Cultural Learning And Language Teaching Education Essay

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To start the "C" (comparison) you need the following "documents": a) your own autobiography, b) the biography you wrote about your partner. The actual comparison involves the following:

C1: Compare your own autobiography with the biography you wrote about your partner and write down a list of similarities and differences; c)insert them into a Cultural Venn Diagram or Iceberg. Do you see any interesting similarities in your partner's and your own life story as a language learner? For example, are there similar experiences, events or learning processes that were/are important in your lives? In what respect, precisely, are these "similar" experiences really similar, or how do they maybe differ after all? On the other hand, are there any striking events or experiences ("critical incidents") in your partner's life story as a language learner that would be unlikely to be part of your own life story as a language learner? Or, are there any striking events, experiences, or learning processes in your partner's life that, in all likelihood, would have a different meaning, relevance or impact in your own life as a language learner? Do you see any connection to learner-specific behaviours, values and beliefs?

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C2: Drawing on course reading and other relevant literature, consider (i) how your findings from C1 relate to literature in the field of intercultural language learning/competence and/or (ii) how the literature helped you analyse the data.

C3: Drawing on insights gained from steps A, B and C, discuss the intercultural opportunities and challenges, and options for addressing these challenges in a learning and teaching/workplace context that you are familiar with.

For this third assignment you will be expected to draw on theoretical material from the course and to apply deep level analyses. Weaver's iceberg model and Human GPS (Finkbeiner, 2009) will guide you. Detailed instruction for this step will be given in class.

INTRODUCTION

Cultures can be viewed from many angles like experience, beliefs, language learning, religion and perceptions. For example in Islam the believer is gives easiness in whatever they do and practice in life as long it is according to the religion."He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion" (The Holy Quran, 22: 78).

In contrast The Holy Bible states that 'Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden,and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30, Revised Standard Version). This means that the believer can lessen their burden of committing a sin by being closer with Jesus who will lighten the burden.

Both Holy books interpret differently, about how the way of lives are arranged easily for the believers. Thus culture is very subjective and might have similarities and differences but interpreted differently. To understand the similarities and differences sharing life stories could be an interesting step to be taken. So this assignment discusses the similarities and differences between B's biography and mine. In our biographies we have interesting stories pertaining to our earliest childhood memories until now. We have traversed into the past by writing these biographies. By doing a comparison (Figure 1) for this assignment I discovered that both biographies contain important messages. Both of us were able to increase our awareness about the impact of our cultural beliefs and values in teaching and learning.

The Cultural Venn Diagram

B

MYSELF

Differences

Not an Arabic teacher

Brother is not gay

Worked as banker

Parents deceived

Sister a role model for the interest in reading

Muslim

Similarities

Difficulties in English grammar

Difficulties in learning Arabic language

English language teacher

Married

Have children

Happy

Differences

Arabic teacher

Brother is gay

Mother still alive

Nobody played a role for the interest in reading

Christian

Figure 1

C1 (A): LANGUAGE LEARNING EXPERIENCE

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B and I went through a similar school experience even though we had a different mother tongue. B's mother tongue is English and her second language is French. My mother tongue is Malay and my second language is English. Surprisingly we had similar difficulty in understanding English grammar. B found that even though she is a native speaker she is not very proficient with grammar. For me, English is my second language so learning English grammar is a challenge. We found that both of us were struggling to acquire the stage of understanding the grammar in our language learning experience in school. At the same time we also discovered that we were approaching two different methods in fulfilling the gap in our language learning curve. Indirectly, B learned English grammar through French classes in France. On the other hand, I learned my English grammar through the English subject taught in school.

Both of us also encounter difficulties in learning other languages. For B she faced difficulties when she learned Arabic and to overcome this she transliterated the Arabic script to English beside using novel, dictionaries and studying in group which were not effective. However she was still struggling to learn Arabic. Eventually she successfully learned Arabic effectively through help from an Arabic trained teacher. At that point she realized the quality of being a good teacher and she aimed to increase her language awareness because she realized the nature of language and its role in human life (Donmall, 1985, p.7) by becoming a good language teacher.

I learned Arabic for the first time when I started my tertiary level education at the International Islamic University Malaysia. I also experienced the first time studying all my courses in English due to the medium of instruction used compared to the previous academic life in my primary and secondary school. At first, I struggled with my courses being taught in English. At the same time taking Arabic language also put me under pressure. However I graduated successfully with support and guidance from my parents and the lecturers. I improved my proficiency in English and worked as a banker. However I was still unsatisfied with my previous employment that I decided to further my study in Teaching English As A Second Language and become a teacher! I realized that my service as a language teacher was totally significant to fulfill the needs of my community, especially those in the rural area. This transition changed me from being a business woman to an English teacher which I never thought would happen. We had been exposed with different kind of exposures to find our own identity as an English teacher. Both of us has reflected the process of our own language learning which had an impact for our future teaching and learning (Risko et al., 2002).

C2 :The findings, literature and the analysis

The finding shows that we manage to discover our own self identity through the 'Human Global Positioning System' (HPGS) navigation (Finkbeiner, 2009). HPGS enable us to travel through our language learning experience and discover the hidden culture. Weaver (1993) continues that the "core" of culture is "invisible". These two significant theories help us to discover that both of us experienced two different hidden cultures in two different environments in learning language. We traversed "different places" and were exposed to "different cultures" at "different time zones" (Finkbeiner, 2009, p.152) and according to Finkbeiner (2006) this led to big influence on a person's self identity. Thus the "core" of culture which is "invisible' for both of us is our self image! The self image which we were looking for was the identity as an English teacher. Both of us discovered that the identity that we have now is because of the "navigation" that we did in the past. Surprisingly we discovered the hidden self image through our interview session (Finkbeiner 2006). The interview (Appendix 1 and 2) is one of the significant steps to understand better about myself and my partner, because the interview acts as a tool to share life stories with similarities and differences (Spindler and Spindler, 1987).

C3: Opportunities and challenges in teaching context

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I have learned that through different exposures we can still acquire knowledge. The interview session helped both of us to discuss and discover the hidden part in ourselves. I discovered that discussion is important in teaching and learning and it can be applied in my teaching method. So changes need to be embedded in the teaching method. Including discussion in the teaching method will enable the students to know each other better. However different students have different levels of acceptance and styles of learning. They may not want to participate actively in class. Finkbeiner (2008) stated that teaching methods need to be suitable for different group of learners with different style of learning. Therefore as a teacher I need to be creative with my students who are from various backgrounds and have different learning styles. Understanding them would be the first step before I move on with the new teaching methods.

C1 : (B) BELIEFS

My sister is an idol for me to start my interest in reading and I symbolize her for success but for B nobody played an important role. It is on her own willingness that she started to create an interest in reading. She believe that her habit in reading helps her to "escape to a different world". Whereas for me I believe that my reading doesn't bring me to another world but it is for my own pleasure and satisfaction where I enjoy the selection of themes for reading. However both of us value the importance of reading in satisfying our own needs and wants which are obviously different.

C2 :The findings, literature and the analysis

Through the Manifestations of Culture at Different levels of depth (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005 p. 7) I discovered that my sister is the "heroes", the second layer of the "Onion". This is because she "serve as models for behavior" (p. 7). For B, her reading habit is the third layer of the "Onion" which is the "rituals". This is because the text in her reading played the role in bringing her into another imaginary world which is "reaching the desired ends" (p.8). As we 'peeling of the onion's skin', at the end both of us reach the core of the onion which is the value which contains the positive and negative feelings, the unnatural versus natural (p. 8). B had an unnatural way of satisfying herself through reading by her desire to "escape to a different world". For me it is more natural and common feeling which is pleasure and to enjoy myself.

However both of us were reading to satisfy our subconscious mind which is hidden. Hall (1976) highlighted that the hidden part is the most important part which directs the attitude performed. Weaver (1993) added that the unconscious mind is located beneath the iceberg. Weaver emphasized that the unconscious mind contains "values" and "thought patterns" (p. 21) in his "Iceberg Analogy of culture" (p. 159). I found that both of our culture collides like two icebergs that I discovered all the hidden culture. (Figure 2). This is because when I was reading I didn't know at the actual time that I felt the pleasure from reading. As for B she doesn't know at the actual time that she "escaped to another world". Both our feelings was processes by our subconscious mind which is beneath the iceberg.

The Iceberg Analogy of Culture

Myself

Self image

Self satisfaction

Emotionally strong

Friendly

Honest

Beliefs

Very Open Perception

Christian

Value knowledge

Analytical mind

Value knowledge

Futuristic thinking

Behavior

Not very open perception

Muslim

Friendly

Emotional

Sensitive

B

MYSELF

Values and Thought Patterns

Figure 2Source :Cultural Venn Diagram by Claudia Finkbeiner and Christine kolb (source LALS 519 Class notes on blackboard day 8)

C3: Opportunities and challenges in teaching context

As a teacher, the finding and the analysis above clearly highlight on the importance of finding the hidden culture among my students. The hidden part could be values, beliefs, learning style, level of acceptance etc. All these non-observable factors could only be seen through observable activities like reading, speaking, listening and writing. According to Finkbeiner (2008) understanding others cannot be done by making assumptions. Therefore in my teaching context, I can only understand my students by implementing classroom activities. For example in a speaking activity, students can share their values, beliefs etc. This will increase the understanding and make the relationship between the teacher and the students become closer. However this may take some time if the students are very shy and feel unprepared to share their feelings. Therefore the time factor and the students' level of acceptance need to be given serious thought.

C1: (C) PERCEPTIONS

In B's life, there were one incident where she came to know that her brother is a gay. In her culture, her family can accept the truth and face the fact. In my culture, on top of the religion prohibiting one being a gay or lesbian we could not accept it as a lifestyle.

Here I can see the different perceptions between B's culture and mine. From this difference what I can understand is B's family could accept the fact that a person can choose his own lifestyle even though the religion prohibits it. However in my family we could not accept the fact giving full freedom to the children to choose their own lifestyle. In my family, the children depend on the guidelines given by the parents and the children need to follow them without any questions asked. The children are being raised in such a way that their life is led by our parents and being protected by not being exposed to any negative factors from outside which can jeopardize our lifestyle, culture and religion.

C2 :The findings, literature and the analysis

The different lifestyle and level of acceptance between B's family and mine showed that the existence of "cultural relativism". According to Hofstede and Hofstede (2005) in cultural relativism there is no superior culture compared to another culture. All culture is equivalent because it has its own judgment. This theory helps me to analyse the findings about B and my family's perceptions about one person's lifestyle. It is clear to me that in a community everyone has their own culture and judgment. Everyone has to respect the culture in the community. With this in mind, it will ensure a happier community to be lived in.

C3: Opportunities and challenges in teaching context

In real life people have different lifestyles and others may have different perceptions on these different lifestyles. Some may accept it positively and some may accept negatively. In my teaching context among the students there could be many perceptions about people's lifestyles in the community. As teacher I need to nurture my students to respect other people's lifestyles and culture due to the fact that people with different lifestyles are a part of the community. In my teaching I need to be more sensitive about my surroundings by being closer to the students. As a teacher I need to establish effective two-way communication with my students. An effective communication would ensure that the students understand about accepting different lifestyle in a community. This will prevent them from being surrounded with negative feelings like hatred, superstition etc which leads to unhealthy environment. The students need to understand that people have the right to choose their own lifestyle. The students must understand that interfering and questioning people's lifestyles will indicate disrespect in the community.

However challenges might appear in terms of questions raised by the parents like" how would I ensure that my children are not influenced by all the negative elements if they are told to accept it without questioning the consequences in school"? As a teacher confronting this kind of questions would make me stronger and give me opportunity to encourage the parents to be educated as well. This is because they need to be clear that the message being conveyed to the students is being respectful to each other. The questions of how to protect the students from being influenced by the negative elements lies in the hand of both the parents and the teachers. It is our responsibility to ensure that information is conveyed clearly to these students. This will ensure that they can accept any information with a clear peace of mind and this will also ensure them becoming a part of a healthier community.

C1: (D) RELIGION AGAINST LANGUAGE

It is surprising for me to know that as a Christian , B tried to learn the Arabic language to fulfill her curiosity and eventually today she is a qualified Arabic teacher . For me as a Muslim, I tried to learn Arabic language in order to understand the content of The Holy Quran which is written in Arabic. However being a Muslim I also learned English which is not related with my religion.

So one's religion beliefs do not prevent you from learning any language. For B if she felt that learning Arabic is related with Islam than she would not have taken the chance to learn the language. For me if I relate English with Christianity than I would not have taken the chance as well to learn the language. Both of us clearly value the language as knowledge not as a religious requirement that could forbid us from learning the language.

However it is an irony for me being a Muslim with less Arabic language knowledge compared to B who is not a Muslim but is very fluent in Arabic and also one of the successful Arabic language teachers.

When I see her as an Arabic language teacher, I felt that there is a gap for me to fulfill in my own community. If as a Muslim I can't even talk properly in Arabic and do not even give importance to it so how can I be a good Muslim? This question needs to be given serious thought. For me this is another hidden part of myself that I need to navigate to find the answer for it.

C2 :The findings, literature and the analysis

Noordhoff and Kleinfeld (1993) highlighted that in order to educate the "multicultural classrooms" effectively, the teachers need to study about themselves including their identity. This theory helps me to understand myself as a Muslim teacher who would be teaching not only in my teaching context but also in another different context. In order to do this I can only proceed if I understand about myself before interpreting about others. By comparing myself to B, I understand that religion is not the bottleneck to reach knowledge. I understand further that we are given freedom to choose what we desire for. However the desire for me to learn English and the desire for B to learn Arabic have nothing to do with our religion. We were able to manipulate these desires in fulfilling the need of our own community. As what we can see at the present I am an English teacher to serve my own teaching context and B is an English and Arabic teacher to serve her own teaching context. At present is a blessing for us to understand our desires before fulfilling our students' desire. Therefore, both of learned about ourselves by learning about each other as Schmidt (1999) says "Know thyself and understand others".

C3: Opportunities and challenges in teaching context

I have learned that our personal backgrounds such as religion should not be a bottleneck in the process of teaching and learning. Our background should be used to scaffold the process of teaching and learning. Learning about the strengths and weaknesses in ourselves as teachers will help us to be strong and dedicated teachers. We will be more confident and motivated to teach the students because we know ourselves better and this will make our minds to be active, more open and ready to receive any changes. In relation to this factors like attitudes, motivation and values that can ensure effective language learning (Hall, 1959) are taken into consideration because it control the mind operation (Hofstede, 1997).Thus because we eliminate all the negative factors from our minds therefore teaching become easier because no obstacle are faced in teaching the students. This will lead to culture in learning with more freedom for the students to choose their own learning where this will establish autonomous learning (Finkbeiner 2008).

However sometimes freedom needs to be given for students who know how to decide. On the other hand for those students who still cannot decide, they need to be guided at the preliminary stage before they become a successful autonomous and good language learners.

CONCLUSION

This assignment has successfully portrayed an effective cross cultural analysis between B and me. The comparison made enable me to understand myself and my partner, B deeper. Further we discovered all the hidden elements in our culture, beliefs and values. Relevant literatures are also used to analyse the findings we discovered from the comparison made. All these steps taken in this cross cultural analysis have involved me implicitly by discovering myself, enlightening my knowledge as a teacher and enabling me to apply it in my teaching context. As one of the Chinese proverbs say "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand".

(WORD COUNT: 3043)

REFERENCE

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Appendix 1 (I am asking question to B)

Interview Session for ABC 1.jpg