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English as a lingua franca: The term ELF has emerged as a way of referring to communication

in English between speakers with different first languages. Although this does not preclude the
participation of English native speakers in ELF interaction, what is distinctive about ELF is that,
in most cases, it is ‘a ‘contact language’ between persons who share neither a common native
tongue nor a common (national) culture, and for whom English is the chosen foreign language
of communication’.


- Francis Bacon (s.XVII) Body of knowledge and manners acquired by an individual.
- The shared customs, values and beliefs which characterize a given social group, and which are
passed down from generation to generation.
- Tylor (1871) describes it as ‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals,
law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’.
- Lévi-Strauss (1977) opposes the particularity of culture to the universality of nature, believing
that ‘everything universal in man derives from the order of nature and is characterized by
spontaneity’, while ‘everything which is subject to a norm belongs to culture and presents the
attributes of the relative and the particular’.
Culture ≠ Nature:
All definitions of culture imply an opposition to the idea of nature, inasmuch as culture is
considered to be a body of acquired elements that can be learned and thought – and which are
therefore seen to be somewhat artificial – while nature is seen as a manifestation of a set of
elements caught in a dialectic tension – elements which are not manmade, and that human
beings can only attempt to understand. However, as even nature can be manipulated to a
certain extent, any strict distinction between culture and nature could be seen to be ambiguous
and ill-founded. To envision natural element s in their purest form is merely speculation; even
so-called natural instincts are the result of a ‘cultural’ modification superimposed on ‘natural’
elements – if these indeed can be said ever to have existed in the first place – the origins of
which have been lost in time.
High culture and Popular culture:
Culture is seen to be a universal value, generally ascribed to the realms of cultural production
such as music or art or to the scientific field, and frequently defined in opposition to the lack
thereof. Matthew Arnold wrote that to have culture is ‘to be acquainted with the best that has
been known and said in the world’. Today, this concept is more often termed ‘high culture’ to
indicate the artistic and cultural expressions valued by a given society’s elite, and such
frequently opposed to popular culture.
Cultural relativism:
Franz Boas provided a pluralistic definition of culture as something that always characterizes a
specific group and like a group, exists only in plurality. Thus he laid the foundations for cultural
relativism, which rejected the developmental stages of evolutionism in favour of a view of
cultures as each having their own standards, and as not subject to being judged by the point of
view of another culture.
Culture as a relative concept (i.e. intended as the body of learned beliefs and behavior of a given
group or society) in losing its universal quality also by necessity loses its absolute positive value,
and therefore it must be considered that each individual culture will comprise trivial and
negative aspects alongside its more positive products. In the light of this awareness, the culture
which analyses another culture must also come under scrutiny, in the knowledge that some of
its constructs may not be positive or indeed even logical.
Racial differences and cultural differences:
‘Culture’ instead of ‘race’ as fundamental difference between humans was meant to be a
different kind of difference: difference was no longer a question of descent, of heritage, of
differential positioning on the steps of evolution, of unalterable, virtually natural-biological
endowment with differential abilities. Cultural differences are acquired differences, acquired by
socialization in specific cultural contexts. However, especially in two aspects, the concept of
culture assumes the problematical heritage of racism and the concept of race. The first aspect is
a tendency of determinism. Just as belonging to a race determined in a certain ways the
individual, culture now was understood as something (however defined) that shaped the
thoughts and behavior of individual human beings.
Cultural Imperialism:
The culture versus nature duality is a constant of western thought, with culture often being
thought of as the dimension, which elevates human beings above the animals (nature opposed
to the law, to education, to art, to technics. However, this view necessarily implied a unified
conception of culture as a straightforward evolutionary progress common to the whole of
humanity, of which European culture was seen to be the highest point. With cultural relativism,
Western culture began to question itself, and certain cultures previously considered to be
‘primitive’ from a Eurocentric standpoint, are now sometimes seen to be more harmonious in
that they are closer to nature.
Every homogeneous group has a culture of its own and that culture should be ranked alongside
terms such as ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ in identifying the various groups making up homogeneous
communities, the same difficulties encountered with the definition and use of the concepts of
‘race’ and ethnicity are also found when establishing the various subgroups making up each
Multicultural education programmes often focus on language as a defining cultural factor. When
multicultural programmes extend the basic promotion of linguistic diversity they often run the
risk of attempting to represent all possible cultures in clearly defined units, thereby
inadvertently stressing the opposition between cultures and cultural differences. In order to
combat such rigid definitions, which could perpetuate the idea of the irreconcilability of
different cultures, multicultural education should also focus on promoting understanding
between cultural , racial or religious groups; with the aim of fostering tolerance, inclusion and
positive diversity.