CULTURAL CONCEPTS AND STUDENTS’ STEREOTYPIC BELIEFS
Motahari Teaching Training Center (IRAN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Intercultural understanding is an important component in language learning and teaching. It helps learners to promote their awareness of their own culture and the target culture (Byram, 1991; Baker, 2003). Since language is a very powerful and effective vehicle to convey content information and cultural values, it seems important to know how and where these values are conveyed. One of these resources of conveying information is books. Books can be loaded with a lot of cultural information. On the other hand, teaching a language is not just teaching linguistic forms. Many types of other information are necessary to be accompanied by linguistic forms in order to establish a sound communication. Now, what if these books are not adequately prepared.
Even though there are many arguments for and against teaching culture among experts (Christopherson, 1973; Byram, 1988; Honna, 1999; Baker, 2003; Itakura, 2004), there seems to be a general consensus that some positive cultural values and principles should be incorporated in textbooks to make them both more authentic, and at the same time decrease the gap of cultural information.
Concerning the abovementioned argument about the importance of familiarity of target culture, it sounds logical to have some acceptable and positive cultural values of the target language in textbooks, but it seems that there is no suitable room for this in the present English high school books in Iran. This study focuses on cultural concepts and stereotypes. It consisted of two phases.
In the first phase, a cultural textbook analysis was done. The corpus was high school English textbooks. The ten most prominent cultural concepts which were recommended by professionals to be depicted in the present Iranian high school English textbooks were identified and investigated in high school English textbooks.
In the second phase, Iranian high school and English institute learners’ cultural stereotypes were investigated and analyzed. A group of 240 high school and English institute learners participated in this study. They were asked to answer a five-point scale questionnaire of cultural stereotypes. Then, four Chi-square tests were applied to probe the students’ stereotypic beliefs.
The results indicate that the present English high school textbooks do not depict those cultural concepts which are recommended by professionals. It is also found that the depicted cultural concepts are not very helpful for learners to promote their intercultural understanding. The results achieved from the second phase, cultural stereotypes, show that all four groups (high school and institute learners regarding their genders) have cultural stereotypes about the culture of English-speaking countries. If these cultural stereotypes are not removed or modified, they will block real intercultural understanding and learners always will have biased ideas about the target culture. One of the ways of removing and modifying these stereotypic beliefs is developing materials in which cultural concepts are depicted and loaded in such a way that learners, consciously or unconsciously, become aware of the features of the target culture. It is motivating and interesting for learners. But if learners are dealt with a number of culture-free texts and topics, little by little, they will be frustrated and demotivated. Therefore, it seems essential that material developers and textbook writers design more culture-loaded materials.
Keywords: cultural concepts, cultural stereotypes, students stereotypic beliefs, efl.