Theory, Practice and Methodology

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Theory, Practice and Methodology
Résumé of the Seminary “Theory, Practice and Methodology”
By electing English as the world language, are we sentencing monolinguals to
become the literacy of the coming future?
In this seminary we had good and not so good presentations but all important
to our knowledge of what´s going on with the English language as part of the
Portuguese educational System.
Many of the trends that were documented on the presentations aren’t simply
‘driving forces’. The use of English as a global lingua franca requires
intelligibility and the setting and maintenance of standards. Therefore, the
increasing adoption of English as a second language, where it takes on local
forms, is leading to unification and diversity. These competing trends will give
rise to a predicting context in which the English language will be learned and
used. The future for English will be complex and a plural one. The language will
grow in usage and variety and global importance.
All the speeches we´ve listened have
promoted English from being the
language of the American, the British, the Irish, the Australian, the New
Zealand, the Canadian, the Caribbean, and the South African peoples to being
the international language: While Portuguese is spoken in 4 countries by
approximately 195 million people, English is spoken as a native language by
nearly four hundred million people and has become a lingua franca, the Latin of
the modern world, spoken in every continent by approximately eight hundred
million people.
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In addition, it is estimated that 75 percent of all international communication in
writing, 80 percent of all information in the world's computers, and 90 percent of
Internet content are in English.
As it was referred in its role as a global language, English has become one of
the most important academic and professional tools. The English language is
recognized as undoubtedly the most important language for the increasingly
mobile international community to learn. This is a fact that seems to be
irreversible. English has become the official language of the business and
scientific worlds.
In my résumé, I´ll focus my arguments on the speeches whose subjects
concern me more: intercultural communicative competence, Cultural awareness
and Globalization.
All the three speakers considered a pedagogical aim to encourage learners to
have an interest in knowledge about and opening towards foreign cultures,
peoples and countries.
The
commonly
accepted
objective
of
foreign-language
teaching
is
“communicative language competence”, which has been defined as the
competences which empower a person to act using specifically linguistic means
and as comprising several components: linguistic, sociolinguist and pragmatic.
But in fact, foreign-language teaching includes at least two languages and
cultures, the learner’s own culture and language and a foreign culture and
language. So, it looks natural to try and raise consciousness in learners of the
fact that people speaking other languages may also see the world in ways
different from their own.
As we saw, throughout the seminary, the concept of intercultural communicative
competence is not the same as communicative competence plus cultural
awareness. Intercultural competence is a concept of views of society with
interest in cultural difference and the relationship to someone else.
An intercultural competent person is someone who can cross borders and can
mediate between two or more cultural identities. They are not like tourists who
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Theory, Practice and Methodology
tend to float over cultures. They are determined to understand, to get an inside
view of the other person’s culture and at the same time, contribute to the other
person’s understanding of their own culture.
Therefore, an intercultural competence user of a foreign language not only
involves the gaining of communicative competence in that language, it also
involves the acquisition of particular skills, attitudes, values, knowledge items
and ways of looking upon the world.
There are some components which contribute to the language user’s ability to
communicate. These components are: declarative knowledge, skills and knowhow, existential competence and the ability to learn.
Foreign-language teachers are supposed to include in their lessons problembased or task-based activities . In fact, there are many of us who occasionally
include this kind of exercises. The goal of these exercises is the satisfactory
completion of a meaningful communicative task.
Problem-solving activities of this kind encourage critical thinking, collaborative
learning, self-initiated knowledge acquisition, cooperative evaluation of
alternatives and collective decision making. These activities use language
elements and language production used in the real-world.
But it was also said that the learners don’t, usually, work in group, they are used
to work individually. So, how can someone, who doesn’t talk to anyone in that
language, learn it?
As a critical view of the teaching of English it was said that pupils do not talk
about culture, express their points of view or even are they used to be critical.
They just learn grammar and not much more than that. But as teachers, we
should do tasks which invite the learners to reflect about norms, values,
behavior of their own culture and to identify the similarities and the differences
between them and other cultures.
We usually take as point of reference the foreign culture, not the learner. The
questions should ask is whether or not this body of knowledge is of any use or
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interest to a particular learner group. They should consider whether these
learners can relate to and understand the information presented to them.
The cultural contents selected by us should have the potential of raising the
learner’s awareness of possible cultural divergences and misunderstanding, as
well as of the feelings, opinions and attitudes these divergences may bring
about in people whose intercultural competence is not well developed.
Therefore, in foreign-language teaching cultural contents continue to be
presented from a monoperspectival point of view, and culture continues to be
conceived as a static, idealized, undiversified object of study.
In my opinion, the intercultural dimension of a foreign-language is about more
than teaching communicative competence, passing on an extensive body of
information about the foreign culture which tends to be associated with the
foreign language one is teaching. The acquisition of intercultural communicative
competence, of course, requires that one increases one’s familiarity with foreign
cultures, with one’s own culture and with relationships between cultures.
As the world is in transition, so the English language is itself taking new forms.
As everybody knows, this is true. English has changed abruptly in the last 1500
years, reflecting contact with other languages and people, reflecting the need of
people in changing the communication. All around the world English is the main
source for a social life, acquiring a vitality of its own, developing in ways that
reflect the interaction between people from different cultures and languages. A
good example is the differences between the kind of English used in Britain and
the one used in America. The English is always used in leading technology and
scientific development, which take us to a critical point: within a decade or so,
the number of people who have English as a second language will exceed the
number of native speakers. But as new technologies keep developing, so does
English language. As we entering the new era, the new ways of communicating
in English – like internet - can upset the traditional pattern of communication
which took a lot of work to build. Also, in this new era, English language will
have such an important role on economic, political and cultural life - The
moment in history where a global language has emerged. As we´ve seen,
English is considered to be a global language because of its large distribution of
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speakers and continuous growth and influence. It is also responsible for the
number of endangered languages that exist nowadays. All the debates that
surrounded this issue approach its benefits, such as the aid to intercultural
dialogue, the search for international peace, the facilitation of political and
economical organisation and its dominant role in the flow of knowledge; but
also, its negative impacts, among which are the threat to other languages and
to the development of multilingualism, and its role in deepening social
differences. The task for English speakers is to stop it being a killer language
and change it to an additive asset.
It is estimated that 85% of international organisations use English as one of
their working languages; other proof of the global importance of English is its
position as the language which publishes more titles in various areas including
numerous pure sciences. Nowadays, it is becoming apparent that all spoken
and written languages form a global medium of human communication and
make the circulation of ideas possible; it is fair to conclude that the task of a
language is located in society, working as a will to community. One of the
language rights such as teaching the mother language, accessing cultural
services, having a representative presence of the language/culture in the media
and receiving attention from government bodies, should be respected when
concerning language groups. On one hand, there is a defence of
multiculturalism which calls for a democratic culture based on the acceptance of
social difference having in account identity and representation; on the other
hand there is a doctrine based on conservatism involving canonical notions of
education and the desire of imposing a common culture.
In my opinion, the growth of the English language can’t be stopped and has
more advantages than disadvantages; if citizens from all over the world have a
language in common they can change ideas and general knowledge.
The globalization of this language gives people the opportunity to have access
to new cultures and traditions and to different views of the same subject; in
addition, it facilitates communication between international companies as well
as the political and economical organisation of the world concerning a common
reference. The main disadvantage of this drastic growth of influence is that it is
killing minority cultures and languages in opposition to the principles of
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multiculturalism, diversity and acceptance of difference; in order to prevent this
massive extinction, the L2 (second-language) and EFL (English as a foreign
language) speakers must use English language as an additive asset that helps
the communication with other peoples and allows a convergence of values, with
the aim of facilitating the social, cultural, political and economical relations
between them.
In what concerns L1 (first-language) speakers, they have the advantage of
speaking a global language and so, there is no practical need of learning
another; the problem comes with the cultural needs that are not satisfied
because of the lack of investment by the governments in teaching other
languages such as Spanish or French in public schools, mainly in America. As a
result, the citizens are stated to be the poorest in what concerns cultural and
linguistic aspects, as well as in international literature.
The ability to communicate worldwide is vital in a world of increasing
globalization, of the multiple possibilities of cross-border contact and exchange
of information that the media provide, of a high level of private and professional
mobility. This implies the availability of knowledge, skills and strategies which
enables people to take responsibility for communication beyond the borders of
their own cultural ties. I also believe Language is an essential part in the
intercultural contact process. Without the ability to communicate with each
other, it would be impossible to know other cultures and to have a mutual
``understanding´´ worldwide. Language is the verbal expression of culture.
A culture of language learning contains everything its speakers can think about
and every way they have of thinking about things. Language, should be an
integrated component of culture and language learning is also cultural learning.
The interaction and relation between culture learning and language acquisition
is very complicated. The personality development of our students in the process
of learning a foreign culture and a foreign language will be massive, enabling
them to increase and enhance their intelligence and
opinion about other
cultures beliefs, traditions and their ``ways of life ´´. Intercultural communication
is beneficial to their development and understanding of different cultures.
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