The research presented in this paper was conducted to achieve the following aim: 1) provide definition for the concept of culture, 2) examine the current levels of cultural awareness of university students, identify areas of opportunity for growth in current levels of knowledge, discuss the difficulties inteaching culture in the university curriculum for EFL Teacher Preparation Institutions, and 4) offer strategies on both the theoretical and practical levels of instruction.
As we began to research how culture has an impact on language learning, we came across many concepts and ideas in relation to the term ‘culture’. For the purpose of our analysis , an understanding of this term, it mustbe first clarified. We offer as an appropriate definition:
“Culture is a broad concept that embraces all aspects of human life. It’s an integrated system of learned behavior, patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting that are characteristics of the members of any given society. This system refers to the total way of life for a particular group of people which consists of concepts, valuesand assumptions that are shared by them and help them to organize their common life.”
( Aronhime, 1990; Hanvey, 1979; Galloway, 1981)
Along with the definition provided for your reference, culture can be referred to in distinctly different, yet interrelated, domains of people’s lives. These divisions are referred to as ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ aspects of culture. To truly understand aculture, it is necessary to acknowledge and both aspects, and the ways that they impact each other.
The visible aspect of culture can be things which represent a popular understanding of the term culture such as: literature, arts, architecture, and history of a people. It also includes styles of dress, customs, cuisine, festivals, traditions and other rituals. The visible aspects ofculture are readily apparent to anyone and can be shared and explained relatively easily.
The invisible aspects of culture have a far more complex meaning in comparison with visible aspects. It applies to sociocultural norms, beliefs, assumptions, world views and value systems that find their way into practically all facets of language use. Most people are not aware of this, and thus can notexamine the culturally determined concepts of what is acceptable, appropriate and expected of one’s behavior. It is acquired during the process of socialization and, hence, becomes inseparable form an individual’s identity.
According to these two cultural aspects, people perceive and understand culture in different ways and on different levels. In order to have effective interculturalexchanges, it is essential to understand the invisible aspects and their impact on visible culture.
For the purpose of our research, we have adapted Hanvey’s scheme for measuring cross-cultural awareness. 1) His scheme consists of four levels.
Level 1: Information about the culture may consist of superficial or visible traits, such as isolated facts or stereotypes. The individual very likelysees the culture lacks. Culture bearers may be considered rude, ignorant or unrefined at this stage of understanding. (We also propose the hypothesis that in regard to the attitudes towards culture bearers within this level, positive superficial stereotypes of character are also believed.)
Level 2: Learners at this stage focus on expanded knowledge about the culture in terms of significant andsubtle traits that contrast with those of their own culture. The individual’s interpretation of the culture still resides in the area of the unbelievable, the irrational. The learners might find the culture bearers’ behavior frustrating, irritating, or nonsensical.
Level 3: At this stage, the individual begins to accept the culture at an intellectual level, and thus the culture becomes believable...