Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Exposing Cultures through Online Newspapers

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Exposing Cultures through Online Newspapers

Article excerpt

Introduction

. . . the fact that everybody from Yerevan to Brasilia, Jakarta to Jerusalem, knows songs by the Black Eyed Peas or wears New York Yankees caps doesn't mean that culture is the same everywhere. (Kimmelman 2010)

Teaching the students to understand different cultures is crucially important in the twenty-first century of globalization and growing intercultural contacts. To explore the different ways of life in other countries, EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers can use reference books like Culture Shock! - A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette series. Such guides help the teachers learn more about the nations they plan to discuss with the students, but do not provide much freedom for task design, as they are usually written in a narrative mode.

In search of a good source of cultural information that gives an opportunity to create authentic assignments, EFL teachers may turn to newspaper texts. Online versions of high-quality newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, and The Times provide the latest overview of the world and local news, cover different writing styles, and are allowed to be used in the language classroom. Though in most countries you may freely use newspaper articles for classroom purposes, it is always good to double-check the "terms and conditions" section of each newspaper and the copyright law in the country where you teach, to make sure it is permitted to take the materials for non-commercial and educational "fair use."

Turning to Online Newspapers for Cultural Information

Like printed newspapers, online newspapers also provide a lot of articles of cultural value. And it is worth commenting on what is seen as culture, because this term has expanded its meaning through time. The Latin cultura, or "soil cultivation," was first used metaphorically by Cicero (106 BC-43 BC) to call philosophy "the culture of soul" (cultura animae), while later, in the Middle Ages, this term became associated with the benefits of urban life. The Renaissance thinkers applied this concept to religion, art, philosophy, and morals, and so the central ideas of those times included self-development, service to god, and self-restriction. In the Age of Enlightenment, culture was opposed to barbarism; in the German classical philosophy, it was seen as manmade objects that were confronting nature. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, culture began to be understood as a way of life that distinguishes different groups, and the communicative aspect of culture was taken into consideration, mainly by Edward Sapir and Claude LéviStrauss. At the same time, some scientists such as D Bell and R Aron associated culture only with the technological advances (Olesenko and Shapiro 1988).

The modern 3-P perception of culture suggested by Bilash (2011) comprises some of the ideas mentioned above, the three P's of culture being-products, practices, and perspectives. According to Bilash (ibid.), "products" of culture include pieces of literature or works of art; "practices" are traditions related to holiday celebrations or rules of behavior; and "perspectives" are the underlying values and beliefs of a people.

Articles reflecting culture in its 3-P perspective can be found in online versions of English and American newspapers. Products of culture can be traced in "Culture" or "Arts" sections of newspapers that usually have such subsections as "Music," "Film," "Television," "Radio," "Art," and "Books." Practices are reflected in such newspaper sections as "Sports," "Travel," "Food," "Health," and "Lifestyle," the latter covering a wide range of feature articles from "Thanksgiving: The Latest US Tradition to Take Root in UK, as One in Six Celebrate 'Brits-Giving'" (a headline from The Independent newspaper) to "How to Talk to Anyone: The Experts' Guide" (a headline from The Guardian). Perspectives or values, "for instance, youth valued over age or valuing sports over education" (Bilash 2011) can be traced when reading the "Opinion" or "Comments" sections and cartoons that in an ironic way reflect the problems and attitudes that exist in society. …

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