Ural Federal University (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN17 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 3367-3371
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.1729
Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Language has been called the carrier of culture. Traditional model of teaching English is English as a foreign language (EFL). The ideal model of language proficiency as set in front of a learner is that of a native speaker. In this model, teaching cultural meanings to students was considered an integral component of teaching language. With globalization, however, the chances are higher for students to speak English to other non-English speakers. With development of ICT, students often learn languages without face-to-face interactions. Thus, the traditional teaching model is giving way to teaching English as instrument of international communication. Does this instrumentalization of English mean that students do not acquire inter-cultural competence and that cultural meanings acquisition can be separated from language learning?.

These questions are widely discussed in the literature on language acquisition as well as in the discourse of global English and World Englishes. However, the theories are rarely supported by evidence from the field. The purpose of this qualitative study is to examine what teachers say about integrating or separating cultural meanings from language learning and teaching and what students report about their experience of acquiring cultural meanings when learning a foreign language. Contrasting answers given by the students with opinions expressed by the teachers during interviews shows a rupture between the model of teaching and the perception of learners. The teachers think they use traditional model of EFL with a set of cultural information even when they teach students with limited teaching hours, while the students say that, especially when using apps for learning English, they do not aim at developing their understanding of native speakers’ culture.

In accordance with S. Wright’s differentiated bilingualism thesis, we consider the English language in the contemporary global world to be more often used as an instrument of communication. However, students may choose to develop their inter-cultural awareness. Thus, language learner is supposed to provide the process of language acquisition with individual sense, largely determined by the subject matter of her or his future professional activity. In the process of self-development, learners can grasp awareness of the amount and form of cultural knowledge they feel they might need. Interviewing both students and teachers, we have received a clear signal that teachers’ role is still meaningful. However, they should focus more on supporting students’ reflection about the goals of their language study and be capable to provide them with a range of tools and settings to acquire English. This challenge opens new horizons for teachers to become more reflexive about the goals and the process of language learning and their roles in it.
English as a foreign language, culture acquisition, inter-cultural competence, differentiated bilingualism, learner’s sense of culture, reflection-on-action.