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Mohammad
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Farhangiyan university

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Abstract

The
language picture of the world is different for every nation. It depends on many
reasons but the most important of them is culture. Culture is the way people of
any community see the world around them- their way of thinking, behaving and
reacting to the world and to other people. Language teachers must have
knowledge of how learning is shaped by culture. This article seeks to find
the effect of culture background knowledge to reading comprehension skill and
vocabulary learning. The review of the literature has clearly shown that
researchers believe in teaching culture within language teaching. Researcher
designed a procedure to investigate and study. The participants under the
research are senior student of Bahonar secondary high school in Kerman, Iran
that have intermediate level of English proficiency.  Two passages -which one of them is
culture-bound and another one not- were prepared and read in class. Students
read two passages. Then the test which was distributed in two sheets –each one
for particular passage- was taken. The evaluation was just among student that
have same level in placement test (pre-test). The results were analyzed via
Exel and SPSS software. At last, the results showed that students were more
successful in answering to questions related to culture-bound passage. In
short, this article believes in importance of teaching target language’s
culture in process of EFL teaching.

Keywords: Culture, reading comprehension, foreign
language teaching, cultural background, background knowledge, cultural
familiarity

 

 

1.  Introduction

 Culture is usually viewed as an ingrained mode
of behavior and perception inextricably bonded with language. It can satisfy
biological and psychological needs formulated as conceptual networks or mental constructs
of realities (Brown, 2007). According to the view of some anthropologists
such as Mead (1961), culture is the patterns of behavior and thinking that
people living in social groups learn, create, and share. Hofstede (1991)
defined culture as “…the collective programming of the mind which
distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from those of
another”. Giving a definition of culture is a
hard task but it appears that characteristics and components of culture can be
identified. Damen (1987) presented six notable characteristics of culture:

1. Culture is learned.

2. Cultures and cultural patterns change.

3. Culture is a universal fact of human life.

4. Cultures provide sets of unique and interrelated,
selected blueprints for living and            accompanying sets of values and beliefs
to support these blueprints.

5. Language and culture are closely related and interactive.

6. Culture functions as a filtering
device between its bearers and the great range of stimuli presented by the
environment.

In addition,
Damen (1987) also noted that culture can be examined from the point of view of
its individual components  (such as
dress, systems of rewards and punishments, uses of time and space, fashions of
eating, means of communication, family relationships, beliefs and values), or
from the more social point of view of its systems (such as kinship, education,
economy, government association, and health).

 

Additionally, Nieto (2002: 10) believe
that “culture is complex and intricate; it cannot be reduced to holidays,
foods, or dances, although these are of course elements of cultures.”

 “Every
language is part of a culture. As such, it cannot but serve and reflect culture
needs” (Dai, 2011:1).  Rapid
globalization has increased the need for cross-cultural communication so that
people have access to information all over the world. This growing and
extending need leads to growth in the foreign language teaching profession.
Many acknowledge that learning a foreign language is a requirement to survive
in today’s world. The English language plays an important role, because it has
become the lingua franca of the world, and the default language that one needs
to learn in order to keep up with the information age (Turkan, 2007).

According to Garinger (2001: 34),
“textbooks play an axial role in language classrooms in all types of
educational institutions, public schools, colleges, and language schools all
over the world. In some contexts, teachers are free to choose their own
textbooks. The vast majority of teachers, however, have textbooks suggested, prescribed,
or assigned to them”.

According to the National Standards for
Foreign Language Learning (1996), culture is typically understood to include
the philosophical perspectives, the behavioral practices, and both tangible and
intangible products of a society. The relationship between perspectives,
practices, and products within culture is illustrated below.

Figure 1.1. What constitutes culture? (The National Standards for Foreign Language
Learning, 1996, page 43)

 

This idea in related study shows the
importance and sensitiveness of EFL books and effective role of culture in EFL teaching
in English classrooms. But there is the question that these cultural effects
are harmful or helpful for student and their English learning?

    
To achieve the research objectives outlined above, the following
research questions should be considered:

1. Is there any relationship between EFL
learners’ ability to comprehend reading texts and their cultural knowledge
taught in their language class?

2. Does culture teaching bring about any
variation in foreign language learners’ understanding of English vocabulary?

 

2.  Literature Review

Kafi, Ashraf & Motallebzadeh (2013) believe that
exposing students to aspects of any foreign language is not as harmful as what
Iranians believe in. Turkan & Çelik (2007) conclude that Integration of
culture into language teaching is, by no doubt, a requirement to pass on
general humanistic knowledge. If successful integration occurs, the foreign
and/or second language learners of English or any other languages will be able
to act flexibly and sensibly along the lines of cultural norms that they
encounter within the target language culture. Patrikis (1988) state that
language teaching and teaching about culture have been generally separate
paths, and it is educators’ choice whether to make them come together or to
continue to follow old paths. Gollnick and Chinn (2002) say that today’s classrooms
require teachers to educate students varying in culture, language, abilities,
and many other characters.

Dai (2011: 1035) culture learning is informative, as
well as interesting, which covers language, culture, custom, ethics, science,
social issues, etc. Students are exposed to various information which appeals
to their taste. And what they learn will be of great use in their daily life.
As a result, their interest in learning and their motive and desire to
communicate in foreign language will be aroused.

 In spite,
Rezaie and Latifi(2015) believe that the EFL books studied in Iran’s schools
should have more domestic cultural points. Gray (2000) also think that it is
not uncommon for many students to become alienated from their own social and
cultural settings as they become adjusted to the value system of the
Anglo-American world. Many educators in Asian and African countries have
expressed their concern for the status of their native culture and language in
relation to the cultural content of ELT materials developed for global use.

 

                                                            3. Methodology

This research specifically seeks to check If the foreign language culture
is considering in the teaching or not and whether it is appropriate to have it;
Therefore, researcher attempts to investigate and analyze the effects of
cultural-based passage. To do this researcher designed a procedure that answer
article Question. The
analysis of these culture notes suggests that they are more oriented to
explaining the meaning of new vocabulary that appears in the readings than
actually teaching salient cultural facts (Gómez Rodríguez: 2015). One aspect of teaching and learning English
is reading and comprehension of passage and researcher evaluate the culture via
comprehension of passages.

3.1. Design and Context
of the Study  

The study
take place in Kerman and among senior students of Bahonar high school. The
state of their English level is intermediate so they can read and comprehend
middle-difficulty passages. To evaluate the effect of culture in comprehension
of foreign passages, researcher used two passage which have same vocabulary but
different in context. One passage is culture-bound and another one not. The
passages were teached at same time, then students’ comprehension and vocabulary
were evaluated via standard tests in two sheets separately and each on was for
particular passage.

3.2. Participants 

 In order to do this research, a sample
of 52 intermediate EFL male students who had already are studying as senior in
Bahonar high school in Kerman, Iran. Their native language is Persian and their
major is mathematics. The majority of the participants (50) had an age
range of 16 to 18 years old and the rest were under 16 years old.  All these intermediate learners had spent a minimum
amount of three years studying English and they are spending four hour per week
in English class.

Table 1.

Demographic Background of the Participants

No.
of Students 

             52

Gender 

Male 

Native
Language 

Persian

Major 

           
Mathematics

Stage

Senior
Of  High school

school

Bahonar
high school(secondary), Kerman, Iran

Education
Years 

2017-2018 

 

3.3. Instrument(s)

The elicited instrument used in this study was a
researcher made placement test ???that
the figure of it comes in Appendix A????20
students were chosen among 52 students via this pre-test. but the procedure was
applied to whole students and the student didn’t Know about the particular
group. In analysis of data, researcher just consider about those 20 students.
Pre-test has 30 multiple-choice questions and students has 15 min. to answer
them. This placement test has reliability and standard form.

3.4. Procedure 

In this study, the researchers investigated the
probable effective relation between reading comprehension and the cultural
attitudes of EFL learners. To this end, the date and time were arranged with
the Bahonar high school(secondary) in order to be able to administer the placement
test to senior and intermediate EFL learners. Prior to administering the placement
test (pre-test) in intermediate classes, the researchers made sure about the
English background of participants and their level of proficiency by checking
the placement test (Appendix A) they had taken before the reading program
starts. The pre-test has taken quickly and 20 students that are in middle range
were defined. Then two passages (one culture-bound and another one not) were
worked in class.

    Two passages
are in same difficulty and in same vocabulary level that released on British
council site (Appendix B, C) . Finally, an evaluation was run in order to check
the EFL learners’ comprehension ability towards these passages and discovering probable
effects of their cultural attitudes on learning English. The test (Appendix D,
E) was taken from whole students in two separately sheets; each one for
particular passage.

        Data
collection started in 17 December 2017 and finished in 24 December 2017. When
data collection was over, the results were analyzed using EXEL and SPSS.

3.4.
Data Analysis Procedure 

All collected post-tests were carefully classified and their results were
analyzed through EXEL and SPSS software. The results of data analysis will be
presented in the next part.

4. Results

As the post-test of this
research is two sheets (Appendix D, E) and distributed to Test1 and Test2.
Test1 evaluated the comprehension of nonculture-bound passage and Test2
evaluated the culture-bound passage. The most impossible score of tests is 10.

 

Table 2. 

Students’ scores in T1 & T2

                 

students

Test1

Test2

comparison

A

5

6

 ?

B

7

9

 ?

C

6

10

 ?

D

6

10

 ?

E

6

7

 ?

F

6

5

 ?

G

5

8

 ?

H

5

7

 ?

I

5

5

 ?

J

5

7

 ?

K

4

5

 ?

L

4

7

 ?

M

4

8

 ?

N

4

6

 ?

O

3

4

 ?

P

3

6

 ?

Q

3

5

 ?

R

2

4

 ?

T

1

3

 ?

Average

4.388889

6.444444

 ?

correct
answer percentage

43%

64%

 

As we can see in below charts it shows the differences of the two test
results.

Figure 4.1. Radar and Marker chart of student’ score.

As the Radar and Marker chart
shows, the T2 scores have more space so, we could conclude that Test 2 had
answered more correctly.

Figure 4.2. Column chart of students’ scores in two
tests 

In this chart, it’s clear that most of students got
better result in test related to culture-bound passage.

Table 2. 

Frequency table of T1

Test1

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid
Percent

Cumulative
Percent

Valid

1.00

1

5.3

5.3

5.3

3.00

2

10.5

10.5

15.8

4.00

4

21.1

21.1

36.8

5.00

4

21.1

21.1

57.9

6.00

4

21.1

21.1

78.9

7.00

2

10.5

10.5

89.5

8.00

1

5.3

5.3

94.7

9.00

1

5.3

5.3

100.0

Total

19

100.0

100.0

 

 

Table 3. 

Frequency of T2

 

Test2

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid
Percent

Cumulative
Percent

Valid

3.00

1

5.3

5.3

5.3

4.00

2

10.5

10.5

15.8

5.00

4

21.1

21.1

36.8

6.00

4

21.1

21.1

57.9

7.00

3

15.8

15.8

73.7

8.00

3

15.8

15.8

89.5

9.00

1

5.3

5.3

94.7

10.00

1

5.3

5.3

100.0

Total

19

100.0

100.0

 

 

 

 

Similar analysis was carried
out on the scores of both groups to determine the usefulness of teaching
culture in the students’ breadth of vocabulary knowledge. To
determine the difference in students’  performance
on answering to T1 and T2, t-test was carried out. The results are shown
in Table 4.

Table 4. 

T-test  

 

Paired Samples Statistics

 

Mean

N

Std.
Deviation

Std.
Error Mean

Pair 1

Test1

5.1579

19

1.89336

.43437

Test2

6.2632

19

1.82093

.41775

 

 

Paired Samples Correlations

 

N

Correlation

Sig.

Pair 1

Test1 & Test2

19

.777

.000

 

 

 

Paired Samples Test

 

Paired
Differences

t

df

Sig.
(2-tailed)

Mean

Std.
Deviation

Std.
Error Mean

95%
Confidence Interval of the Difference

 

Lower

Upper

 

Pair 1

Test1 – Test2

-1.10526

1.24252

.28505

-1.70414

-.50639

-3.877

18

.001

 

 

 

 

5. Discussion and conclusion

 

The review of the literature presented above has clearly
shown that despite the fact that researchers and scholars may have different
definitions for language and culture, most of them are likely to agree on the
fact that these two salient concepts coexist in any society. It may also appear
that though researchers hold various positions about the relationship between
language and culture, it can be incomplete to know one without the other if one
would like to have a full and thorough picture of a certain people. Therefore,
the study of one language seems entail the study of that culture, and vice
versa.

According to the results gathered in the
process of this study, it can be concluded that teaching culture could be
helpful for students’ reading comprehension skill. In this research, Cultural
background knowledge helps participants to answer more correctly to tests and
this shows that that young learners are more prone to the cultural effects of
the instructional materials. This finding is in line with Vygotsky’s (1962)
claim that thought reflects conceptualized actuality and in this case the
learners have conceptualized the realities through the lenses of a foreign
language. As Byram and Morgan noted, It goes without saying that foreign
language teachers should be foreign culture teachers, having the ability to
experience and analyze both the home and target cultures (Byram and
Morgan,1994: 73).

           According to
the results, this article is on the same area with Kafi, Ashraf &
Motallebzadeh (2013), Turkan & Çelik (2007), Gollnick and Chinn (2002) and
Dai (2011) and hasn’t same idea with Patrikis (1988), Rezaie & Latifi
(2015) and Gray(2000).

 

References

Brown, H. Douglass (2007). Principles of Language Learning
and Teaching. NY: Pearson Education.

Dai, L. (2011). 
Practical Techniques for Cultural-based Language Teaching in the EFL
Classroom. Journal
of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 2(5), 1031-1036. ISSN 1798-4769

Damen, L. (1987). Culture learning: The
fifth dimension in the language classroom. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. ELT
Journal, 54 (3), 274-283.

Garinger, D. (2001). Textbook evaluation. TEFL Web Journal,
10(3), 1-18.

Gollnick, D. M. Chinn, P. C. Multicultural
education in pluralistic society. Columbus, OH: Merrill,2002.

 Gómez Rodríguez, L. F. (2015). The cultural
content in EFL textbooks and what teachers need to do about it. PROFILE
Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, Vol.:17(2), 167-187.

Gray, J. (2000). The ELT Coursebook as Cultural
Artefact: How Teachers Censor and Adapt.

Hofstede, G. (1991). Culture’s consequences: international
differences in work-related values.  Beverly
Hills, CA: Sage.ISSN:2289?3245

Kafi, Z. Ashraf, H. Motallebzadeh, Kh. (2013).
English Textbooks And Cultural Attitudes Of Iranian Efl Learners: Investigating A Relationship.
International Journal of Language Learning and Applied Linguistics World, Vol.:
4(2), 25-36. EISSN: 2289-2737. &

Mead, M. (1961, March). Culture in FLT: The
anthropologist’s point of view. Report on the conference on the meaning and
role of culture in foreign language teaching. Georgetown: Institute of Land
linguistic, Georgetown University. Retrieved October 5, 2011, from http://www.krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/2097/1033/pdf

National Standards in Foreign Language
Education Project (2006). Standards for foreign language learning in the
21st century. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press.

Nieto, S. (2002). Language, culture, and
teaching critical perspectives for a new century. Mahwah, NY: Lawrence
Erlbaum.

Patrikis, P. (1988). Language and culture at
the crossroads. In A. J. Singerman (Ed.), Toward a new integration of language
and culture (pp. 13-24). Middlebury, VT: Northeast Conference on the
Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Rezaie,
S. Latifi, A. (2015). Investigating the cultural and identity parameters in
the seventh grade English language textbook (Prospect 1). Critical Studies
in Text & Programs Of Human Science. Vol. 15(36), 39-52.

Turkan,
S. Çelik, S. (2007). Integrating
culture into efl texts and classrooms: Suggested lesson plans. Novitas-ROYAL,
Vol.: 1(1), 8-33. ISSN: 1307-4733

Vygotsky, L.S. (1962). Thought and Language.
Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix A: Placement test
(pre-test)

 

Appendix B: Passage1(cultural)

 

 

Appendix C: Passage2(non-cultural)

Appendix D: Test1(non-cultural)

 

Appendix E: Test2(cultural)

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