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The importance of cultural awareness for foreign language learners
Автор: Садырова Гульмира Джамабаевна, студентка, Северо-Казахстанский Государственный Университет имени Манаша Козыбаева
Why do people have different perception of the world? Why do we act in that way? What our beliefs and values depend on? The answer is cultural diversity. Every culture has its peculiarities which help to distinguish it from others. People are responsible for recognizing the individual differences among us. But the era of globalization demands interaction, it is almost impossible not to share with our own practices, background. We are to know how these single differences intermesh to form a global whole. But at the same time every person should preserve their own culture, be proud of it. Without knowing the history, customs and traditions of your own country further development is impossible. Moreover, acquaintance with different cultures teaches us how to be tolerant, introspective, transparent. The more we learn the more sophisticated and erudite we become. Because of these factors the question of cultural awareness arises. This notion means being cognizant, observant, and conscious of similarities and differences among and between cultural groups» [1; 239]. M. Winkelman states that «cultural self-awareness includes recognition of one’s own cultural influences upon values, beliefs, and judgments, as well as the influences derived from the professional’s work culture» [2; 65].
Awareness is extremely significant for foreign language learners. Adding a cultural component to a lesson will help to familiarize students with unique bits of different cultures that most of them are not able to experience. By raising students’ awareness of the foreign culture, teachers help them to interpret and understand the target language better. It enables language proficiency. Teachers must form a bridge between cultures, to show richness and density of the world. As awareness is the foundation of communication, the learner must be equipped with habitual patterns of target culture, its forms and symbols. Students should be provided with methodologies for observing, analyzing, interpreting the culture. Techniques for comparing enable learners to negotiate the distance between their own and another culture. Thus, every student becomes not only a recipient of knowledge, but an active agent of communication, a mediator between cultures – a cultural diplomat. Standing back from own reality is important for foreign language learners and teachers, because they are active participants of the intercultural dialogue. We are born with certain cultural code. We do things at an unconscious level. But sometimes it is necessary to step outside of our cultural boundaries in order to avoid misunderstanding, misinterpretation or projected similarities.
It is necessary to include a cultural aspect into the lesson because a culturally aware person is mindful of dynamic aspects of culture and is cautious not to easily generalize or stereotype individuals using an over- simplified evaluation of their cultural backgrounds as basis.
Also, culture is encoded in the structure, vocabulary, and semantics of language. People acquainted with more than one language are aware that there are concepts, norms, and emotions that are available in one language/culture, but not available in the other, and this is a reminder of the inextricable link between language and culture. Moreover, culture is the key which will open another nation’s heart.
So, there are some essential elements that contribute students’ ability to become more culturally competent. The material given by teacher (particularly, authentic texts) should value diversity, have the capacity for cultural self–assessment, be conscious of the "dynamics" inherent when cultures interact.
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