Supplemental culture-based activities in English classes at Thai Nguyen University of Education

Văn hoá là một thành phần quan trọng tất yếu trong dạy học ngoại ngữ, giúp người học có được những hiểu biết về đất nước, con người, phong tục của thứ tiếng mà mình đang theo học, từ đó mà thêm yêu và có động lực cao hơn trong việc học tập và sử dụng ngôn ngữ. Tuy nhiên, trong chương trình đào tạo tiếng Anh không chuyên ở trường Đại học Sư phạm- Đại học Thái Nguyên, vì nhiều lí do mà văn hoá không thể được dạy một cách trực tiếp trong các giờ học. Với mong muốn là đem nền văn hoá của các quốc gia nói tiếng Anh đến cho các em sinh viên, tác giả đã và đang áp dụng các hoạt động bổ trợ dựa trên nền tảng văn hoá trong các lớp học tiếng Anh như là một giải pháp góp phần truyền tải văn hóa đến người học một cách tự nhiên, sinh động và gần gũi nhất.

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Nguyễn Thị Hồng Minh Tạp chí KHOA HỌC & CÔNG NGHỆ 87(11): 119 - 124 Số hóa bởi Trung tâm Học liệu – Đại học Thái Nguyên 119 SUPPLEMENTAL CULTURE-BASED ACTIVITIES IN ENGLISH CLASSES AT THAI NGUYEN UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION Nguyen Thi Hong Minh * College of Education - TNU ABSTRACT Culture is a particularly important component of foreign language learning and teaching, which provides the learner with an understanding of the country, people and custom of the language that they are learning; thence, their love and motivation for the language learning can be improved and promoted. However, due to a number of reasons, teaching culture cannot be directly taught for non-majors of English at Thai Nguyen University of Education (TUE). Wishing to bring the culture of English-speaking countries to the learner, the author has been applied supplemental culture-based activities in her English class as a way of building a bridge between the student and the English culture. Key words: culture, foreign language learning and teaching, supplemental culture-based activities, non-majors of English.  INTRODUCTION Nowadays, researchers declare that foreign language learning involves not only grammatical competence, communicative competence and language proficiency but also a certain features and characteristics of the culture. There has been a shared belief in the society of EFL teaching that cultural competence, i.e., the knowledge of the conventions, customs, beliefs, and systems of meaning of another society, is indisputably an integral part of foreign language learning [10]. This assumption seems to fit well with Bachman‟s [1] model of language competence – that language competence comprises not only language knowledge but also pragmatic competence, of which cultural knowledge is a vital component. A question arises for Vietnamese teachers who are in charge of non-English majors that how culture can be taught to these learners who usually do not have close contact with native speakers of English and have little opportunity to discover how the speakers think, feel and interact with others in their own peer group. That how we can stimulate their curiosity about the target culture when,  Tel: 0983 114299 sometimes, they do not even have sufficient time to learn formal properties of the language is also another problem concerning the teachers of in Vietnam. CULTURE TEACHING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING The idea of teaching culture is nothing new to any English language teachers because while we teach the language we automatically teach the culture [2]. Additionally, the teaching of culture, as many authors suggest, should take place within the normal language classroom and begin on the very first day of class and should continue everyday thereafter. Why teaching culture As it is previously mentioned, there is a close relationship between language and culture. Thus, in order to communicate well, people must not only be fluent in the language spoken, but also aware of the hidden part of culture, such as communication style, beliefs, attitudes, values, perceptions. As Bennete and Fantini state [7], it is obviously clear that „the study of language cannot divorce from the study of culture, and vice versa. The wherewithal to function in another cultural system requires both prowess in the language and knowledge of the culture.‟ Sharing the Nguyễn Thị Hồng Minh Tạp chí KHOA HỌC & CÔNG NGHỆ 87(11): 119 - 124 Số hóa bởi Trung tâm Học liệu – Đại học Thái Nguyên 120 same viewpoint, Nguyen Quang assumes that one cannot master a language without understanding its cultural background [5]. In Vietnamese classroom context, especially where learners of English hardly have chances to communicate with native speakers or to be exposed to the target culture, students should be aware of cultural differences and „assimilate many new categorizations and codifications if they are to understand and speak the language as its native speakers do‟ [2]. The author also points out several reasons that language learners should perceive and get familiar to culture components as follows:  (to) develop the communicative skills;  (to) understand the linguistic and behavioural patterns both of the target and the native culture at a more conscious level;  (to) develop intercultural and international understanding;  (to) adopt a wider perspective in the perception of the reality;  (to) make teaching sessions more enjoyable to develop an awareness of potential mistakes that might come up in comprehension, interpretation, translation and communication (ibid., 156). Also, Lessard-Clouston claims that although the goals for FL culture teaching may not be the same in different FL contexts, but they „must reflect the general, specific and dynamic aspects of culture‟ [4]. He shows that students will indeed need to develop the knowledge of and about the target culture and master some skills in culturally appropriate communication and behaviour for the target culture. Cultural awareness allows the students to develop an understanding of the dynamic nature of the target culture as well as their own culture. Hence, it is advisable that language teachers should be interested in culture study not only because they want to teach the culture of the other study but also because they have to teach it [11]. If language is taught without simultaneous culture teaching, students will expose to meaningless symbols or symbols to which students will attach the wrong meaning. In a nutshell, the goal of teaching culture is „to increase students‟ awareness and to develop their interest towards the target culture and their own, helping to make comparisons among cultures‟ [9]. Methods of teaching culture Culture teaching is closely related to language teaching, but how to teach culture in language classroom, to a large extent, is quite different from how to teach foreign language. Nevertheless, it is widely believed that the primary goal of foreign language teaching is to develop students‟ basic skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. If we introduce culture teaching into L2/FL classes, we have to adjust the relationship between them. On the whole, it is advisable that cultural background teaching should be incorporated into language teaching by following the steps of language teaching; and in the process of it, language teachers enlighten the students on the cultural connotation of language and appropriateness of communication [12]. THE SITUATION OF TEACHING CULTURE AT TUE From the author‟s observation, it can be seen that almost of the language teachers at TUE talk explicitly about cultural elements rising from the language material; only raise some issues and organize class discussion in form of pair work or group work and provide students with a more complete picture. Some others ask students to play roles. But a little percentage of the teachers at TUE assigns homework for students to do research at home and compares the target culture elements with the Vietnamese ones to find out the similarities and different between the two cultures. With the use of such methods of teaching culture, students are treated as knowledge receivers, listening and taking notes of the Nguyễn Thị Hồng Minh Tạp chí KHOA HỌC & CÔNG NGHỆ 87(11): 119 - 124 Số hóa bởi Trung tâm Học liệu – Đại học Thái Nguyên 121 information the teacher provides them. This derives from the traditional methods in language teaching and learning at TUE and other Vietnamese university classrooms as well, where teachers are knowledge transmitters and learners are passive and receptive. Thus, non-English majors at TUE have fewer opportunities to discover the various cultural issues themselves. OBJECTIVES OF SUPPLEMENTAL CULTURE- BASED ACTIVITIES Because the learners in this situation are non- English majors, who evidentially do not have culture study as a separate lesson, and in order to incorporate culture into foreign language classroom, it is advisable for language teachers at TUE to employ culture- based activities which attach to the current course syllabus. The aim of culture-based activities is to increase students‟ awareness and to develop curiosity towards the target culture and their own, helping them make comparisons among cultures. These comparisons do not mean to underestimate any of the cultures being analyzed, but to enrich students‟ experience and to make them aware that although some cultural elements are being globalized, there is still diversity among cultures. This diversity should then be understood and respected. Culture-based activities are derived from the language material being taught and learnt and constitute a minor but important part of the language lessons. They are characterized by co-operative learning tasks in which students - Work together in pairs or small groups to gather precise segments of information; - Share and discuss what they have discovered, in order to form a more complete picture; - Interpret the information within the context of the target culture and in comparison with their own culture. There is a teaching belief that when students have understood the language being used in a situation and then go on to gain an understanding of culture at work, this is for them one of the most absorbing and exciting parts of any language lesson. Studying culture with culture based activities and co-operative learning approach may add a new dimension of achievement and understanding of the students and teachers as well. TYPES OF ACTIVITIES APPLIED IN EFL CLASSROOMS As the author clearly understands, the more aspects of the target culture are introduced to the students, the more cultural knowledge they can achieve and thus the better they become at dealing with communication within classroom as well as wider contexts. Nevertheless, due to the main requirements of the general English course prescribed by administrators at TUE and time limitation, activities to teach culture should closely relate to the topics introduced in the current textbook. Finding the usefulness of the culture-based activities presented by Cullen [3], I have implemented several of them in my language classroom with some adoption, adjustment and some development. Some of the activities, which I have already applied in my English class when teaching the textbook New Headway Elementary (Soars, 2000), are described in details in the following part. Quizzes Quizzes have been proved to be one of the most popular and successful activity types for culture teaching in EFL classrooms. Quizzes can be employed to test the materials that the teacher has previously taught; on the other hand they are a wonderful tool to introduce new information because they get students discuss, share their existing knowledge and predict to give the right answer. There can be a diversity of how to carry out quizzes in classroom; it can be in forms of game show adopted from a favourite TV one, Nguyễn Thị Hồng Minh Tạp chí KHOA HỌC & CÔNG NGHỆ 87(11): 119 - 124 Số hóa bởi Trung tâm Học liệu – Đại học Thái Nguyên 122 or a competition between two teams. In addition, quizzes can be designed in true/false format as well as multiple choices. For example, the following true/false quiz is designed for teaching about special occasions in English speaking countries. With a peer, decide the following statements true or false. 1. People in England celebrate their Mother‟s Day on different date from those in America. 2. On wedding day the bride often wears something old, something new, and something borrowed. 3. Thanksgiving was first celebrated by the settlers in Australia to show their gratitude to the God. 4. On New Year‟s Eve in London, many thousands of people gather in Time Square where they can hear Big Ben strike midnight. 5. On Easter Day children often go „trick or treat‟ from house to house to ask for chocolate Easter eggs. The following is another quiz in form of multiple choices which can be a supplementary activity while teaching about the superlatives. Choose the best answer for these questions. 1. Which country has the largest population among those? A. Japan B. France C. Australia D. Ethiopia 2. Where is there the highest waterfall in the world? A. South Africa B. Venezuela C. Norway D. Canada D. Zimbabwe 3. Who is the richest football player in the world? A. Ronaldinho B. Ronaldo, C. Rooney D. Ballack, 4. Where is the most crowded capital in Asia? A. Jakarta B. Tokyo C. Delhi D. Bangkok Research I have found that students are more responsible when they are given learning tasks which require them a great amount of preparation at home. They seem to be more motivated when their assignments are related to their interest and personal knowledge. Moreover, students are more excited when they are given freedom to decide aspects of their learning. Thus, student research can be one powerful tool because students themselves search necessary information from various sources and then they present what they have gained in front of the class and answer any questions raised by other classmates. In fact, I have applied this activity as an essential part of a short-term project to my non-English majors many times. Students are asked to work in groups, finding out the required information, for instance, on famous inventions, on different kinds of food around the world, and on the most attractive sites in different countries. Then they gather the information, compiling and analyzing the information and present the final product. And as what I have assessed; the learners have performed quite perfectly. Despite their low level of English, they are eager to share information and express their ideas to their classmates. They are also very creative when doing this activity: they paint pictures, draw graphs and maps, and bring beautiful photos to illustrate their ideas. Students when involving in group work in this activity have chances to cooperate with each other Nguyễn Thị Hồng Minh Tạp chí KHOA HỌC & CÔNG NGHỆ 87(11): 119 - 124 Số hóa bởi Trung tâm Học liệu – Đại học Thái Nguyên 123 to complete the learning task. More importantly, everyone can learn something from others; either the language skills or cultural knowledge. For these benefits, research is one of my favourite activities supplemental to the current textbook to teach about cultures. Proverbs Short and easily memorable, proverbs in any language contain folk wisdom gathered through time and depict its people‟s experience and culture which are expressed in vivid words. Thus, when incorporating culture into foreign language classroom, one should take these valuable folk properties into serious consideration. It is really useful when contrasting common proverbs in the target language and the students‟ native language. Students can recognize the similarities and differences in the language use and the cultural aspects between the two countries. In addition, even when they cannot find out the equivalent translation of the proverbs in their mother language, this activity does create an opportunity for them to learn new conceptions in the target language and culture. It is really fun and exciting when students are asked to translate the proverbs into their own words. I experienced an amusing moment when my non-English major translated the proverb „Like father, like son‟ as „Thích cả bố lẫn con‟ (Loving the father and the son at the same time) or „Out of side, out of mind‟ as „Thằng mù bị điên‟ (The blind man is crazy‟. There are various of English proverbs that have corresponding ones in Vietnamese so that the language teacher can choose to introduce in her classroom when dealing with specific topic or matter in a specific lesson in the current textbook. Some of them are listed here for those who are interested in this activity.  „When in Rome, do as the Romans do‟  „East or west, home is best‟  “Like father, like son‟  „A good beginning makes a good ending‟  „No pain, no gain‟  „The grass is always greener on the other side‟ When proverbs were integrated as a culture element into my English class, we – the teacher as well as the students highly appreciated the lessons which were proved to be so interesting and helpful in a way that culture was not something far-away but close to our daily life. Comparing cultures This is the culture-based activity including „selling points‟ as called by Cullen [3] that portrays different aspects of the culture in order to create cultural texture covering the assortment of different features of cultures. Alternatively, the language teachers need to „sell‟ different views of the culture to the students by introducing deliberate contrasts within a culture, for example. The following „selling points‟ have been often implemented to teach culture in EFL classroom at TUE:  Attractive vs. Shocking (Unit 7 – PRACTICE: When did it happen?)  Similarities vs. Differences (Unit 7- EVERYDAY ENGLISH: Special occasions)  City life vs. Country life (Unit 10 – CITY LIFE)  Stated beliefs vs. Actual behaviour (Unit 12 – READING: The tale of horribly good Bertha)  Old people vs. Young people (Unit 12 – FUTURE PLANS)  Fact vs. Behaviour (Unit 14 – READING: How to live to be 100) Due to the students‟ low level of English, these activities are not easy to be carried out in English classroom at TUE. However, this problem can be solved by dividing the class into small groups where the better can help the weaker and all of the students can contribute to their group work. Conclusion Because of the particular importance of culture in language teaching, it is advisable that culture should be introduced in the language classroom. However, due to the strained context of teaching English for non-majors at Thai Nguyen University of Education, culture has not been able to be taught directly but through supplemental culture-based activities, which may not only develop students‟ language repertoire Nguyễn Thị Hồng Minh Tạp chí KHOA HỌC & CÔNG NGHỆ 87(11): 119 - 124 Số hóa bởi Trung tâm Học liệu – Đại học Thái Nguyên 124 on culture but also help them move beyond the classroom into the living culture of the native speakers. REFERENCES [1]. Bachman, L. (1990) Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. Oxford: Oxford UP. [2]. Cakir, I. (2006). „Developing Cultural Awareness in Foreign Language Teaching‟. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education. 7(3). 154 – 161. [3]. Cullen, B. (2000). „Practical Techniques for Teaching Culture in the EFL classroom‟. The Internet TESL Journal. 6(12). Retrieved September 20th 2008. [4]. Lessard-Clouston, M. (1997). „Towards an Understanding of Culture in L2/FL Education‟. The Internet TESL Journal. 3(5). Retrieved September 20th 2008 Nguyen, Q. (1997). Intercultural Communication. Hanoi: CFL- Vietnam National University [5]. Nguyen, Q. (2006). Lecture Notes – CCC for Uni. EL Teachers. Hanoi: Vietnam National University. [6]. Seelye, H. (1993). Teaching Culture: Strategies for Inter-cultural Communication. Third Edition. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company. [7]. Tang, R. (1999). „The Place of “Culture” in Foreign Language Classrooms‟. The Internet TESL Journal. 5(8). Retrieved October 1st 2008. [8]. Tavares, R. & Cavalcanti, I. (1996). „Developing Cultural Awareness in EF Classroom‟. Forum. 34. [9]. Thanasoulas, D. (2001). „The Importance of Teaching Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom‟ Radical Pedagogy. 3(7). -thanasoulas.html [10]. Valdes, J. (Ed.). (1986). Culture Bound: Bridging the Cultural Gap in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [11]. Yang, C. (2005). „Study on Methodology of Culture Teaching‟. Sino-US English Teaching. 2(2). Retrieved on October 10th 2008. TÓM TẮT TÍCH HỢP CÁC HOẠT ĐỘNG BỔ TRỢ DỰA TRÊN NỀN TẢNG VĂN HOÁ TRONG GIẢNG DẠY TIẾNG ANH KHÔNG CHUYÊN Ở TRƯỜNG ĐẠI HỌC SƯ PHẠM - ĐẠI HỌC THÁI NGUYÊN Nguyễn Thị Hồng Minh Trường Đại học Sư phạm – ĐH Thái Nguyên Văn hoá là một thành phần quan trọng tất yếu trong dạy học ngoại ngữ, giúp người học có được những hiểu biết về đất nước, con người, phong tục của thứ tiếng mà mình đang theo học, từ đó mà thêm yêu và có động lực cao hơn trong việc học tập và sử dụng ngôn ngữ. Tuy nhiên, trong chương trình đào tạo tiếng Anh không chuyên ở trường Đại học Sư phạm- Đại học Thái Nguyên, vì nhiều lí do mà văn hoá không thể được dạy một cách trực tiếp trong các giờ học. Với mong muốn là đem nền văn hoá của các quốc gia nói tiếng Anh đến cho các em sinh viên, tác giả đã và đang áp dụng các hoạt động bổ trợ dựa trên nền tảng văn hoá trong các lớp học tiếng Anh như là một giải pháp góp phần truyền tải văn hóa đến người học một cách tự nhiên, sinh động và gần gũi nhất. Từ khoá: văn hoá, dạy học ngoại ngữ, dạy học văn hoá, hoạt động bổ trợ dựa trên nền tảng văn hoá, tiếng Anh không chuyên.  Tel: 0983 114299, Email: hminh8782@gmail.com

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