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ASPECTOS SOCIOCULTURALES PARA LA ENSEANZA, EL APRENDIZAJE Y LA EVALUACIN DEL INGLS COMO LENGUA EXTRANJERA DENTRO EL SISTEMA EDUCATIVO BOLIVARIANO

(SOCIOCULTURAL ASPECTS FOR TEACHING, LEARNING AND EVALUATION OF ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN THE BOLIVARIAN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM)

Linguists and anthropologists have long recognized that the forms and uses of a given language reflect the cultural values of the society in which the language is spoken. Observing ones daily experience in communicating with other people using different vernacular, it is obvious that linguistic competence alone is not enough for him to be competent in that language. Learner need to be aware, for example, of the culturally appropriate ways to address people, express gratitude, make requests, and agree or disagree with someone. They should know that behaviors and intonation patterns that are appropriate in their own speech community may be perceived differently by members of the target language speech community. Smith (1985), for instance, explains that the presentation of an argument in a way that sounds fluent and elegant in one culture may be regarded as clumsy and circular by members of another culture Thus, in order for communication to be successful, language use must be associated with other culturally appropriate behavior. Although the presences of cultural issues are relatively recent in the writings, researches, and forums of foreign language (FL) education, a review of its literature in the past century is almost nonexistent. The implementation of Structuralism, Direct Method, Audiolingualism, Community Language Learning, Suggestopedia, the Silent Way, Total Physical Response, and the Natural Approach in the beginning of 1970s made culture neglected. These approaches regard ESL/EFL teaching as a matter of linguistics, and thus, emphasis was put on structures and vocabulary. The advent of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in the late 1970s made the negligence of culture became worse. This approach focuses on the teaching of usable, practical contents directed to enable learners communicate orally, so that EFL classrooms initially dominated by dialogues. However, in later development of the communicative approach it was realized that to communicate effectively, one should adapt the properties of his language use (such as intonation, lexical choice, and syntax) to the social 'variables' (such as those of class, gender or race) in which he interacts with others. Consequently, role of culture in the ESL/EFL curriculum grew, as it shown by the appearance a great number of teacher oriented texts, like those of Riverss (1981) and Hammerlys (1982), which included detailed chapters on culture teaching for the EFL class. Other major works concerning culture learning in EFL contexts appeared in this era are Robinson (1988) and Valdes (1986). In the 1990s, the cultural syllabus has been supported by researches and its importance was reaffirmed in Stern's (1992) book. Recent studies and writings such as those of Byram (1994; 1997a; 1997b) and Kramsch (1993; 2001) strengthened the seamless relationship of EFL teaching and target culture teaching. What is more, growth of English as an international language causes the inclusion of culture in EFL curriculum unavoidable. Why is incorporating culture in an EFL classroom inevitable? There are at least three fundamental reasons we can put forth to answer this question. First, culture and language are inseparable (Buttjes, 1990). Some ethnographic language studies,

summarizes several reasons why language and culture are from the start inseparably connected, i.e.: (1) language acquisition does not follow a universal sequence, but differs across cultures; (2) the process of becoming a competent member of society is realized through exchanges of language in particular social situations; (3) every society orchestrates the ways in which children participate in particular situations, and this, in turn, affects the form, the function, and the content of children's utterances; (4) caregivers' primary concern is not with grammatical input, but with the transmission of sociocultural knowledge; and (5) the native learner, in addition to language, acquires also the paralinguistic patterns and the kinesics of his or her culture. The second reason for the inevitability of incorporating cultural matters into an EFL program is the premise that since language and culture are inseparable, language teaching is culture teaching. Valdes (as cited in Baker, 2003) states: every language lesson is about something and that something is cultural. After observing some relevant studies, Buttjes (1990) explains how language teaching is culture teaching: (1) language codes cannot be taught in isolation because processes of sociocultural transmission are bound to be at work on many levels, e.g. the contents of language exercises, the cultural discourse of textbooks, and the teacher's attitudes towards the target culture; and (2) in their role of "secondary care givers" language teachers need to go beyond monitoring linguistic production in the classroom and become aware of the complex and numerous processes of intercultural mediation that any foreign language learner undergoes. The third reason for the inevitability of incorporating cultural matters into an EFL program is the fact that the major goal of a foreign language program is the mastery of communicative competence. To achieve this, a learner should be able to conceive of the native speakers of target language as real person. For many people, this is difficult to do for although grammar books gives so called genuine examples from real life, without background knowledge those real situations may be considered fictive by the learners. In other words, one needs a sound grasp of the background knowledge of the target culture in order to communicate successfully with the speakers of another language. His understanding of the culture would help him relate the abstract sounds and forms of a language to real people and places (Chastain, 1971). Finally, cultural learning is very effective to increase learners motivation which greatly affects every learning process. Culture classes do have a great role in achieving high motivation because most learners like culturally based activities such as singing, dancing, role playing, or doing research on other countries and peoples. This is reinforced by Hammerly (1982) that teaching about the target culture when teaching the target language piques the interest of students and acts as a motivator. It is necessary to understand culture a way of life, the context in which we exist, think, feel and interact to others (Brown, 1994), so it goes beyond to those ideas, customs, skills, arts and tools that characterized a given group of people in a given period of time. Culture is more than the sum of its parts. An aspect that needs to be pointed out clearly as I said before, is that no society exists without culture, establishing a context of both affective and cognitive behavior, a template for personal and social existence that differ from one person and region to another, a blueprint for personal and social existence.

Even today, people have the opportunity of world traveling; there is a tendency for us to believe that our own reality is the correct perception. Perception involves a subjective filtering of information even before it is stored in our background knowledge: misunderstandings are just around and they depend on our points of view, and it is related to language indeed. In the case of learning a language as a foreign one -like in the case of English- the learning of culture from the target language becomes important and necessary, because a language is part of culture and a culture is part language, they both are intrinsically interwoven (Brown, 1994). According to the author, we may infer that communicative process involves in a second language learning interaction between one culture and another one. She says it is very important to consider to learning a foreign language like English in our case as the learning of another culture: the overcoming of the personal and transactional barriers presented by two cultures in contact, and the relationship of culture learning to foreign language learning. Having in mind culture fulfills certain biological and psychological (contradictory facts and propositions) needs in human beings, when we think about culture on the modern teaching of English times it is necessary to think about: how the communicative approaches have contribute to keep people from different nations in closely contact, showing that the contact between different countries and cultures has become more frequently. This situation shows a necessity to discuss about culture aspects in very careful way, because we can have problems with acculturations, social shocks and stereotypes. Stereotyping is something related to social, political, linguistic, and cultural aspects, due to our cultural point of view about how the world is presented in scenery that objectively and subjectively has an interaction through our own cultural pattern. It may go on differing perceptions that can be seen as either false or strange and is thus oversimplified. A suggestion to us is to consider as very important for people to recognize and understand differing world views, so it contributes people to adopt a positive and open minded attitude toward cross-cultural differences. Attitude, like all aspects of developed of cognition and affect in human beings, develop early childhood and are the result of parents and peers attitudes, of contact with people who are different in any number of ways, and interacting affective factors in the human experience (Brown, 1994). It depends on teachers to promote positive attitudes towards the foreign language, so teachers have a strong important goal to fulfill in class. They have to help students to develop good attitudes according to cultural aspects that involve respect, acculturate abilities and knowledge about the other different people. They also have to consider the foreign language class a place to discussed social and political aspects not only pragmatic knowledge about the language as grammar, but something more deep and reasonable that includes learning grammar rules and social, cultural, and political discussions. Brown (1994) also focuses on the importance of considering acculturation in EFL teaching, as a possibility to deal with other different culture: recognizing rules, respecting social agreements and develop communicative approaches. Understanding that it is a complexity process of becoming adapted to a new culture and also reorientations of thinking and feelings, not to mention communication, it is necessary. To learn a foreign language it is not necessary to learn communicative competence: it is

necessary to learn cultural issues that are presented in the development of communicative competence. What type of culture should be taught in the FL classroom? Relating the essential ideas provided by the aforesaid definitions and the reasons for the inevitability of incorporating cultural matters into the FL classroom, it is apparent that the major forms of culture we need to deal with in a foreign language program should be the one that views culture as a blue print or integrated patterns of abstraction derived from observable behavior of a group of people. In other words, the major cultural contents to include in a language classroom should be what Tomalin and Stempleski (1993) call with the little c of culture, i.e. culturally influenced beliefs and perceptions, especially as expressed through language, but also through cultural behaviors that affect acceptability in the host community Therefore, realistic elements of culture we should include are notions like when and what people eat; how they make a living; the attitudes they express towards friends and members of their families; which expressions they use to show approval or disapproval, educational attitudes, time and space patterns, work values, etc. In this sense, culture is a body of readymade solutions to the problems encountered by the group. It is a cushion between man and his environment. Although the concrete forms of culture like painting, music, tools, and facts of history or geography are interesting to discuss, since they do not provide an intimate view of what life is really like in the target culture, they are not of high important to deal with in relation to the teaching of a foreign language. Now that the what, why, and the development of incorporating culture in the foreign language classroom have been established, a focus on the how is needed. Better international understanding is a noble aim, but how can the transition be made from theoretical matters to the active, crowded, and sometimes noisy foreign language classroom? One problem in all classroom work is the involvement of students interest, attention, and active participation. Learning activities which focus on active rather than passive learning are the best. Traditional methods of teaching culture in the foreign language classroom have been focused on formal culture and passive learning. Students do need both a geographical and historical perspective in order to understand contemporary behavior patterns but this can be done with hands on activities. In order to communicate effectively in the target language, foreign language students should be facilitated to feel, touch, smell, and see the foreign people and not just hear their language. To achieve that goal, cultural activities and objectives should be carefully organized and incorporated into lesson plans to enrich and inform the teaching content. The use of following materials and techniques for presenting culture in the classroom is widely recommended. Using authentic sources from the native speech community, like films, news broadcasts, and television shows; Web sites; and photographs, magazines, newspapers, restaurant menus, travel brochures, and other printed materials, helps to engage students in authentic cultural experiences. Teachers can adapt their use of authentic materials to suit the age and language proficiency level of the students. For example, even beginning

language students can watch and listen to video clips taken from a T.V. show in the target language and focus on such cultural conventions as greetings. The teacher might supply students with a detailed translation or give them a chart, diagram, or outline to complete while they listen to a dialogue or watch a video. After the class has viewed the relevant segments, the teacher can engage the students in discussion of the cultural norms represented in the segments and what these norms might say about the values of the culture. Discussion topics might include nonverbal behaviors (e.g., the physical distance between speakers, gestures, eye contact, societal roles, and how people in different social roles relate to each other). Students might describe the behaviors they observe and discuss which of them are similar to their native culture and which are not and determine strategies for effective communication in the target language. On the other hand, discussion of common proverbs in the target language could focus on how the proverbs are different from or similar to proverbs in the students native language and how differences might underscore historical and cultural background. Using proverbs as a way to explore culture also provides a way to analyze the stereotypes about and misperceptions of the culture, as well as a way for students to explore the values that are often represented in the proverbs of their native culture. Another way of learning culture is through role plays. In role plays, students can act out a miscommunication that is based on cultural differences. For example, after learning about ways of addressing different groups of people in the target culture, such as people of the same age and older people, students could role play a situation in which an inappropriate greeting is used. Other students observe the role play and try to identify the reason for the miscommunication. They then role play the same situation using a culturally appropriate form of address. To promote culture, students can be presented with objects (e.g., figurines, tools, jewelry, and art) or images that originate from the target culture. The students are then responsible for finding information about the item in question, either by conducting research or by being given clues to investigate. They can either write a brief summary or make an oral presentation to the class about the cultural relevance of the item. Such activities can also serve as a foundation from which teachers can go on to discuss larger cultural, historical, and linguistic factors that tie in with the objects. Such contextualization is, in fact, important to the success of using culture capsules. Exchange students, immigrant students, or students who speak the target language at home can be invited to the classroom as expert sources. These students can share authentic insights into the home and cultural life of native speakers of the language. Ethnography studies are an important issue to take into account. An effective way for students to learn about the target language and culture is to send them into their own community to find information. Students can carry out ethnographic interviews with native speakers in the community, which they can record in notebooks or on audiotapes or videotapes. Discussion activities could include oral family histories, interviews with community professionals, and studies of social groups. It is important to note that activities involving the target language community require a great deal of time on the part of the teacher to help set them up and to offer ongoing supervision.

Finally, literary works can be an effective means to develop the understanding of other cultures because they provide the readers with insights of other cultures without having to visit the real place. , film and television segments also are useful: they offer students an opportunity to witness behaviors that are not obvious in texts. Film is often one of the more current and comprehensive ways to encapsulate the look, feel, and rhythm of a culture. Film also connects students with language and cultural issues simultaneously, such as depicting conversational timing or turn taking in conversation. Herron et al.s (1999) study showed that students achieved significant gains in overall cultural knowledge after watching videos from the target culture in the classroom. In the Venezuelan context, some ideas taken from pedagogical pioneers are very useful in trying to teach foreign culture without overlapping owns. In this sense, Simon Rodriguez (1832) was the creator of interpretations of reality and development approaches which drive the creation of Venezuelan, Latin America and Caribbean identity. His thoughts played and still pay an important role in a pedagogic, didactic and curriculum conception that humanizes and socializes human consciousness. Through this, reflexive, argumentative, critical and decisive human beings who understand and develop their skills and abilities are formed to make it possible to have a constructive and a participative performance within the collective they belong, as in the case of promoting originality in the innovative reality of the American one. His ideas thus far developed a philosophy in which revolution meant to put an end to the characteristic colonial mindset of Venezuelan, Latin American and Caribbean education present in the pedagogical practices of that time and still dominating current educational practices in the continent. He did this by some revolutionary ideas based on Popular Education to mankind, the sense of Establishment and the sense of Republican, a proposal for an endogenous development, and was one of the pioneers of a real Critical Education in Latin America. Rodriguez ideas are nowadays in vogue, due to the development of the Bolivarian Revolution and the role carried out by his leader Hugo Chavez in the last 14 years, which are valuable when teaching foreign culture, and they can be summarized in: education (including culture) is a means of moving from our colonial past, education is a political activity that allows connecting individuals with their social an collective environment, and education is a critical activity. Among other Venezuelans pioneers that can serve as a reference when teaching foreign culture, Luis Beltran Prieto Figueroa, pointed out that to humanize is a synonym of democratize, and democratize is to elevate men to the higher level of personal dignity, just reached through the influence of the school. He said the school guidance should be to raise the standard of living of the entire population, not a part of it, but of all mankind. Education should serve the interests of the majority and in this regard it would be democratic, free and compulsory combining equal opportunities and selection on the basis of individual abilities. Prieto Figueroa was also a promoter of the Teacher State, so it is a duty and right of the State to guaranteed education in any society: it is the responsibility of a solidary humanist State to commitment in carries forward the indispensable task of educating citizens ready to test the values of justice and freedom. In the international context, Paulo Freires work has a particular significance for our purposes here. His emphasis on dialogue has struck a very strong chord with those concerned with popular and informal education. Given that informal education is a dialogical (or conversational) rather than a curricula form this is hardly surprising.

However, Paulo Freire was able to take the discussion on several steps with his insistence that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting on another, but rather people working with each other. Too much education, Paulo Freire argues, involves banking the educator making deposits in the educated. Paulo Freire was concerned with praxis action that is informed (and linked to certain values). Dialogue wasnt just about deepening understanding but was part of making a difference in the world. Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect (in which cultural aspects are indeed). The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing. Informal and popular educators have had a long-standing orientation to action so the emphasis on change in the world was welcome. But there was a sting in the tail. Paulo Freire argued for informed action and as such provided a useful counter-balance to those who want to diminish theory. Freires attention to naming the world has been of great significance to those educators who have traditionally worked with those who do not have a voice, and who are oppressed. The idea of buildingpedagogy of the oppressed or a pedagogy of hope and how this may be carried forward has formed a significant impetus to work. His insistence on situating educational activity in the lived experience of participants has opened up a series of possibilities for the way informal educators can approach practice. His concern to look for words that have the possibility of generating new ways of naming and acting in the world when working with people around literacies is a good example of this. In spite of the experiences and postulates already mentioned, the new era assigns new challenges and duties on the modern English teacher who is trying to involve culture in language teaching. The tradition of English teaching has been drastically changed with the remarkable entry of technology. Technology provides so many options as making teaching interesting and also making teaching more productive in terms of improvements. Technology is one of the most significant drivers of both social and linguistic change, as the number of English learners is increasing different teaching methods have been implemented to test the effectiveness of the teaching process. Use of authentic materials in the form of films, radio, TV has been there for a long time. It is true that these technologies have proved successful in replacing the traditional teaching. Graddol (1997) states that technology lays at the heart of the globalization process affecting education work and culture. At present, the role and status of English is that it is the language of social context, political, sociocultural, business, education, industries, media, library, communication across borders, and key subject in curriculum and language of imparting education. It is also a crucial determinant for university entrance and processing well paid jobs in the commercial sector. Since there are more and more English learners in our country, different teaching methods have been implemented to test the effectiveness of the teaching process. One method involves multimedia in English Language Teaching (ELT) in order to create English contexts. This helps students to get involved and learn according to their interests. It has been tested effectively and is widely accepted for teaching English in modern world. Technology is utilized for the upliftment of modern styles; it satisfies both visual and auditory senses of the students.

With the rapid development of science and technology in our Bolivarian Higher Education System, the emerging and developing of multimedia technology and its application to teaching, featuring audio, visual, animation effects comes into full play in English class teaching and sets a favorable platform for reform and exploration on English teaching model in the new era. Its proved that multimedia technology plays a positive role in promoting activities and initiatives of student and teaching effect in English class. Technological innovations have gone hand in hand with the growth of English and are changing the way in which we communicate. It is fair to assert that the growth of the internet at the university (as in the case of our Interactive Dialogical Learning students- ADI in Spanish) has facilitated the growth of the English language and that this has occurred at a time when computers are no longer the exclusive domains of the dedicated few, but rather available to many. There are many techniques applicable in various degrees to language learning situation. Some are useful for testing and distance education, and some for teaching business English, spoken English, reading, listening or interpreting. The teaching principle should be to appreciate new technologies in the areas and functions where they provide something decisively new useful and never let machines takeover the role of the teacher or limit functions where more traditional ways are superior. There are various reasons why all language learners and teachers must know how to make use of the new technology. Here we also need to emphasize that the new technologies develop and disseminate so quickly that we cannot avoid their attraction and influence in any form. It is true that one of the ultimate goals of multimedia language teaching is to promote students motivation and learning interest, which can be a practical way to get them involved in the language learning. Context creation of ELT should be based on the openness and accessibility of the teaching materials and information. During the process of optimizing the multimedia English teaching, students are not too dependent on their mother tongue, but will be motivated and guided to communicate with each other. Concerning the development of technology, we believe that in future, the use of multimedia English teaching will be further developed. The process of English learning will be more students centered but less time consuming. Therefore, it promises that the teaching quality will be improved and students applied English skill scan is effectively cultivated, meaning that students communicative competence will be further developed. In conclusion, I believe that this process can fully improve students ideation and practical language skills, which is helpful and useful to ensure and fulfill an effective result of teaching and learning. Barring a few problem areas multimedia technology can be used effectively in classrooms of ELT with proper computer knowledge on the part of teachers, overcoming the finance problems in setting up the infrastructure and not allowing the teachers to become technophobes.