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Second Culture Teaching and Learning

An Introduction

Thomas Szende

This monograph offers an incisive analysis of how the second language learner can achieve cultural proficiency, which is more than a set of rules and facts to be memorized by rote. How can the cultural dimension be taken into account, among the many choices of instructional material and language assessment tools? Is it possible to distinguish levels of cultural competence? How can the degree of cultural proximity between the source language and the target language influence the acquisition process? What strategies should be implemented in order to decode any cultural pitfalls? This handy guide addresses these and many other frequently asked questions underpinning language teaching methodology.
Illustrated with a broad range of classroom-based examples, this book presents language as inextricably intertwined with social relations. The variety of languages involved (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Hungarian, French and English) makes the volume especially attractive for language educators seeking effective teaching strategies in specific local contexts around the globe.
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3. Mother Culture – Foreign Culture

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3.  Mother Culture – Foreign Culture

3.1  A Unique Process

Language is the product of culture. Sapir (1970: 9–10), as such, compares the process of speech acquisition with that of walking. The human being is destined to walk: his body is prepared from birth to ensure the burning of nervous energy and muscular adapting, conditions for the act of walking. Speech is a learned function, indeed a function of culture, which varies to the extent that one goes from one social group to another.

Regarding the development of communicative competence, interaction is basic: the child acts and interacts before speaking. In L1 interactional routines are established from a very early age onwards. What is learned during interaction is less the grammar than how to behave in the community, what we can or cannot do (Arditty & Vasseur, 1999: 10–14). In the first language, the child learns the practical mastery of social interaction rules within a given cultural framework, and through a set of representations of the world which are not recognized by the actors (adults or children alike) as a system of thought, but rather as reality itself (Bange, 2005: 61). The learning of L1 is a unique process which is tightly interwoven with the mental development of the individual; it marks the totality of his perceptive and expressive behavior and his thought structure in an indelible way, integrating him into a group which, through language, he feels both bound to and dependent...

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