Culture - The Chicken or the Egg?

The very question; ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ could also apply to language and culture. If language is the main means whereby people conduct their daily business, social lives, and is used as the main communication tool, then the link between culture and language may be evident but quite complex. But before we try to answer the above question, let’s look at some aspects of language and culture which combine these together.
Have you ever thought about, or even been asked by a student in class, how to define what language is? We use it everyday, we know innately what it is, but to put words on it, to try to define and explain is actually quite a difficult thing to do, without being superficial or losing some meaning. Language has been described by some as a system of signs that come together to create meaning. Others have described it as a method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of produced symbols. However, there is one thing which is evident when trying to define language and that is its importance and relevance to those who use it and how it is inextricably linked to culture.
Like language, culture too can be difficult to define. The image of an iceberg can help us have a better understanding of how deeply ingrained culture is. Culture characterises a certain group of people at a given time. On the face value, or the top of the iceberg, we can see aspects of culture such as food, clothing, sport, music, architecture and art, the thing we enjoy when we are on holiday. However, further down the iceberg - under the water mark – it becomes more complicated and we notice that there is so much more to consider: ideas, beliefs, skills, traditions, attitudes and values, as well as social interactions. Culture includes both the tangible and intangible products of a society.
So what is it that links culture and language together? Well to this we can say that both language and culture are learned or acquired. Both have patterns that change and are a universal fact of life, and both are part of our identity. Just as we acquire our first language, we too acquire our first culture. Also, just as we may chose to learn a second language, we can learn a second culture or develop intercultural awareness. However developing ones intercultural awareness can be a difficult thing to do. There are no rules to learn, no structures to apply and the process can vary from one individual to another. This can be a problem in the language classroom. As teachers, we teach a language, and therefore teach the culture of the language, but we also face the culture of the learners in our class, an aspect which cannot be ignored and which we cannot expect our learners to leave at the door for class time. Therefore having an understanding of the different stages a person goes through when developing their intercultural awareness can help us have more of an insight into our learners. It can also help us as teachers settle into the new ways of life we face when we take off around the world teaching English as a foreign language.

The five stages when developing intercultural awareness can be best described in a U-shaped curve (Hoang-Thu, 2010).
  1. The honey moon stage – This is where the difference we see in other culture are exciting and attractive.
  2. The disintegration stage – The novelties wear off at this stage and frustration or helplessness can take over.
  3. The reintegration stage – At this point culture can be problematic. One can become defensive or not respond to the culture.
  4. The autonomy stage – This is where we turn back up in the U. We start to develop a little perspective, opinions become balanced, objective, and start becoming more positive.
  5. Finally we reach the interdependence stage – We adopt a new identity a bicultural or multicultural person.
Recognising these five stages can help us as teachers find our feet when taking on the responsibilities of travelling and teaching in other cultures. Moreover, it can also help us to understand our students and the uphill struggle they may be having, not only learning English as a foreign language, but also getting their heads around the culture of the language too.
So which does come first, the language or the culture?
References
Hoang-Thu, T. 2010. 'Teaching culture in the EFL/ESL classroom', [Available online][Accessed on 29/4/2013]
January 23, 2019
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$22.05
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Deirdre

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$22.05
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Flag
English
globe
Ireland
time
325
Speaks:
English
Native
,
Spanish
A2
,
Irish
A2
,
Japanese
Rates: Conversation classes €19.50 | General English Classes €26.50 | IELTS Preparation, Academic Classes & Professional Skills €33 | Hello! My name is Deirdre, but you can call me Dee! Thank you for visiting my profile today. I am a native English speaker from the west of Ireland. I started teaching English in 2007 when I was travelling around the world. I fell in love with this career and went on to complete my Masters in Teaching English & Applied Linguistics in 2012. Since then I have been working with adults one-to-one and in groups in third level colleges and universities in classrooms and online. Further information is available in my resume below. The classes I teach on Verbling are: ***Conversation Lessons - Relaxed, friendly and engaging environment to practice your speaking. - Topics that are engaging and interesting for you (you can choose!). - Materials prepared and sent before each class. - Lessons are 45 minutes long with written report after the lesson with summary of feedback and notes. - Correction and feedback during each lesson. - Introduction to language strategies to improve your speaking. ***General English (All levels) - Learn vocabulary and grammar according to your level. - Practice vocabulary and grammar in speaking (including pronunciation), listening, reading and writing. - Lessons follow a course structure (homework etc. included). - Lessons are engaging with a variety of activities. - Use of the Common European Framework for your progress. - All materials included (self-study, class activities, and complimentary videos and blog material). ***IELTS Preparation - Prepare for IELTS - reading, writing, listening, speaking. - Learn exam strategies. - Practice exam skills. - Become efficient and knowledgable of the exam through practice. - All materials included (self-study, practice tests, exam strategy activities). - Dedicated and hard-working teacher to get you the bands you need. ***Academic English (graduate and post-graduate levels) - Bespoke lessons for developing Academic English skills. - Proofreading of Academic Writing. ***Professional Skills - Are you preparing for an interview in English? - Do you need to make a presentation or sales pitch in your job? I can help you practice and prepare for your professional needs. In my classes: - I have the confidence and knowledge to answer all your difficult grammatical questions correctly. - I can help you with the pronunciation of sounds and words that are challenging by using the IPA and identifying other aspects of phonology. - I use a wide range of materials and sources, from accredited course books to specialised self-developed learning aids. - My main objective is to help you develop effective communication skills in the English language. When you study with me, you will have: - free language level placement test. - access to an online bank of self-study materials to compliment your classes. - links to a blog with downloadable notes. - decks to learn vocabulary and idioms. - interesting and up-to-date blog articles to read about developing your English language skills. Please book a trial lesson to begin or send me a private message. - I hope to hear from you soon. Dee
Flag
English
globe
Ireland
time
325
Speaks:
English
Native
,
Spanish
A2
,
Irish
A2
,
Japanese
Rates: Conversation classes €19.50 | General English Classes €26.50 | IELTS Preparation, Academic Classes & Professional Skills €33 | Hello! My name is Deirdre, but you can call me Dee! Thank you for visiting my profile today. I am a native English speaker from the west of Ireland. I started teaching English in 2007 when I was travelling around the world. I fell in love with this career and went on to complete my Masters in Teaching English & Applied Linguistics in 2012. Since then I have been working with adults one-to-one and in groups in third level colleges and universities in classrooms and online. Further information is available in my resume below. The classes I teach on Verbling are: ***Conversation Lessons - Relaxed, friendly and engaging environment to practice your speaking. - Topics that are engaging and interesting for you (you can choose!). - Materials prepared and sent before each class. - Lessons are 45 minutes long with written report after the lesson with summary of feedback and notes. - Correction and feedback during each lesson. - Introduction to language strategies to improve your speaking. ***General English (All levels) - Learn vocabulary and grammar according to your level. - Practice vocabulary and grammar in speaking (including pronunciation), listening, reading and writing. - Lessons follow a course structure (homework etc. included). - Lessons are engaging with a variety of activities. - Use of the Common European Framework for your progress. - All materials included (self-study, class activities, and complimentary videos and blog material). ***IELTS Preparation - Prepare for IELTS - reading, writing, listening, speaking. - Learn exam strategies. - Practice exam skills. - Become efficient and knowledgable of the exam through practice. - All materials included (self-study, practice tests, exam strategy activities). - Dedicated and hard-working teacher to get you the bands you need. ***Academic English (graduate and post-graduate levels) - Bespoke lessons for developing Academic English skills. - Proofreading of Academic Writing. ***Professional Skills - Are you preparing for an interview in English? - Do you need to make a presentation or sales pitch in your job? I can help you practice and prepare for your professional needs. In my classes: - I have the confidence and knowledge to answer all your difficult grammatical questions correctly. - I can help you with the pronunciation of sounds and words that are challenging by using the IPA and identifying other aspects of phonology. - I use a wide range of materials and sources, from accredited course books to specialised self-developed learning aids. - My main objective is to help you develop effective communication skills in the English language. When you study with me, you will have: - free language level placement test. - access to an online bank of self-study materials to compliment your classes. - links to a blog with downloadable notes. - decks to learn vocabulary and idioms. - interesting and up-to-date blog articles to read about developing your English language skills. Please book a trial lesson to begin or send me a private message. - I hope to hear from you soon. Dee