Cultural Problems in Teaching and Learning of English as a Foreign Language in Tunisia

Cultural Problems in Teaching and Learning of English as a Foreign Language in Tunisia

Aicha Rahal (University of Gafsa, Tunisia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9618-9.ch011
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Culture now becomes a key element in most educational systems, particularly in Higher education, where cultural Studies are an essential part of most language instruction. The aim of this chapter is to explore the cultural challenges that hinder the process of learning English in Tunisia and to suggest solutions for overcoming these. A questionnaire was used as the primary data collection material. It was found that lack of authentic materials, lack of cultural knowledge of the target language, poor textbooks, limited exposure to authentic culture environment and native culture interference are considered to be the main problems. The results also showed that these challenges can be remedied by using more authentic materials, revising the content of textbooks, the integration of technology and cultural awareness.
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Teaching English as second or a foreign language has become the focus of non-native teachers and researchers. They have tried to identify the problems and difficulties that can be face by second language learners at higher education level and the possible solutions to overcome these obstacles. Lado (1964) listed the goals of learning a foreign language, arguing that teachers should understand the target language. They should focus on both linguistic competence and culture. Lado further states that the main objectives of learning a second or a foreign language are “the ability to use it, understanding its meanings and connotations in terms of the target language and culture, and the ability to understand the speech and writing of natives of the target culture in terms of their great ideas and achievement” (p. 25).

The integration of culture in education is important. It affects positively the learning of the foreign language. Some researchers believe that teaching target culture during foreign language learning helps students to engage in realistic language situations. In the literature, we find varying views on the subject. There are four prevailing trends. The first trend (Byram 1990, Byram and Flemming 1998) perceives that culture should be taught with linguistic skills to help students get acculturated to English culture. The second (Kachru 1985, Kachru and Nelson 1996) views that culture should not be taught together with English, especially in the countries where English has institutionalized varieties.

The third view (McKay 2003, Kramsch and Sullivan 1996) argues that teachers should teach ‘local culture’ in English language. The fourth view (Alptekin 2005, Jenkins 2002, 2005) states that English should be taught in a ‘culture-free context.’ It seems that there is a disagreement about teaching culture but most of the researchers agree with its importance in foreign language classroom.

Although English has a crucial place in the educational system in Tunisia, students and teachers face a number of difficulties involving cultural problems. The present chapter sheds light on the importance of teaching culture in foreign language classroom.

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