What Does the Excerpt Tell You About Language and Culture?

Topics: Second language acquisition, Sociology, Language education Pages: 5 (1497 words) Published: June 30, 2012
a) What does the excerpt tell you about language and culture?

According to the excerpt given, I can elaborate that the language is one of the main tools mankind uses to interact and to express ideas, emotions, knowledge, memories and values. Language is also the main vehicle for cultural expression essential for individual and collective identity.  Linguists have long recognized that the forms and uses of a given language reflect the cultural values of the society in which the language is spoken; this is why mere linguistic competency is not enough for learners to be competent in a particular language. Second language learners need to be aware of culturally appropriate ways to address people, make requests, agree or disagree and express gratitude, especially since their own customary behaviour and intonation may be perceived differently by members of differing cultures. It is essential to understand that in order to become a successful communicator; the language being used must parallel culturally appropriate behaviour. Language is a part of culture and a culture is a part of a language. This is because, understanding a language involves not only knowledge of grammar, phonology and lexis but also a certain features and characteristics of the culture. To communicate internationally inevitably involves communicating intercultural as well, which probably leads us to encounter factors of cultural differences. Such kind of differences exist in every language such as the place of silence, tone of voice, appropriate topic of conversation, and expressions as speech act functions (e.g. apologies, suggestions, complains, refusals, etc.).

According to Elizabeth Peterson and Bronwyn Coltrane in their articles “Culture in Second Language Teaching” state that linguists and anthropologists have long recognized that the forms and uses of a given language reflect the cultural values of the society in which the language is spoken. Linguistic competence alone is not enough for learners of a language to be competent in that language (Krasner, 1999). Language learners need to be aware, for example, of the culturally appropriate ways to address people, express gratitude, make requests, and agree or disagree with someone. They should know that behaviors and intonation patterns that are appropriate in their own speech community may be perceived differently by members of the target language speech community. They have to understand that, in order for communication to be successful, language use must be associated with other culturally appropriate behavior. In many regards, culture is taught implicitly, imbedded in the linguistic forms that students are learning. To make students aware of the cultural features reflected in the language, teachers can make those cultural features an explicit topic of discussion in relation to the linguistic forms being studied. For example, when teaching subject pronouns and verbal inflections in French, a teacher could help students understand when in French it is appropriate to use an informal form of address (tu) rather than a formal form of address (vous)—a distinction that English does not have. An English as a second language teacher could help students understand socially appropriate communication, such as making requests that show respect; for example, “Hey you, come here” may be a linguistically correct request, but it is not a culturally appropriate way for a student to address a teacher. Students will master a language only when they learn both its linguistic and cultural norms.

When a society decides to adopt another language, in a way it also decides to adopt the culture of that language. We can observe this in the social norms which are heavily manifested in language use, as we express things according to the perceived expectations in society and the situations we find ourselves in. In Malaysia, for example, the ways in which simple everyday conducts are carried out by Malays show...
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