Impediments to cultural teaching in EFL programmes at a Saudi University

Mohamed Amin A. Mekheimer & Hamad S. Aldosari

College of Languages and Translation, Abha, Saudi Arabia

Abstract

Literature in a given language is the ultimate culmination of cultural expression. However, in Saudi universities, the literature of the English language, mainly British and American, is meagrely taught due to dogmatic religious considerations. This study reviews relevant research on culture and literature teaching in EFL, and further delves into an exploration of the perceptions and attitudes of faculty and students with regard to why literature should or should not be taught in the Saudi EFL context. Employing descriptive research techniques, i.e., questionnaires and interviews, this study aims at investigating the perceptions of faculty and students involved in the EFL programme provisioned in the English Department, College of Languages and Translation, King Khalid University (KKU), and their attitudes towards literature teaching and exposure to the culture of a language. Implications for pedagogy and curriculum development will form part of the conclusions.

Keywords: acculturation, literature teaching, culture teaching, Saudi Universities


Introduction and Background

At the inception, the concept of culture should be recognised first as being a body of learned behaviours common to a given human society. These behaviours and acts are available as part of the socialisation process in the form of template that shape and reformulate behaviours and consciousness within a human society across generations and over time. So the relation between learning and culture is intimate, and culture resides in all learned behaviour. An essential feature of culture is language which functions to shape and convey cultures from one community to another, and from one generation to another. In this vein, foreign language learning requires a great deal of foreign culture learning, since "learning new languages opens students' minds to the ways of other peoples and increases the opportunities for cross-cultural understanding" (Citron, 1995, p. 105). Explicitly or implicitly, culture has often been taught in the foreign language classroom (Brooks, 1969; Citron, 1995; Harumi, 2002; Ilieva, 2005; Deters, 2009).

In fact, there is a growing body of research exploring the interrelationships between language learning, acculturation and literacy practices, involving the value systems and beliefs esoteric to the foreign language, its culture and its heritage (Blackledge & Creese, 2010; Conteh, Martin & Helavaara & Robertson, 2008; Lytra & Martin, 2010, to cite just a few). This research has been exploring language use in a socio-cultural milieu melting socio-political factors and (re)formulating the human identity in a socio-cultural melting bowl, where such issues as multilingualism, multiculturalism, and attitudes towards the language and its native speakers play their chemistry (Issa, 2008; Lytra & Baracm 2008; Lytra, 2011).

However, teaching culture is not synonymous with regular, formal "transmission of information regarding the people of the target community or country, even though this kind of knowledge is an important ingredient" through formal language curricula (Nostrand, 1967, p.118). Culture is not merely a repository of facts and experiences to which one can have recourse, if need be, but rather a process of developing intercultural competence. Intercultural competence is the ability of successful communication with people of other cultures in a way that enables a person to capture and understand other people's thinking, feeling and acting, without prejudices related to race, religion, class, etc. (Rathje, 2007). In line with this definition, the concept of "intercultural competence" calls forth a wide range of associations, such as intercultural communicative competence (Byram, 1997; Simons, 2010). In this way, too, the communicative competence, the power index of a language, renders one able to "cope with different cultures ... pay attention to differences in culture, detect them and react on them in an adequate way on the daily work floor" (Simons, 2010, p. 3).

Therefore, to learn a foreign language is not merely to learn how to communicate, but also to discover how much flexibility the target language (in Foreign Language Teaching, the language to be learned) allows learners to manipulate grammatical forms, sounds, and meanings, and to reflect upon, or even flout, socially accepted norms at work both in their own or the target culture, thus requiring some sort of inter-cultural awareness. Acculturation is then a process with an essentially changing character (Street, 1993), characterised as such by multi-vocality, diversity, conflicts, and contradictions as by consistency (Rosaldo, 1993).

Reviewing prior research of relevance in this respect demonstrates that language learning grounded in acculturation can help foreign language learners to develop a sense of cultural pluralism (openness to and appreciation of other cultures) and have an improved self-concept and sense of achievement in school (Lipton, 2004; Rubio, 2007; Tochon, Kasperbauer, and Potter, 2007; Tochon, 2009).

In this vein, Lessard-Clouston (1997) has adeptly observed that in the past people used to learn a foreign language with the objective of studying its literature, and this was the main medium of culture. Across the second half of the past century, several researchers (Hall, 1981; Nostrand, 1974, Seelye, 1984; Brooks, 1975) made an endeavour to base foreign language learning on a universal ground of emotional and physical needs, so that ‘the foreign culture [would appear] less threatening and more accessible to the language learner’ (Kramsch, 1993, p. 224).

In this regard, too, Brooks (1968), in the heyday of audiolingualism, ‘emphasized the importance of culture not for the study of literature but for language learning’. In a sense, his groundbreaking work was conducive to a shift of focus from teaching geography and history as part of language learning to an anthropological approach to the study of culture. Consequently, it is necessary to view the teaching of culture as a means of ‘developing an awareness of, and sensitivity towards, the values and traditions of the people whose language is being studied’ (Tucker & Lambert, 1972, p. 26).

Therefore, it is necessary to foster cultural awareness by teaching culture incorporated in the learners’ consciousness of the hidden assumptions and premises underlying their belief and value systems (Humphrey, 1997, p. 242) and, most importantly, to show that our own culture predisposes us to a certain worldview by creating a

‘cognitive framework….[which] is made up of a number of unquantifiables, embracing assumptions about how the world is constructed’ (ibid.). But this cognitive framework is, to a great extent, maintained and sanctioned through the very use of language, which is arguably ‘the most visible and available expression of [a] culture’ (Brown, 1986, cited in Valdes, 1986, p. 33).

However, language and culture are so intricately related that their boundaries, if any, are extremely blurred and it is difficult to become aware of the assumptions and expectations that we hold (Kramsch, 1998). Therefore, it should be reiterated that language teaching is culture teaching, that is, ‘by teaching a language…one is inevitably already teaching culture implicitly’ unlimited by specific bounds (McLeod, 1976, p. 212); therefore, gaining insights into the foreign language should automatically presuppose immersion in the foreign culture, insofar as these two – language and culture – go hand in hand in the classroom. Literature will help in this acculturation process. Contrary to the notions of Brooks (1968), some researchers have recognized the significance of using literature to relay the culture of a given language in a more contextualized fashion. That is, using intercultural topics in the classroom so that learners may potentially acquire skills in eliciting meaning under the guidance of their foreign language teachers.

The purpose then of using literature to teach both language and culture is to develop intercultural competence (Savignon, 2007; Göbel & Helmke, 2010); no wonder then that language educators have now, for more than five decades, been concerned with acculturation as a process concomitant to language learning (e.g., Blackledge & Creese, 2009; Damen, 1987; Shardakova & Pavlenko, 2004; Deters, 2009; Göbel & Helmke, 2010; Tay, 2010; Cronjé, 2011).

According to Cai (2002), the main goals for incorporating and using literatures of languages studied in foreign language curricula are …

"to challenge the dominant ideologies, affirm the values and experiences of historically underrepresented cultures, foster acceptance and appreciation of cultural diversity, develop sensitivity to social inequalities, and encourage transformation of the self and society’’. (p. 134)

Teaching English literature, and especially a cosmopolitan literature that does not belong to a specific nation or national identity, is reflective of a multicultural educational message that diverse literature can provide a graphically rich, multicultural picture of the English language. Indeed, English literature is replete with a multicultural patchwork of British, American, Australian, Indian, etc. fabric that is cross-cultural and inducing to an affluent, multi-cultural learning medium. In this regard, Mohammadzadeh (2009) explains the reason for introducing literature teaching for culture learning as such:

"When we expose students to multicultural literary texts, we will encourage them to gain a literacy to compare and analyze the cultural viewpoints and values of East and West and this knowledge will improve their attitudes towards the necessity of learning foreign languages. When students examine the themes of a multicultural novel or short story, they can connect the various conflicts and cultural issues which took place between the discourses within a text to the similar conflicts in other pertinent fiction, newspapers, historical texts, and other non-fictional literary texts. Therefore, the texts used in these courses are no longer seen as a work of literary text to be valued only in aesthetic terms, but as a compilation of opposing discourses which are related to conflicts that expand well outside the boundaries of a normal text." (p. 24)

Notwithstanding its importance, foreign language teaching through literature bearing the culture of that language has been an argumentative issue, and attitudes towards literature teaching have impeded it from finding its way into general language curricula in some communities like Saudi Arabia. Attitudinal inhibitors to literature teaching and the use of literature to teach culture within foreign language programmes have least been recognized in prior research.

While there is a general lack of research in teacher attitudes on culture learning or culture teaching in TEFL at large, as has been previously stated, some studies have been carried out to better understand the extent to which instructors are familiar with the role of culture in language education and how it affects their pedagogy. Lessard-Clouston’s survey (1996) in which 16 Chinese EFL instructors were interviewed on their views about teaching culture found support among instructors for teaching culture, but cited a need for more understanding of how to bring culture into the classroom context. Adamowski’s survey of instructors’ views on teaching culture in the ESL context (cited in Lessard-Clouston, 1996) suggested that instructors feel culture has an important role to play, yet no systematic ways of approaching how to teach it were uncovered.

Prodromou (1988), in a questionnaire study of 300 Greek students, found that over half of the students believed that native speaker instructors should have some knowledge about the students’ native tongue and culture. Duff and Uchida’s study (1997) of four EFL instructors revealed considerable complexity in instructors’ socio-cultural identities and a lack of awareness that they were implicitly transmitting cultural messages to their students.

Despite the findings of these studies, there is still a general lack of information about how instructors and students view the teaching of culture and how these views are reflected in their teaching.

Context of the Problem Studied

Integrating culture in the language classroom through teaching English literature can be understood as important and necessary. Practically, however, many problems arise when implementing culture-embedded literature teaching in the foreign language classroom in Saudi universities. For instance, teachers’ limited foreign experiences, limited knowledge of the target culture, lack of methods and materials, lack of time, and fear of controversy over teaching values and attitudes have been globally recognised as impediments to culture/literature teaching in some communities (Arries, 1994; Bragaw, 1991; Damen, 1987; Hadley, 1993; Mantle-Bromley, 1993). An identified problem in relevant literature with regard to culture teaching is that acculturation methodology is vast, and a great many techniques have been employed in order to strip away the layers of obfuscation blotting out the term ‘culture’ (Bessmertnyi, 1994).

A growing body of prior research in English language education and acculturation focuses on ‘non-native English speaking’ teachers of English (Amin, 1997; Braine, 1999; Kachru, 1992; Kahmi-Stein, 2004; Phillipson, 1992; Widdowson, 1994). Much of this research problematizes the ownership of English and the privileged position of the inner circle of English-speaking countries such as the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Wee, 2002; Kachru, 2006b). Harumi (2002), quoting Kachru (2006a, p.11), contends that the globalization of English naturally promotes not only the "Englishization" of other world languages but also the "nativization" of English. Harumi further maintains that the widespread dissemination of English as an international language, whatever the dialects it is spoken in, has stripped the English-speaking peoples off the sole ownership of the language because English today has "ceased to be a vehicle of Western culture; it only marginally carries the British and American way of life" (Kachru, 1986, p.92).

This study aims at identifying the impediments that hinder culture teaching as embedded in the teaching of English literature to EFL students in Saudi Arabian universities as perceived by a sample of teachers and students. Therefore, the problem object of the study can be expressed in the following research question:

What are the attitudes of faculty and students in the English Department of the College of Languages and Translation, King Khalid University (KKU), Abha, towards culture-embedded literature teaching?

Methodology

Research Method

The method of research deemed appropriate for this study was the descriptive method, using a questionnaire. The descriptive research design with qualitative data from the open-ended section of the questionnaire can provide useful information about the distribution of a wide range of characteristics and relationships between variables of the study, the purpose being to "use questionnaires to collect data from participants in a sample about their characteristics, experiences, and opinions in order to generalize the findings to a population that the sample is intended to represent." (Gall, et al., 1996, p. 289) This approach of research can provide a basis for decisions that are significant for the evaluation of current educational practices (Patton, 2002).

Instrumentation

In order to explore the perceptions of and attitudes towards culture in the classroom and the teaching of English literature, as perceived by language instructors and students in the English department, College of Languages and Translation, King Khalid University, a questionnaire (in two formats, one for teachers and the other adapted for students) was designed to elicit instructors and students’ views on three major aspects identified in relevant literature: (1) feelings about both the importance of teaching culture and literature in EFL classrooms; (2) perceptions about culture in the current literature curriculum; and (3) inhibitors and impediments to EFL literature teaching in Saudi universities.

As the survey was intended to be exploratory for instructors’ and students’ views on the use of literature as a tool for culture teaching in EFL, independent variables, such as instructors’ length of experience and nationality, although noted, were not critical factors. The lack of model-building, which usually includes independent variables and dependent variables, i.e. attitudes, may appear to be a major weakness in this study; however, given the general dearth of similar studies, the questionnaire serves as a source of information gathering. The questionnaire included both a Likert scale answer option as well as space for an open-ended response on most items.

In this way, participants with time and interest in the survey topic were able to expand on their answers, while those with little time or interest could simply circle numbers on the Likert scales. In this sense, the advantages of both close-ended responses, i.e. those readily quantified and easily analysed, and open-ended responses, i.e. those providing more useful and insightful data, could be maximised. The main disadvantage of open-ended questions, i.e. unmanageably large amounts of data, was minimal because of the small sample size.

Because several of the questions required more than an informal, superficial understanding of terminology, examples were provided as part of the question to ensure understanding where informants can add more details or comments in the comments spaces below.

Validity of the Instruments

Inter-rater validation indicated the instruments were valid enough to collect the data they were meant to gather.

Reliability

The reliability of the questionnaire has been determined using the Kuder-Richardson formula (21) (Brown, 1997, p. 202). The reliability co-efficient computed for the 35 items was 0.76, which is fairly high.

The questionnaire was preliminarily administered to 7 faculty members and junior staff members to determine its reliability, employing a test-retest method. The reliability of the survey was determined using the Kuder-Richardson formula (21). The reliability co-efficient computed for the survey items was 0.87, which is high enough to make the survey reliable for administration.

Participants

English language instructors at the College of Languages and Translation, KKU, participated in this study. Twenty-five instructors had taught for more than ten years, and their teaching experiences ranged from 5–15 years; some had more than 15 years’ experience in TEFL. Of them, 40 % were Ph.D. holders, and the remaining 60 % were MAs. Participant teachers, most of them, taught at universities, though some taught at junior colleges (two-year post-secondary institutions), and some spanned a wide spectrum of learning institutions ranging from high school to university, with a wide experience in ESL and EFL.

Participant students in the questionnaire study were 33 in number, enrolled in levels five and six of study (upper-intermediate level); their mean age was 20.3 years. The participant students’ native language was Arabic. Although no identical proficiency test was given to the students, the researcher could assume that all student informants were equivalent in terms of proficiency, based on information provided from the academic advisor on their grade point averages (GPAs).

Results

Informants responded to the survey questions on a five-point scale, from ‘Very Important’ (scored 1) to ‘Unimportant’ (scored 5) or, in the case of questions referring to specific teaching/learning practices, from ‘Always’ (scored 1) to ‘Never’ (scored 5). In either case, a low group score, in the range of 1–2, indicates a significant commitment on the part of the instructors to the views or the practices mentioned, and a high score, in the range of 3–4, indicates a lack of commitment.

As for the open-ended questions requiring written responses, approximately 95 % of the instructors answered some or all of the question items that allowed open-ended comments, while 85 % of the student sample filled out this section.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these open-ended responses covered a remarkable range of examples and ideas. The first five questions dealt with informants’ attitudes towards the teaching/learning of culture as part of their language classes (See the questionnaire attached).

Table (1): frequencies, percentages, weighted percentages, and Chi2 for teachers’ responses to section one of the questionnaire

Items

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Weighted percentage

Chi2

Freq

%

Freq

%

Freq

%

1

10

41.8

11

42. 9

4

14.1

2.291066

*67.33

2

12

48.1

9

37.8

4

14.1

2.340058

63.24*

3

15

60.8

8

31.1

2

8.1

2.527378

145.52*

4

18

72.3

6

25.1

1

2.6

2.697406

**263.82

* significant at 0.01; ** significant at 0.05

Table (1) above shows the Chi2 values for the items from 1 to 4, all being significant at 0.01, which indicates that all informants agreed to the items of this section positively, suggesting that instructors think that it is important to include aspects of culture in their teaching of English language.

While no teacher thought it was unimportant, a mean of 8.5 respondents circled ‘a neutral response’ suggesting that some instructors remain in doubt about the importance of culture in EFL classrooms, despite the wealth of research advocating a role for culture.

In open-ended responses, teachers indicated that novels, short stories, and drama are the major genres of creative writing that can best depict a particular culture in a given language; as such, informants, from amongst teachers, indicated that these genres have to be extensively included in the English literature component of the BA programme in the college.

Table (2): frequencies, percentages, weighted percentages, and Chi2 for students’ responses on section one of the questionnaire

Items

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Weighted percentage

Chi2

Freq

%

Freq

%

Freq

%

1

13

38.6

10

30.8

10

30.5

2.080692

*4.36

2

28

86.7

4

11.8

1

2.9

2.853026

451.04*

3

10

61.1

11

34.9

2

6.0

2.570605

169.84*

4

16

44.4

11

35.1

6

19.6

2.239193

30.03*

* significant at 0.01

Table (2) above shows the Chi2 values for the items from 1 to 4, all being significant at 0.01, which indicates that all informants agreed to the items of this section positively, suggesting that students, too, deemed it important to include aspects of culture in their language curriculum.

While no teacher thought it was unimportant, a mean of 9 respondents circled ‘a neutral response’ suggesting that some EFL students remain dubious about the significance of incorporating culture as a component in the EFL curriculum.

Students indicated that novels and stories are extensively loaded with culture, and they ought to study many of these courses across the language curriculum, in lieu of the intensive skills courses they are immersed in.

Table (3): frequencies, percentages, weighted percentages, and Chi2 for teachers’ responses on section two of the questionnaire

Items

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Weighted percentage

Chi2

Freq

%

Freq

%

Freq

%

5

20

78.9

1

4.9

4

16.2

2.335329

58.07*

6

21

82.9

2

8.1

2

9

2.392216

83.40*

7

17

70.7

5

22.5

3

6.9

2.637725

221.54**

8

21

83.1

1

4.8

3

12.1

2.323353

53.40*

* significant at 0.01; ** significant at 0.05

In section 2, which tapped into the perceptions about culture in the current literature curriculum, most informant teachers – as shown in table 3 above – scored strongly towards the positive end with considerably less deviation. No instructors in this study claimed to never teach culture, but a few instructors circled ‘neutral’ indicating that their classes contained minimal cultural information.

Table (4): frequencies, percentages, weighted percentages, and Chi2 for students’ responses on section two of the questionnaire

Items

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Weighted percentage

Chi2

Freq

%

Freq

%

Freq

%

5

24

72.5

6

19.8

2

7.8

2.646707

237.22*

6

18

54.8

8

25.7

6

19.5

2.353293

71.18*

7

21

64.1

9

27.2

3

8.7

2.553892

159.28**

8

24

72.5

6

19.8

2

7.8

2.646707

237.22*

As is shown in table (4) above, student informants were of the same opinion as their teachers: they positively agreed that the current curriculum provided culture teaching, and that their teachers also taught culture while they were teaching language, but a few (mean number of respondents = 7) were not convinced that enough culture was taught in the language curriculum. Those students explained, in the open-ended spaces, that the current literature curriculum is not adequate to provide an appropriately balanced quantity of culture learning; they indicated that even some of the literature courses have been tuned to address Islamic topics, such a course titled 'Islam in World Literature', which cannot be claimed as teaching the English culture.

In section 3, which sought to recognise the inhibitors and impediments to EFL literature teaching in Saudi universities, the following tables show teacher and student informants’ responses to the items of this section:

Table (5): frequencies, percentages, weighted percentages, and Chi2 for teachers’ responses on section three of the questionnaire

Items

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Weighted percentage

Chi2

Freq

%

Freq

%

Freq

%

9

10

40.4

11

44.9

4

14.7

2.257485

53.36*

10

12

50.0

6

24.4

7

25.6

2.248503

41.75**

11

14

56.0

5

19.8

6

24.3

2.314371

78.44*

12

18

71.6

5

21.0

2

7.5

2.640719

228.69*

* significant at 0.01; ** significant at 0.05

With all Chi2 values being significant at 0.01 as is shown in Table (5) above, the figures demonstrate that teachers were cognizant of their perceptions of the inhibitors and impediments of teaching culture within literature in the BA curriculum provisioned for EFL students in the College of Languages and Translation, at KKU.

Nearly half the informants do not agree that the barriers cited are deemed inhibitive impediments except for item 12, addressing availability of material and teaching technology, such as video and audio clips. They think so because (1) some courses do not give them the opportunity to use drama video clips for introducing the target culture to the students in attractive formats, (2) literary texts available cannot be integrated with audio-video material easily due to time constraints in the classroom as well as lack of lab facilities, (3) teachers do not incorporate video clips available with these courses due to native cultural barriers, mostly associated with religious or socio-religious factors; and, finally, (4) the literature course instructors do not provide their students with supplementary material (e.g. texts, graphics, advance organisers, audio, video, etc.) that integrate culture and literature learning.

Table (6): frequencies, percentages, weighted percentages, and Chi2 for students’ responses on section three of the questionnaire

Items

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Weighted percentage

Chi2

Freq

%

Freq

%

Freq

%

9

15

45.8

13

39.0

5

15.2

2.296407

47.32*

10

8

24.0

16

49.00

16

49.48

1.973054

39.17**

11

16

48.8

7

21.0

10

30.2

2.185629

40.28*

12

9

27.2

11

35.7

12

37.00

1.898204

5.79*

* significant at 0.01; ** significant at 0.05

In table (6) above, all Chi2 values are significant at 0.01, except for item 11 which is significant at 0.05. This indicates that informants perceived the following factors as inhibitors and impediments to integrating culture within English literature teaching in KKU in the following order according to the perceptions of the informants as determined by Chi2 and weighted percents:

  1. lack of enough native-language speakers on the teaching staff;
  2. lack of time and adequate material covering overt and covert cultural aspects within literary texts;
  3. socio-cultural and religious factors;
  4. lack of teaching technology enabling culture learning in classrooms.

The large difference in the mean scores between Section 1 and section 3 suggests that although participant instructors thought cultural content available within the current literature curriculum was important, and they did tend to teach it, it is actually planned only some of the time, due to time constraints and lack of literary texts rich in the culture of the English language. Presumably, instructors plan other parts of a lesson more rigorously than the parts that include culture. The reasons also have to do with the cultural and religious composition of Saudi society. Most students responded negatively in the open-ended part of section three when they were asked about whether it is culturally and religiously appropriate for them to view dramatic video clips with music and female actresses. They think so because they tend to believe that drama in videos expose exhibits women in nudity, which is not culturally acceptable for them. This pattern, where culture is perceived as important, yet is taught less rigorously, also appeared in Lessard-Clouston’s study of Chinese instructors of English (1996) in which 69% of the instructors seldom or never taught culture despite their belief in its importance.

In open-ended responses, teachers also believed it is difficult to teach the covert aspects of culture, while they can teach overt culture more readily. Overt culture refers to those surface elements of culture that are visible and apparent, while covert culture comprises those aspects which are not readily visible or understood. Levine and Adelman (1993) used an iceberg illustration to explain the concept with the visible portion representing elements such as language, food and appearance, while the larger, hidden part includes cultural aspects such as beliefs, attitudes and values (p. xviii). Participant instructors tended towards teaching overt elements of culture more often than covert ones, but not with a slight preference for overt rather than covert culture at times, depending on the material and cultural content of literary texts.

The question on whether instructors include covert culture brought out a remarkable variety of responses, although a full one-quarter of the instructors seldom or never include covert culture as part of their teaching. In open-ended responses, twelve instructors mentioned some discussion of religious beliefs, while others mentioned aspects of society, marriage, dating, social life, privacy, without explaining the values they teach associated with these elements.

The implications of such responses suggest that the native culture of the students (Saudi culture) is more reserved and religiously hard-lined than the English language cultures. While there is plenty of evidence that this is true, postmodern beliefs suggest that such cultural constructs cannot encompass the diversity that exists, not only within an individual culture, but within individuals themselves (Spack, 1997a). Therefore, instructors leave themselves open to criticism of stereotyping with such statements.

Conclusions

The purpose of this study was to identify the perceptions of and attitudes towards the role of literature courses in the teaching of culture in the foreign language classrooms in a Saudi university, as perceived by teachers and students in the English department. This paper has stressed the importance of incorporating culture in language learning, especially within the literature curriculum, and the dynamic relationship between acculturation and ELT in Saudi Arabia.

It can be concluded that EFL instructors and students in Saudi Arabia already recognize the important role that literature can play in culture learning in EFL classes. Identifying the importance of literature in the conveyance of culture is commensurate with prior research which can be implicitly or directly can be used to acculturate EFL learners into the English language culture (Lessard-Clouston, Hall, 1981; Nostrand, 1974, Seelye, 1984; Brooks, 1968; 1975; Lessard-Clouston, 1997; Kramsch, 1993) in a more contextualised fashion. Recent research also recognises that literature can efficiently induce intercultural competence (Savignon, 2007; Blackledge & Creese, 2009; Deters, 2009; Mohammadzadeh, 2009; Tay, 2010; Göbel & Helmke, 2010; Cronjé, 2011).

Furthermore, EFL instructors need to integrate cultural information as part of their language teaching, since it appears to be introduced more randomly than other aspects of their teaching. The reason is that there is no overt, explicit courses in developing cultural awareness in the EFL programme in ELT colleges, except for a language awareness course, which taps into cultural technical terminology without delving deep beyond the introduction of cultural terms. As elaborated in the literature review section, learning culture is often done through teaching literature (Harumi, 2002; Ilieva, 2005; Deters, 2009; Tay, 2010; Göbel & Helmke, 2010; Cronjé, 2011), but still acculturation requires more rigorous courses specifically geared towards cultural teaching. These findings, too, are consistent with prior research which suggests that culture must be integrated with language learning programmes to develop cultural and linguistic competencies (Harumi, 2002; Ilieva, 2005; Deters, 2009; Göbel & Helmke, 2010). According to Dirven and Putz (1993), and many others (Byrnes, 1991; Hinkel, 1999; Kramsch, 1998; Valdes, 1995), language teachers should concern themselves with the teaching of cultural competence in addition to language, for it is now commonly believed that

"misunderstandings that can occur between people of different cultures may not be reducible exclusively to language difficulties, but may be also attributable to different sets of experiences, different expectations and even profoundly different ways of thinking" (Stephens, 1997, p. 123).

The less rigorous approach to culture teaching as embedded in language teaching material, the rigid socio-religious inhibitors, the lack of appropriate literary texts, and the lack of time and technology suggest that culture learning – all such factors play a secondary and less supportive role to language learning at large in current English language programme. In other words, the more absent these factors are, the more effective language learning becomes. This being the case, acculturation and language learning are integrally related, with culture teaching being not any longer viewed as an ‘add-on’ but rather as an ‘integral part’ of second/foreign language learning" (Courchene, 1996, p. 1). This finding is also compatible with prior research which has recognised a relationship between acculturation and language education (Roberts, et al., 2001; Kubota, 2003; Kramsch, 2003; Zaid, 2011). The present study, commensurate with earlier research (Damen, 1987; Cortazzi & Jin, 1999; Shardakova & Pavlenko, 2004; Zaid, 2011) has identified that "language learning materials and foreign language teachers are influential bearers of culture in the second/foreign language classroom" (Zaid, 2011, p. 1).

In the same vein, instructors also need to adapt their teaching style to commensurately accommodate to the cultural expectations of the students. In many ways, these adaptations should emphasise the importance of culture in EFL, at the cost of their own socio-cultural identity. They also need to address the inhibitors and barriers to culture teaching within literature courses with more facilitative and enabling alternatives or curricular adaptation or change that will help to activate culture learning for the students.

Further research

Suggested research in culture teaching requires that more adapted research on large-sized samples be conducted. Both non-native English-speaking instructors and ESL instructors may express different views about the teaching of culture which could prove useful for either model-building or textbook authors and publishers, which requires an orientation towards reconsidering the TEFL course-texts available in Saudi Arabia. Thus, teachers by using literature teaching derived from the different varieties of English (e.g., American, British, Australian, New Zealandish, South African, etc.) within language learning curriculum more than it is being used will lead EFL students to understand more effectively the representations of the different English cultures to be found in these varied literary texts, and will induce them to achieve higher levels of multicultural literacy, which makes them more effective intercultural communicators.

Further research is also required to verify whether there is a direct nexus between openness to cultural and linguistic patterns and the ability to learn a second or foreign language. Such a link could take on special significance at a time when the nature of intercultural competence is receiving widespread international attention.

Therefore, new evaluation and investigation methods will be necessary to collect data to investigate the effects of acculturation on EFL learning and the overall ELT curriculum development. One approach would be to look for relationships between language learners' openness to different cultural perspectives and their progress in second/foreign language acquisition/learning.

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Appendix: Survey

Culture in the EFL Classroom in a Saudi University

The purpose of this survey is to understand more about whether and how culture is conveyed and used as a teaching medium by teachers of EFL in the Saudi King Khalid University. Researchers sincerely appreciate your help in filling out this form. You may add more detail or comments in the comments space on any question below:

Demographic information

Institution (circle one)

Number of years teaching at post-secondary level -------------

Course information

- Speaking - Listening – Reading – Writing - Multi-skill

Culture Content

1

2

3

4

5

1. Do you think it is important for EFL teachers to include aspects of the target language’s culture as part of their classroom teaching?

         

2. Do you include cultural information about your native country or English language culture in your classes?

         

3. If you do include cultural content , is your cultural content planned or or is it introduced spontaneously?

         

4. If you do include cultural content, is that information concerned with factual/overt culture, e.g. food, music, people, housing, etc?

         

Language and Culture

1

2

3

4

5

5. If you do include cultural content, is that information concerned with covert culture, e.g. values, beliefs, attitudes, etc?

         

6. Do you teach cultural aspects of language where English differs from Arabic, e.g. greetings, shake-hands, use of first/last names, giving/responding to compliments, etc. as part of your class?

         

7. If you do, do you explain wider aspects of this behaviour, e.g. individualism/group-orientation, at the same time?

         

Culture Role in TEFL

         

8. Do you provide contrastive cultural examples? For example, ‘In Arabic you say "Ahlan wa sahlan" where in English we say "Nice to meet you" in introductions.

         

Cultural Adjustments

         

9. Are these cultural aspects found in the published texts that you use?

         

10. Have you adjusted your teaching style based on your knowledge of your students’ culture since beginning teaching in Saudi Arabia?

         

Published materials

         

11. Do you use textbooks in your classes?

         

12. If you do, do your textbooks include any cultural information?

         

13. How do you feel about the quality of cultural content in

EFL textbooks?

         

14. What are your feelings about the cultural content in EFL

textbooks in general?

         

Comments:
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Thank you


About the Authors

Hamad Aldosari is an assistant professor of Applied Linguistics at King Khalid University (KKU); also, he the current chairman of the English Department. He has an MA and a Ph.D. in applied linguistics, and an MA in business administration. His interests cover a wide range of applied linguistic topics including harnessing literature and translation for teaching English to EFL students, technology applications to TEFL, and culture and English language teaching (ELT). He is an active researcher and participant in world conferences on English language and linguistics.

 

Mohamed Amin Mekheimer is an assistant professor of Applied Linguistics, English Department, College of Languages & Translation, KKU. He taught in Cairo University, Beni Suef Campus, Beni Suef University, and currently King Khalid University (KKU). He is a veteran translator, with more than 17 books translated to the Arabic library. His main research interests include translation studies, translation teaching, teaching English with technology, intercultural communication and the impact of acculturation on English language teaching (ELT).

Authors’ Adresses

Mohamed Amin A. Mekheimer, PhD
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
College of Languages and Translation, Abha, KSA
mabduljuad@kku.edu.sa

Hamad S. Aldosari, PhD
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
College of Languages and Translation, Abha, KSA
Hamadaldossary54@yahoo.com


Journal of Intercultural Communication, ISSN 1404-1634, issue 26, July 2011.
URL: http://www.immi.se/intercultural/.