Approaches To Culture And Intercultural Communication English Language Essay

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Intercultural competence is [the ability] "to see relationships between different cultures - both internal and external to a society - and to mediate, that is interpret each in terms of the other, either for themselves or for other people." It also encompasses the ability to critically or analytically understand that one's "own and other cultures'" perspective is culturally determined rather than natural.

All the articles which I have studied (Promoting Intercultural communicative competence through foreign language courses, Aranese Identity, Pedagogical practice for Intergrating the Intercultural in Language Teaching and Learning, Expanding the vision of Intercultural communication, Intercultural language learning: cultural mediation within the curriculum of Translation and Interpreting, Six stumbling blocks, Humor and Disagreement: Identity construction and cross-cultural enrichment, Socialization and Literacy in a Foreign Language: Learning Through Interaction, The Traffic in Meaning) mainly focus on developing intercultural competence in foreign language teaching and learning. Certainly, today we all live in a globalised world and the role of globalisation has a direct impact on foreign language learning and teaching where language is used as a tool to be able to communicate in an intercultural environment. Thus, cultural aspects become of high interest in modern methodology of foreign language training and it leads to radical changes in foreign language curricular design.

Furthermore, we are all familiar with the Bologna Process which has a direct influence on foreign language training in higher educational institutions, the purpose of which is to create the only European Higher Education area: to ease students and faculty mobility, to give an access to high-quality higher education based on academic freedom and to train students for their future careers. As a result, there is no escape from internationalization of higher education and year by year we face difficulties in developing students´ intercultural awareness.

Therefore, foreign language teaching process can't be implemented without social and cultural contexts. Nowadays both notions "interculturalism" and "internationalization" are common terms used in the area of education. Foreign language teachers place a great value on development of an understanding students' own language and cultural values in relation to another culture. In other words, it is an ongoing process of cultural identity model construction and the ability to establish oneself in multicultural communities. But promoting intercultural language competence among the students (for example Russian students) can become a challenge because it can replace local identity cultural patterns and impose Western lifestyle on them.

In the 80s "big C culture" approach was used which implied that the learner used a foreign language to discover the facts about the particular country and it mostly was through reading. [1] Earlier the educators used to view the culture as a set of societal norms where the learners do not interact within the target culture environment and it often leads to misconceptions and prejudices about the target culture.

Today one of the main points for foreign language teachers is keeping language and cultural knowledge always updated. Furthermore, it's a must for language users both for teachers and students to keep up with the recent changes taking place in multicultural communities. And in addition to it they have to exchange the information in class reflecting on their personal experience gained during the interaction with the representatives of a given country. One of the articles I have studied shed light on teasing and disagreement which can be also of high value in a foreign language class. To agree or object to some information in class positively affect relational identity development due to comparison with one's own cultural patterns. All the above mentioned also applies to foreign language educational process in Russian schools. And I would like to share my own experience while teaching English and Strategic Leadership in English at Tourism Department, Petrozavodsk State University, Russia.

Training potential employees in the hospitality field includes not only the foreign language acquisition (English in particular) and the ability to interact as a negotiator but also awareness of cultural patterns of multicultural societies and peculiarities of different destinations. At tourism department we set great stores on developing professional intercultural competence. However, some of the aspects of such a training of future specialists in the hospitality and tourism industry lack theoretical foundation. Interacting intercultural in the professional field, specialists are involved in different societal conversation patterns: both with the co-workers and customers. Furthermore, by an expert in the hospitality industry we understand a representative of his/her own culture and it affects the communication act because of absence of concepts existing in another social group. Speaking about language training and having taken into account the limited number of English classes and lack of natural communication it is almost impossible to master socio-cultural knowledge at a big scale.

In fact, foreign language in the professional field is to be used as a tool and cross-cultural communication mean. Due to this fact there is a necessity to introduce new disciplines taught in English for future specialists in the tourism industry. As a result, it will help not only to accumulate gained language skills and students' knowledge but will also facilitate communication skills' development in the professional area increasing the lexis and broadening students´ mind. The first course introduced was "Strategic leadership" held in English. This course is especially important and of high interest for students from the point of personal management and entrepreneurship skills' development. It is essential for the students to be able to distinguish between the notions management and leadership and provide examples gained first hand.

Classes in "Strategic leadership" are held in a form of interactive seminars and topic negotiations in the professional language. Apart from it students are engaged in autonomous work: they choose a topic, discover information on their own and as a result make a presentation in Microsoft Power Point. There are other forms of students' individual work such as: team work using IT, individual work in the library, homework, individual and collective creative work within the class.

Taking into consideration professionally-oriented approach in foreign language teaching students are involved in annual conference organization. An annual conference gathers the students from different majors (restaurant service, hotel business, sustainable tourism, hospitality and tourism), years of study and cultural groups (other universities of Russia and European countries: Finland, Sweden… etc.). Thus students stand a great opportunity to conduct a research in the field they are interested, present it in the professional language and share expertise in the hospitality industry field.

At the present time the first place is given to practical use of the language, will be professionals are to be able to use it as a tool in interaction and correspondence. Foreign language being an integrated discipline plays a leading role in knowledge enrichment. It prepares graduates for their future career and life in the conditions of multi-polar world. As a consequence, foreign language training takes one of the first places in the educational system. However despite this fact, many non-language higher institutions face difficulties in language teaching for many reasons, e.g. the shortage of academic hours, not being fully acquainted with the recent labor market requirements, old material and stuff, lack of both teachers' and students´ experience and so on. Unfortunately there is still a problem in training highly-qualified graduates, which could be both competent and competitive at current world labour market.

This chapter provides a brief introduction to intercultural communication development in foreign language training for future specialists in the hospitality industry. There is a particular emphasis on those aspects of the theoretical material that are applicable to an understanding of the importance of intercultural awareness development through a foreign language for the potential workforce in the hospitality industry. This study also discusses a number of issues, e.g. teaching a foreign language, from cross cultural perspective. This part is separated into four sections and each section discusses specific patterns which are indispensable in promoting intercultural competence development through a second language.

2.2. Language and thought

The clearness of people's thought depends on their language. When we compare modern English with some of those Indian languages the contrast is remarkable. When we say ``the eye is the organ of sight``, the Indian may not be able to form the expression of the eye but may have to define that the eye of a person or an animal is meant. The lack of grammatical forms is due to the lack of their need: a primitive man is not in the habit of discussing abstract ideas. Thus the Indian won't speak of goodness as such, although he may very well speak of the goodness of a person. It is easy to develop the idea of the abstract term in the mind of an Indian, who will state that the word without a possessive pronoun gives a sense, although it is not used idiomatically. For instance in isolating the terms for love and pity, which ordinarily occur only in possessive forms, like his love and my pity for you. In other languages it seems desirable to generalize a term. In Kwakiutl language the idea of to be seated is almost expressed with an inseparable suffix expressing the place which a person is seated (on the floor, on the beach…). Although the form may be used which expresses simply being in a sitting posture. In this case the idea is generalized. It would seem that the obstacles to generalized thought inherent in the form of a language are of minor importance only, and that the language alone would not prevent people from advancing to more generalized forms of thinking if the general state of their culture should require expression of such thought. Thus the language will be molded rather by a cultural state. [2] 

Speaking about languages I would like to center on Edward Sapiron Linguistic Determinism. Language is a channel to "social reality." Language is not a mere interest to the students of human and social sciences but it forms the whole philosophy of thinking. People do not live in the objective world or in the world of social and they use language to express themselves in the society they are in. It is difficult to imagine that one could adjust to real life without language usage and it is a false impression that language is a minor instrument of resolving particular problems of communication or likeness. The real world is founded on the language habits of the societal group. And there can´t be so that for instance ever adequately similar languages (Italian, Portuguese and Spanish) could represent the same society. [3] 

Learning a second language and a second culture

When we speak about a foreign language we understand second language learning. Thus second language learning is assimilated with second culture learning. Teachers of a second language and culture should develop such skills as acculturation: when the students are able to become accustomed to a new cultural society. It is very crucial to take into account various types of second language contexts:

Learning and teaching a second language within the culture where this language is spoken

Learning and teaching a second language in within one's own native culture, where that language is used as lingua franca in the given country

Learning a non-native language in one's own culture (for example Russian students learn French in Portugal)

There are many reasons for learning a foreign language: some students want to communicate in another environment, others just strive to gain theoretical knowledge within the field of tourism and hospitality industry, and also there are highly-motivated students who are just interested in studying languages. [4] 

Culture shock has to be taken into consideration as well, because it is incorporated in a second language learning process. The anthropologist George M. Foster defined a culture shock in words: "Culture shock is a mental illness, an as is true of much mental illness, the victim usually doesn't know he is afflicted. He finds that he is irritable, depressed, and probably annoyed by the lack of attention shown him." [5] From my point of view teachers of foreign languages are certainly able to provide future specialists of the hospitality field with some theoretical issues and they can illustrate practical examples related to "culture shock" but they can't teach students to it. Graduates will be able to understand what culture shock is like only then when they find themselves in another cultural and societal group and experience it first-hand.

Nonetheless in order to prepare highly-qualified specialists in the tourism industry it is necessary to develop students' intercultural competence. Teachers of EFL must acquire basics about a second language and background information about the given culture. They have to be competent in authentic materials' selection from the intercultural perspective. Moreover EFL teachers have to take students' cultural and educational background into consideration and develop the programs in correspondence with their needs and current tourism market requirements from the point of intercultural communication. In addition, in order to increase intercultural awareness it is essential to encourage native speakers to a second language learning process. Today many of the people who live in cities and other industrial zones have heard much about the social distance and also many tourists are familiar with this notion. Social distance refers to emotional and cognitive closeness of two cultures which come into contact with an individual. According to Karakayali and Nedim the notion of ``social distance`` in sociology is viewed in different ways: affective social distance, normative social distance and interactive social distance.

Affective social distance refers to affective detachment or in other words to what extent the members of the group sympathise with another group. Normative social distance is assimilated with already accepted norms and rules about who should be thought as ``insider`` and who an ``outsider`` or foreigner. Thus these established norms identify ``us`` from ``them``. The last concept centers on the regularity and occurrence of interactions between two groups and the more the members of both groups communicate to each other the more rapidly they become closer to each other socially. In the modern society one can face interactive social distance while using a great many of social networks such as for example Facebook, Vkontakte.ru and the like. For example if you are connecting with a foreign friend through the social network very frequently the social bond between your friend and you strengthens. [6] 

Another researcher, John Schumann described social distance consisting of the following factors: dominance, integration model, cohesiveness, congruence, attitude and length of residence and depicted "GOOD" and "BAD" language learning situations. He illustrated each situation in two cross-cultural contexts:

One of the "bad" situations would be where the TL (target language) group views the second language learning as leading part, where the second language group is both unified and large, where the two cultures are not similar, where both cultures show negative attitudes towards each other.

The second "bad" situation has the characteristics of the first but in this particular case the second language group would consider itself inferior and be considered subordinate by the TL group.

A "good" language situation will be the one where the second language group is non-dominant in relation to the target language group, where both groups aspire to integration, where low enclosure is the aim of both groups, where the two cultures are congruent, where the second language group is small and non-cohesive, where both groups enjoy positive attitude towards each other. According to Schumann under such conditions social distance will be nominal and acquisition of the target language would be enhanced. [7] 

Perceived social distance is what a learner perceives facing the reality. According to Acton when a learner encounters a new culture his acculturation process will be a factor how he identifies himself in his own culture in relation to the culture of the target language and vice versa. Acton devised a measure of perceived social distance by introducing three dimensions: distance (difference) between himself and his countrymen, distance between him and members of the target culture in general, distance between his countrymen and members of the target culture. A successful language learner views himself as maintaining some distance between himself and both cultures.

A cultural "critical period" is the third stage of acculturation. Language mastery at stage 3 would appear to be an instrument for progressing psychologically through stage 3 and finally into stage 4. You can lack some of the linguistic knowledge and adjust to the culture and sometimes a person can achieve a linguistic mastery but is less likely to attain healthy acculturation.

According to Robert Lado, "culture" as we recognize it is identical to the "ways of a people". By the ways here we understand the behavioural and cultural patterns which belong to the particular society or culture. Moreover it´s rather problematic to determine what these ways in fact are and what they mean. Thus, the problem is that we are powerless to interpret ourselves accurately and explain what we really do, because we have got used to do things since childhood and attained them in the given cultural environment. In this sense we are both incapable to account for our cultural ways and describe our language, though we make use of complex language structure with no difficulty. Furthermore, when a representative this or that culture is asked why do you use ``between instead of ``among`` a native-speaker can get perplexed and face difficulties while explaining the rule.

Likewise, we cannot expect to contrast two cultures unless we have more precise perceptive of each of the cultures being compared. We must remove the things we state to do but in fact do not do. As a matter of fact, we are to be able to depict the things we carry out without being conscious of doing them. In addition, we have to be able to portray the situations in which we perform what we do. [8] Furthermore, cultural anthropologists Kluckhohn and Kelly possibly best articulate what culture is. Culture is "all those historically created designs for living explicit and implicit, rational, irrational, non-rational, which exist at any given time as potential guides for the behavior of men." [9] In contrast there is another definition of culture made by Edward Sapir ``All cultural behavior is patterned.`` [10] The manners of behaviour of a representative of the given culture are not alike, also they are all exceptional and never repeat again. For example even the same play is performed in a different way by the same actor at different time. Yet in each culture acts in physical expressions are however different and never acknowledged as alike. To illustrate it for instance having dinner in Portugal, one eats at the same restaurant and one day he chooses the traditional dish ``Amejoas a Bulhao Pato`` and another evening he eats another Portuguese specialty ``Conquillas``. There are two episodes of the same item of behavior: having dinner and yet they are diverse. The mold in which the certain acts fall to be considered as having dinner in Portugal represents a mode of behavior which exists in Portuguese culture. Furthermore, these modes of behavior are made up from different elements such as an actor, objects, setting and time, aim and etc. Although these elements always unique and diverse, they are classified into the ``sames`` and ``differents`` within particular molds which are also cultural patterns. The ``sames`` have features in each culture and they mostly refer to classes (e.g. men, women, dogs, ideas and etc.) By another class we understand processes (e.g. to study, to find, to think and etc.) and all these items of patterned behavior which are in each culture have forms, connotation and allocation. What are the forms then? Actually the forms are acknowledged by the representatives of this or that culture, but however these forms can be identified differently by each representative. For example in the sample above, having dinner in Portugal, when the very same individuals can state that they are eating dinner and on the other hand may not define what dinner for us or may do it incorrectly. Thus we can identify what dinner in Portugal is by watching a great many of episodes of having dinner and comparing these occurrences with those which seem to be similar to dinner, confusing them for instance with lunch or just a snack in this country. Meanings along with the forms are culturally established and adjusted. They signify the study of the world as it stated within culture. Generally, patterned forms have a complex of connotations or meanings some of which represent an item, quality and another ones are seized either principally or secondary. To illustrate it, eating dinner means providing food and beverage for the human body whereas we say then that dinner usually has the primary meaning. Additionally, a specific form of dinner e.g. at a restaurant or home, can carry out a secondary meaning a social class recognition, national or religious identification. Thus, any of the peculiarities of culture may be part of the meaning of a particular group unit and additionally all of these central form items are allocated in patterned ways. Consequently, form, meaning and distribution are interrelated to each other and are not used separately in a culture. But here we speak about them independently to point out that forms are important when they enjoy the meaning, the meaning presumes a form and meaningful forms constantly take place in patterned distribution. It is worth underlying that the examination of the form can occur straightforwardly and in a roundabout way through the photograph, television or by means of language message. Furthermore, when the patterns take place in contact across various cultural environments, individuals often face misunderstandings and misinterpretations. As an example, we could suppose that a representative from culture A learning culture B watches the form in culture B in a specific allocation, he takes hold of the same meanings in his own culture A, And on the other hand when he is actively involved in the pattern of behavior in culture B he opts for the form which he would choose in his own culture to attain that complex of meaning. If the national lifestyle is transferred while learning a second culture we can expect that there will be difficulties arisen if for example the same form will have various connotations or different classification in both cultures. To illustrate it for instance Americans often drink milk to go with the food, where milk is considered to be a standard drink and has a primary meaning, and they drink wine on special occasions. In contrast, in France for example they rarely drink milk at meal times and much more often they drink milk for other reasons when groups of people or family do it because of special cultural relations. Drinking milk in France has a secondary meaning and has much to do with a special event. Its initial meaning would be food and drink for the body. There will be a trouble for understanding another culture in drinking patterns and there will be cross-cultural misinformation if they start comparing milk with wine. Furthermore there is a big difficulty in learning a foreign culture when a pattern has the same form and the same meaning but another distribution or when observations made by one individual of that other culture are likely tobe simplified to the entire societal group.

Culture in the classroom

As language teachers we must be interested in the study of culture not because we necessarily wish to teach the culture of the other country but because we have to teach it. Moreover, if we teach language without schooling at the same time the culture in which it functions, we are teaching worthless symbols or secret codes to which students attach the wrong meanings; for unless the student is notified, unless he is given cultural instruction, he will unite American concepts or objects with the foreign symbols. However, there is little risk that culture in its other two meanings of modification and creative endeavors will be slighted: all the impact of literature, travels and traditions will certainly orient both teacher and student in this direction. In general, culture is the view of life as seen from within the speech community, especially by individuals who are in circumstances comparable to those of the student. For this reason, the teacher establishes in the classroom a cultural island which is constructed from both tangible and intangible elements, where he identifies and comments on references in literature. Moreover, by the means of incidental discussions he may communicate to his students the concepts which make language learning invaluable. [11] 

According to Kramsch ``Culture in language learning is not an expendable fifth skill, tacked on, so to speak, to the teaching of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. It is always in the background, right from day one, ready to unsettle the good language learners when they expect it least, making evident the limitations of their hard-won communicative competence, challenging their ability to make sense of the world around them``. [12] 

What Kramsch implies here is that to learn a foreign culture is not just to learn its language but it is necessary to find out how much freedom the target language permits learners to operate with grammatical forms, sounds and meanings and to consider or even break accepted standards within society both in their own or the target cultural environment. [13] 

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