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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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4. Words and Ways of Saying Things

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4.  Words and Ways of Saying Things

4.1  The Lexicon

4.1.1  Dissymmetrical Inventories

The speaker constructs his discourse and interprets that of others on the basis of memorized units. However, the notion of “word”, based on the association of a form and a meaning, is hardly satisfactory on a purely linguistic level (i.e., certain words do not exist in isolated form; several “graphic” words, delimited by spaces, may only form one, single, “linguistic” word, while several meanings may correspond to one word; alongside semantically “full” words which, even outside their use in a concrete utterance, evoke a reality, there are in every language “empty”, purely “grammatical” or “tool” words, bearing no reference; a word of language X does not necessarily have a lexical-type equivalent in language Y, etc.). Although there is no universally recognized and rigorous definition for the concept “word”, from a teaching point of view, this term appears as a practical minimal unit in vocabulary learning.

The words of two languages, bearers of a specific logic and vision of the world, almost never have the same content – hence the cases of quasi-coincidences, of non-coincidences and of absence of equivalents. All experiences, sometimes linked to an “insufficiency”, other times to an “overabundance” of foreign vocabulary, can constitute difficulties for the learner. The capacity of a community to oppose concepts which in other communities are not distinguished and, conversely, the incapacity of a language to establish a separation where another language is...

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