You are on page 1of 2

Article Review Subject: Name: Matric: Context and Culture in English Language Teaching Zaini Akmal bin Saad


This article was written by Nessa Wolfson entitled Compliments in Cross -Cultural Perspective and published in TESOL QUARTERLY Vol.15, No.2, in June 1981. The article discusses about the different compliments made by American English speakers in various contexts and cultures all around the world. The discussions emphasize on the perception of second language user/learners when facing such compliments which slightly differs from their local context and culture perspectives. In term of language, the English language is supposed to carry the same meaning regardless of where it is used. The study upon American English users is seemed as a little bit exaggerating as in America itself there are various differences in the society and environment which fosters the usage of English language. For example, English language practiced in Texas might differ in form of context and culture perspectives compared to English language users in Washington which seemed more subtle and euphemistic than Texas community. Embracing compliments requires various attitudes towards digesting the manner into a reasonable one. As given in the example of what happened in Indonesia where most of the compliments were taken as sarcasm rather than sheer compliments and sometimes, compliments are treated as derogatory like those Indonesian case. This is where context and culture play crucial role in determining of whether compliments thrown is really understood as compliments or something else. The following issue brought up was the classic comparison between urban and rural society. In some ways there will definitely be an invisible gap between the both societies owing to the upbringing and environmental influences which mould them to become what they are today. The author sparingly suggested that when she compared Indonesian and American, the result was highly significant. In the case of comparing the findings between American and Japanese context, the result was also promising as the Japanese people are able to conform to the rules of speaking for American English. This might also be contributed by the fact that the Americans invaded Japan first instead of British, so Japanese people are familiar with American English speaking rules than other English language origins.

The usage of proverbs and idiomatic expressions when complimenting other could also diverted the conversation into an unhealthy one as well. Another example used was in the case of Arabic language users which might differ, due to different surroundings and nature exploitation in simile expressions. It reflected the manipulation of objects used in proverbs and idiomatic expressions varies in different context and culture for different countries. It seemed fortunate that most of the proverbs and idiomatic expressions which used sensitive animals like pigs, dogs and cows are normally used to express negative circumstances or else the English speaker will flee off the conversation with a bump on the head. The understanding of context and culture is as vital as the understanding of appropriate structures and lexical items exploited when complimenting others. Another finding by the author revealed that American language complimentary expressions are lack of originality and merely based on positive evaluation. This explains a majority of problems that existed when complimenting other ESL users using common reasoning and evaluation as in American context and culture. The American language speakers should take into account an effort to make themselves familiar to the proper syntactic structures of other languages before jumping into the bandwagon and bluntly make compliments which may or may not be interpreted accordingly by the addressee. Problems arise when the American English speakers themselves are not aware of the proper syntactic structures that existed as being taught in formal classroom context to the second language learners. The discrepancy contributed majorly to the present miscommunication as a result making sweeping compliments. The final issue being brought up by the author is the relevancy of compliments in certain situation(s). As for the Americans, they seemed to exploit the usage of compliments in almost every aspect of their conversations and in their culture it may deem appropriate. On the contrary, other cultures might perceive compliments as something special and should only be used in specific occasions. So, relevancy and frequency also played vital roles apart from context and culture when expressing how we feel about others. Every language is unique in its own way and so does the English language. Learners of any new language need to be exposed to vast exposures of the language he or she is learning simply because language reflects the identity of the user. Without proper usage and interpretation of the language used, a mode of communication can turn to become a tool of making new enemies.