Skkn cross cultural factors affecting do luong 3 high school students’english reading copprehension problems and solusions

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1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1 1 Rationale of the study Along with the development of Applied Linguistics and Psycholinguistics, the American scholar, Goodman [13] negated the traditional reading theory a[.] 1 CHAPTER INTRODUCTION 1.1 Rationale of the study Along with the development of Applied Linguistics and Psycholinguistics, the American scholar, Goodman [13] negated the traditional reading theory and posed a “psycholinguistic reading model”, which considers that reading is not the process of passive decoding and reading literally any more Rather it is the process of active “guessing – confirming” and interaction between the readers and the reading contents In English learning, the linguistic knowledge elements play a vital role in RC, mastering linguistic knowledge of phonetics, vocabulary and grammar is helpful to decode the word symbols However, in the process of reading, many Vietnamese students already possess the above knowledge but they still cannot comprehend the texts completely because the meanings of words are acquired in a certain circumstance of culture “Every stage of comprehension involves reader’s background knowledge of culture (Anderson, [3, pg 14:369]).” Language is the carrier of culture, people's words and deeds reflect certain cultural connotation consciously or unconsciously Every social communication possesses its own certain thought pattern, value, custom, and way of life Therefore, if a Vietnamese student does not know about the English culture, such as histories, values, mode of thinking, customs, religion and life style, he may fail to understand the exact meaning of the texts so understanding the cultural content of what one reads is a crucial factor in RC From my personal observation and professional experience as a teacher of English at DL3 high school for six years, I have realized that, in spite of its importance, the cultural content is not really concerned by both students and teachers while studying reading lessons in textbooks The cultural knowledge remains unexplored and neglected in English reading learning and teaching process in this school That is why the great efforts made by teachers to improve the quality of English reading lessons can not help to meet the teaching goals and students have much trouble in comprehending of the reading texts in spite of achieving linguistic elements This can be seen that the marks in reading tests of almost DL3 high school students are rather low and many of them seem not to be interested in learning English reading lessons This has given rise to the question, “How can DL3 teachers improve the quality of reading lessons and help the students to get exact comprehension of reading texts?” And the following answer can be heard, “To teach reading texts in incorporation with the cultural knowledge.” But how can this be done? This issue has brought the researcher a great desire to conduct a research study to try to answer this question “ Crosscultural factors affecting Do luong high school students’english reading copprehension: Problems and solusions” The researcher conducts action research in order to examine cross-cultural factors that cause barriers in English RC for skkn students at DL3 high school as well as to give some suggestions for incorporating the cultural knowledge into reading lessons With this study, the researcher hopes to help students at DL3 high school to have a better RC skill 1.2 Scope of the study As mentioned above, to improve students’ RC in the classrooms at DL3 high school depends on many different factors Because of the limited time, it is impossible to cover all of these in this study The scope of this thesis is limited to a research on cross-cultural factors causing barriers in RC lessons in DL3 high school From these barriers, the internal and external causes are analyzed to give some suggestions for reducing them in order to improve students’ RC The study was conducted on the students of grade 10, 11, 12 at DL3 high school with the textbook “Tiếng Anh 10”, “Tiếng Anh 11”, and “Tiếng Anh 12” 1.3 Aims of the study The study aims at improving the students’ RC skills and cross-cultural background knowledge at DL3 high school To complete the overall aim, the following specific ones must be obtained: - Investigating the attitudes of students at DL3 high schools towards the importance of culture in English RC - Finding out the cross-cultural factors in students’ English RC process at DL3 high schools - Discovering students’ cross-cultural barriers to English RC in the classrooms, and suggest some solutions to reduce and eliminate them in order to achieve the exact comprehension 1.4 Research questions of the study This study is implemented to find answers to the following research questions What are typical cross cultural factors causing barriers in English RC at DL3 high school? What are the causes of these barriers? What are some suggestions for solutions? 1.5 Research methods of the study In order to get the goals of the study, this study is conducted action research that employs both quantitative and qualitative approaches to collect data With this action research, the quantitative analyses are through the process of data collected from pre-test and post-test, pre-questionnaire and post-questionnaire In addition, the qualitative approach is employed to deal with the data gathered from follow-up interviews that are made to help the researcher interpret the questionnaire data skkn more accurately to collect exact information and evidence for the study The combination of these data collection methods will help the author achieve the aims of the study All comments, remarks, suggestions, and conclusions provided in the study are based on the results of the data analysis 1.6 Significance of the study Even though cross-cultural factors in English RC are necessary for most English learners, it is surprising that there is not much investigation into these This research provides an insight into cross-cultural factors that cause barriers in English RC that most of the Vietnamese students who are studying English encounter * Theoretical aspect: It is hopefully expected that this study would make a small contribution to help teachers and students realize the essential role of the crosscultural background knowledge in their reading lessons More importantly, the findings of the study are believed to identify cross-cultural barriers from crosscultural elements From this, to give some suggestions for solutions * Practical aspect: with the results of the study, it is hoped that teachers and students would find the best ways to incorporate cross-cultural knowledge in their reading lessons skkn CHAPTER 2: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND 2.1 RC skills and their position in English language teaching 2.1.1 What is reading? In our daily life, we spend time reading books, newspapers, novels or stories because we find them interesting and useful When reading, we understand the texts, we analyze and find its meaning, give out meaningful conclusion But no one can define exactly what reading is This question attracts much attention and researchers have defined reading in various ideas According to Goodman [13, pg.135]: “Reading is a psycholinguistics process by which the reader, a language user, reconstructs, as best as he can, a message which has been encoded by a writer as a graphic display” Goodman thought that this act of reconstruction is viewed as “a cyclical process of sampling, predicting, testing and confirming.” One more definition of reading is offered by Allen [2] and Vallete [44 pg.249] They thought that: “reading is developmental process” We learn reading not only to know how to read, to master the symbols, the language, grammar, etc used in the text but also to understand the ideas, the information expressed in that text or to develop the ability reconstructing its contents in our own words In short, from these opinions above, it is clear that no one can give all the ideas and features of what reading is Each definition reflects what reading means as seen from the scholar’s own view However, all definitions reveal their common feature that is the nature of reading Moreover, the definition “reading is understanding of the author’s thought” seem to be preferable We- the readers read the author’s mind not the author’s words 2.1.2 What is RC? RC plays an important part in learning a foreign language RC can be understood as the ability to get the required information from the text as efficiently as possible In the reading process, there are three elements appearing: the text being read, the background knowledge of the reader and the contextual aspects relevant for interpreting the text Swain [41, pg:1] stated that: “When we say a student is good at comprehension we mean that he can read accurately and efficiently, so as to get the maximum information a text with the minimum of understanding” In the same view, Richard [36, p.9] claims that: “RC is best described as an understanding between the author and the reader” Sharing these ideas, Grellet [14] takes the point that “RC or understanding a written text means extracting the required information from it as effectively as possible” These above opinions are not exactly the same, but they all show that reading is much more than just pronouncing words correctly or simply knowing skkn what the author intends It is a process in which the readers (as they read) can recognize the graphic form and understand the relation between the writing and the meaning In the other words, after reading, students can find the way to bettering their grammar, words, pronunciation and can understand the content of the text and use it in their real life as effectively as possible Therefore, it is important for us to understand what RC is For the teachers who teach reading, a profound understanding about the nature of RC may help them find out the students’ difficulties of learning reading 2.1.3 The position of RC skills in English language teaching and learning Learning a foreign language is a process which requires learners to integrate many language skills Learners of a second or foreign language may rarely find chances to communicate with native speakers orally, but they can read different texts in different subjects with varying degrees of detail and difficulty It is generally accepted nowadays that reading is a key skill for most students learning a foreign language and that it should, therefore, take place along side the development of oral ability in the school program From time to time, reading itself has proved its importance in daily life as well as in teaching and learning a foreign language And from our experience in real life, we find reading quite important Its importance is also confirmed by many linguistics It is obvious that reading is a means by which further learning takes place Reading is, in addition, an important way of expanding the students’ receptive knowledge of a language, and in terms of classroom activities, it is an effective way of stimulating students to talk, write and listen Being well informed by reading, learners can have stable background knowledge, wide vocabulary and much information so that they will feel self- confident to share opinions and communicate with others Moreover, listening will be easier if learners listen to the topic they have read because when listening, learners have to face up with many new words of a certain topic Only by reading can they enrich their vocabulary so that they will not be stuck with new words, and they can understand the listening easily In short, RC plays a vital role in teaching and learning a foreign language 2.2 The relationship between culture and language 2.2.1 Definitions of culture The concept of `culture` is something that everybody implicitly understands but nobody can define precisely A lot of time can be spent on trying to give a precise definition of the word According to some eminent scholars define the term “culture” as follows: According to Hinkel [16] the popular definition of “culture” refers only to that part of culture that is visible and easily discussed This can include the skkn folklore, the literature, the arts, the architecture, styles of dress, cuisine, customs, festivals, traditions, and the history of a particular people Peck [35] refers to culture as; culture is all the accepted and patterned ways of behaving of a given people It is the facet of human life learned by people as a result of belonging to some particular group; it is that part of learned behaving shared with others For Goodenough ([12, pg 258-259]), culture…consists of standards for deciding what is, standards for deciding what can be, standards for deciding how one feels about it, standards for deciding what to about it, and standards for deciding how to go about doing it Clearly, culture is a ubiquitous force, forging our identities and our relationships with other things and individuals 2.2.2 Language and culture Language is the product of culture One important instrument of cultural expression is language Language is a part of culture and plays a very important role in it Without language, culture would not be possible On the other hand, language is influenced and shaped by culture; it reflects culture The relationship between language and culture is deeply rooted Language is used to maintain and convey culture and cultural ties “Culture is in language, and language is loaded with culture” (Agar, [1, pg 28]) Brown [4] puts that culture is a “deeply ingrained part of our being and language is the most visible and available feature of culture” The thought and behaving of a society is the aggregate of the thought and behaving of individuals, which itself is shaped by culture; thus on a very practical level culture is the force that makes communication between individuals through language possible “Culture and language are so tightly related that may be regarded as parts of the same thing Obviously, no language can survive in isolation and no civilization can be built up without language Cultural changes tend to occur along with changes in language; the two proceed reinforcing each other” (Krishnawamy, [26]) In other words we can conclude that language and culture are intricately interwoven to one another and cannot be separated 2.2.3 The role of culture in language teaching and learning Linguistic competence alone is not enough for learners of a language to be competent in that language (Krasner, [25]) Language is rooted in culture and culture is reflected and passed on by language from one generation to the next From this, one can see that learning a new language involves the learning of a new culture Consequently, teachers of a language are also teachers of culture (Byram [5]) As Holmes [20, pg 275]:) points out, “Learning another language usually involves a great deal more than learning the literal meaning of the words, how to put them together, how to pronounce them We need to know what they mean in the cultural context in which they are normally used And that involves some skkn understanding of the cultural and social norms of their users” Culture and teaching language cannot be separated, thus culture must be recognized as an important area in language learning and teaching If languages are taught without their cultures, students are only the strangers who aren’t familiar with the target languages It is important to mention that cultural elements of the target language should be taught carefully To emphasize the importance of culture in learning and teaching foreign languages Eli Hinkel [16] has said,” Applied linguists and language teachers have become increasingly aware that the second or foreign language can rarely be learnt, or taught, without addressing the culture of the community in which it is used This can be with the idea that culture plays an important role in teaching and learning language.” From these above ideas of culture, it can be said that cultural content is a key to effective teaching and learning a second or foreign language Necessarily, students cannot master the language unless they have mastered the cultural contexts in which the language occurs It is actually hard for language learners to communicate well without knowledge of culture such as codes of behaviors, and different beliefs, etc The facts have shown that some breakdowns in communication between inter-collators have been caused just by cultural misunderstandings For example, when an Asian communicates with an American or Westerner, they take no care of eye contact unless they know direct eye contact is considered as conveying honesty in English cultures What would happen if someone knew the expressions of greetings very well but, with an inadequate knowledge of culture, he didn’t know how to response “how are you?” , or even how to shake hands in business? It is easy to fail in learning English if learners are not provided with cultural values Therefore, teaching and learning language, separated from knowing culture, can not be done properly As a result, this is the reason why we can come to the conclusion that teaching and learning language are more than teaching and learning a system of syntax and lexicon 2.3 The cross-cultural background knowledge of and the English RC 2.3.1 The role of the cross-cultural background knowledge in English RC Foreign language learners are generally less proficient in the cross-cultural background information during their reading processes It is assumed that there is a high degree of relationship between reader’s prior background knowledge and the text Schema theory, a psycholinguistic model, emphasizes that RC is an interactive process between the reader’s previous background knowledge and the text According to the theory, EFL readers’ RC is not only due to how easy or difficult a text is for them but more depends on the level of readers’ recall from their culturally familiar background knowledge and from the contextual clues about cultural origins (Carrell, [6]) skkn For a long time, in Vietnam, English teaching has just focused on the language forms such as phonetics, vocabulary and grammar and ignored the effect of background knowledge of culture As the carrier of culture, the cultural background of language is rather extensive Lacking of the necessary cultural background may hinder people from comprehending language For instance, when the president Reagan took up his post, an American wrote to a Vietnamese teacher: “the United States has gone from peanuts to popcorn” The syntax of this sentence is very simple However, the Vietnamese teacher did not understand the sentence at that time until her friend explained to her that former president Jimmy Carter owned a big peanut farm while the present president Reagan is an actor and people eat popcorn while they watch TV She suddenly realized the real humorous meaning of this sentence From this case, we can see that to comprehend the language, not only depends on the comprehension of vocabulary and grammatical structures, but also depends on the comprehension of relevant background knowledge of culture 2.3.2 Cross-cultural factors in English RC The differences of cross-cultural background in English RC can be classified as the following aspects * Historical Culture Historical culture refers to the culture that is formed by the developing process of certain history and social heritage which varies between nations at often times In the process of cross-cultural reading, we often meet the comprehension barriers that are caused by such differences of historical cultures * Regional Culture Regional culture, here, refers to the culture that can be shaped by natural conditions and geographical environment of an area These effects on culture may lend themselves to creating comprehension barriers to Vietnamese students of English reading For example, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art lovelier and more temperate This poem is a part of Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 He compared the lover to a summer’s day, which is difficult for Vietnamese students to understand Only knowing some relevant geographical knowledge, can they get real understanding of this sonnet As Britain is a high latitude country, the average summer temperature is about 20 degrees and the daytime is very long, from about o’clock in the morning to about 10 o’clock at night Therefore, the summer in Britain is pleasantly cool and delightful It is obviously different from the hot summer of most regions in Vietnam, especially, in the north of Vietnam, where the hot summer is very hard to endure and causes people to feel unhappy *Social Culture skkn Language is an important component of culture, the existence and development of language are influenced by society, and the social phenomenon and vocabulary of a certain historical periods reflect the objective history of society Such vocabulary may confuse foreign readers 2.4 Cross-cultural teaching and learning in foreign language instruction In learning English, especially in learning reading, students are required with not only the knowledge of language system but also the understanding of the culture carried in the target language If not, misunderstanding caused by cultural barriers may occur So the most effective way to avoid this misunderstanding is that teachers should motivate the students’ curiosity and sensitivity over the crosscultural knowledge in the classroom 2.4.1 When should the study of culture begin? Should culture be postponed until students can study it in the target language? Will special emphasis upon culture be wasteful of precious class time? Should cultural materials be postponed until students have greater maturity and greater language competence? Ideally, the study of culture should begin on the very first day of class and should continue every day The concept of culture should be communicated to students in the earliest phases of their instruction in order to lessen their difficulties in mastering the language, and help them communicate effectively 2.4.2 The principles for culture teaching Like teaching other aspects in foreign language instruction, culture teaching requires systematic development of its teaching principles Principles for culture teaching are mentioned in a number of studies and Kramsch’s [23] list may be considered one of the most noticeable Her principles of teaching culture led to a new way of looking at the teaching of language and culture These include: - Establishing a sphere of inter-culture, which means that teaching culture is not transferring information between cultures but a foreign culture should be put in relation with one’s own The intercultural approach includes a reflection on both cultures - Teaching culture as an interpersonal process, which means replacing the teaching of facts and behaviors by the teaching of a process that helps to understand others - Teaching culture as difference, which means considering the multi-cultures and multi-ethnicity of modern societies and looking at various factors like age, gender, regional origin, ethnic background, and social class In other words, cultures should not be seen as monolithic - Crossing disciplinary boundaries, which means linking the teaching of culture to other disciplines like anthropology, sociology and semiology skkn 10 Kramsch [35] concludes that: “These lines of thought lay the ground for a much richer understanding of culture than heretofore envisaged by the majority of language teachers” Other approaches, such as the theme-based approach, the problem-oriented approach, the skill-centered approach, may be classified as the comparative approach to the teaching of culture as they deal with an element of comparison during the teaching The theme-based approach is based around certain themes which are seen as typical of a culture, for example: family, education, religion, honor, ceremony…Though mono-cultural by nature, it tries to show the relationships and values in a given culture and encourage students to compare it with the other However, it is sometimes supposed that the theme-based approach provides learners with a segmented view of the target culture It might be difficult for them to see individual people and understand social processes and values from this perspective and could lead to stereotyping The problem-oriented approach is aimed at getting learners interested in the other culture and encourages them to some research on their own According to Seelye [38, pg 47]:), the teacher plays a very important role in defining the problem that interests learners He claims that the more precise a problem is, the easier it is for a learner to reach the desired outcome The result of student research should be a report, either written or presented orally The skill-centered approach differs from the above-mentioned approaches in the sense that it is more practical and might be useful for those who need to live within the target-language community By developing learners’ skills which are needed for managing the issues involved in miscommunication between cultures, the skill-centered approach emphasizes their similarities as well as differences 2.5 Culture-based activities The aim of culture-based activities is to increase students’ awareness and to develop their curiosity towards the target culture and their own, helping them make comparisons among cultures These comparisons are not meant to underestimate any of the cultures being analysed, but to enrich students’ experience and to make them aware that although some cultural elements are being globalized, there is still diversity among cultures This diversity should then be understood and respected Culture-based activities are derived from language material being taught and learnt and constitutes a minor but important part of the language lessons Cultural information may be introduced to students through different activities such as cultural aside, cultural capsule, quiz, culture assimilator, critical incidents and student research As teaching culture is not the primary objective in English classes in Vietnam and it is aimed at developing students’ cross-cultural awareness, the activities selected in this study are supposed to help integrate culture into reading teaching skkn ... teachers and students at DL3 high schools towards the importance of culture in English RC Then, find out the cross cultural factors in English RC process of teachers and students at DL3 high school, ... - Finding out the cross -cultural factors in students’ English RC process at DL3 high schools - Discovering students’ cross -cultural barriers to English RC in the classrooms, and suggest some solutions... students at DL3 high school as well as to give some suggestions for incorporating the cultural knowledge into reading lessons With this study, the researcher hopes to help students at DL3 high school
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