The Role of Local Culture and Context in English Language Teaching -Mabindra Regmi
The Relation between Language and Culture
The structuralists portrayed language as an entity that could be segmented and through learning these segments, the totality would also be learnt. This method has been tested, challenged and in many cases discarded in the world of linguistics. The conception, propagation and inevitable discontinuation of ever new methods has prompted Sowden to express “there has indeed been methodological fatigue, leading many to the pragmatic conclusion that informed eclecticism offers the best approach for the future.” (Sowden, 2007, p. 304). Perhaps, eclecticism is the right trend while implementing ELT methods. One of the factors that should be considered, however, is that there seems to be a deep connection between language and culture unlike the belief of the structuralists. The concept of language teaching now is that of concentration in what the learners learn or want to learn rather that what is to be taught. As the classrooms get more learner-centered, it can be assumed that the attitude and the initiatives from the learners’ side will be more prominent. Since a person is shaped by ones culture and local setting, we can assume that the importance of cultural context in language teaching will grow as learning becomes more learner centered. It is in conjunction with this shift of emphasis away from teaching and towards learning, that there has appeared a growing awareness of the role played by culture in the classroom. (Sowden C, 2007, p. 304)
It is not only the learners that come with their own culture in the classroom, the teachers also bring their own culture. This is particularly true if the language teacher is not from the locality. Sowden warns the teacher “to be aware not only of the cultures of their students and their environment, but also of the cultures that they themselves bring to the classroom” (Sowden, 2007, p.305). Thus, it can be seen, however inconclusive, that culture of both the teacher and learner plays an important role in the language learning environment and they have to be addressed for effective learning to take place. This intricate mutual relationship between language and culture may be the key to unlock the language teaching methodologies of the future. Whenever we talk about language and its use, it is important to figure out the relation between language and culture. There are few things we need to ask ourselves in this regard. Can language exist independent of culture?
Is learning a new language (English) definitive of learning the culture of native speakers of English? Who are the native speakers of English?
Will the culture of the native speakers be appropriate in the setting of the language learner? Can language exist independent of culture?
A language cannot exist in vacuum. It has to express some objective function when utterances are made or some text is written. When we do make use of language, the production made is generally about what we know or what we have experienced. What we know and experience mostly confines within the local setting that we have grown up and where we are residing. Thus, local context becomes inseparable from the use of language. Is learning a new language (English) definitive of learning the culture of native speakers of English? When we learn a new language, we need to adopt the culture of the target language to a certain extent because the cultural aspect comes amalgamated with the target language. But what about the learners? The learners have their own set of cultural experiences and objectives of using a language. They have their own cultural amalgamation which has to be addressed during target language learning process to make it meaningful and relevant to the learners. We can assume that integration of local culture and context is inevitable while learning a target language. Who are the native speakers of English?
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