention, perception and memory. "Reading is the ability of finding meaning based on the printed page and appropriately interpreting the grasped information" (Grabe & Stoller, 2002, p. 9). Reading is also interpreted as a psycholinguistic guessing game through which readers formulate assumptions and hypotheses with the help of various clues existing in the text (linguistic, syntactic, semantic, etc.) (Goodman, 1976).

Although scholars (Bartlet, 1932; Brantmeier, 2005; Carrell, 1983, 1987; Carrell & Eisterhold, 1983; Johnson, 1981, 1982; Pulido, 2003; Reynold et al., 1982) believe that language proficiency is regarded as a necessary element in reading process, they assert that it is not enough. According to this group, some nonlinguistic factors such as the prior or world knowledge are involved to derive meaning from printed work. Therefore, the lack of the appropriate background knowledge for a text or the failure to activate it appropriately is introduced as the main barrier to read and understand a text flawlessly.

One particular subclass of knowledge of the world (i.e., content schema) is cultural knowledge. Alderson (2000) declares that background knowledge refers to every specific person's world; therefore, it is idiosyncratic. Each person has a different world from others due to his/her unique personal history, feelings, ideas, interests, and experiences not necessarily experienced or possessed by others. People may also share aspects of others' experiences, knowledge of the world in the same community and/or nation.

Kramsch (1995) declares that understanding a language requires understanding a culture within which that language is used. In other words, "language and culture are not separated, but are acquired together, with each providing support for the development of the other" (Mitchell & Myles, 2004, p. 235). "If language is described as a mode of human behavior and culture as 'patterned behavior', it is evident that language is a vital constituent of culture. You cannot learn a new language unless you have a sympathetic understanding of the cultural setting of that language" (Trivedi, 1978, pp. 93).

Regarding appropriate background effect, Stanovich (2000) and Widdowson (1983) declare that learners read a text assuming an unfamiliar foreign cultural schema, they can compensate for the lack of appropriate background knowledge through focusing on the linguistic forms too profoundly.

Stanovich (2000), in his interactive compensatory model, claims that using culturally familiar texts, the learners could compensate for their possible vocabulary deficiencies by drawing on their background knowledge to infer the meaning of the unknown words or phrases. Additionally, Pulido (2003, 2004) asserts that learners' cultural background knowledge can facilitate lexical inferencing during reading.

2.Background of the Study

Stevenson (1973) asserts that a reading task not followed by comprehension or understanding cannot be called reading. According to him, many students may have good pronunciation and fluency, but they do not understand what they read. A reader is good when he/she purposefully read, whether for specific information or for pleasure. In an actual reading, the reader fulfills a complex process of thinking. To help students to have a good performance in reading and achieving comprehension, different techniques can be used.

According to Widdowson (1983), using culturally familiar texts can lead to the decrease of the attention to language forms rather its content. It has been also claimed that familiar texts help students to overcome linguistic difficulty of the text and grasp the main idea of the text better (Carrel & Eisterhold, 1983). …

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