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Development of Intercultural Communication Awareness in Middle School English Teaching
Abstract: Language and culture share a common lot as lips and teeth do. Language is the carrier of culture, and is the reflection of culture in the form of speech. This thesis analyses multitudinous problems through the demonstration of relationships between language and culture, especially the problem that the importance of culture teaching for English learning have been ignored in the process of middle school English teaching. The author further elaborates the significance of developing intercultural communication awareness in middle school English teaching. The significance is as follows: helping learners to learn efficiently, promoting learners’ comprehensive abilities and improving learners’ appropriateness of communication. Accordingly, the author suggests three ways to develop learners’ intercultural communication awareness. Concretely, they are: class infiltration, activity infiltration, interculture-knowledge lectures. Key Words: language and culture; intercultural communication awareness; development; English teaching
In these recent years, intercultural communication awareness has been paid more and more attention to in the process of English teaching in China. For this, it has been an uncontroversial common sense to develop learners’ intercultural communication awareness and ability in the practice of English teaching in China. However, the fact that middle school English teaching focus simply on language teaching in form, to some extend, has dominated the whole process of English teaching. This results in problems in the course of English teaching, where there is ignorance of intercultural communication awareness and a lack of intercultural ingredients. However, culture plays an important role in English teaching as famous linguist E. Sapir has argued in his works Language that there lies something behind a language, and language cannot exist without culture. What’s more, one famous scholar at home once said that Language and culture share a common lot as lips and teeth do(Deng Yanchang,1989:
  24). As language shares a close relationship with culture, a language, to some extend, reflects the background information of a certain type of culture. Similarly, a certain type of culture will greatly influence a language, such as its vocabulary, grammar, even the way of people expressing their ideas. So, it is crucial to learn relevant culture
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and to develop learners’ intercultural communication awareness when learning English for Chinese learners. Through the discussion of the relationship between intercultural communication awareness and English learning, this paper aims to demonstrate the significance to develop intercultural communication awareness. Then it further lists three ways to develop learners’ intercultural communication awareness. Finally, it is expected to give assistances to middle school English teaching in China
Ⅰ. Relationship between Language and Culture
Language shares a close relationship with culture. Language ability is a kind of special skill gained during the human being evolution. Social linguist Goodenough, W.H. believes that language is a kind of social cultural phenomenon, and the relevant researches should be done from the perspective of the relationship between culture and language in his book. He argues that language in a society is one aspect of the society’s culture, and the particularity of language shows that it is a main tool of learning culture during the process of learning and using. Without knowing its culture, a foreign language can not be comprehended and used correctly (Goodenough, W.H. 1981:
  12). Language is the carrier of culture. Dr. Sapir stressed that language shapes our perceptions, and he thought that understanding cultural behavior was impossible unless its development through language was thoroughly traced (E. Sapir, 1921:
  23). Language expresses and embodies cultural reality. If we are in different countries, we must know their cultures, thus, we can use the language freely. On the other hand, language, as a product of culture, helps perpetuate the culture, and the changes in language uses reflect the culture changes in return. Language and culture are interdependable and have influence on each other. Language is the very important carrier of culture, but culture has constrains on language. Language plays an important role in all kinds of activities of human being, and it is an indispensable part of social activity. Language has obvious features of culture: it is regular; it is particular to human being; it is acquired, not gene inherited. Historically, language is closed related with nation. People, who have the same ancestor, often speak the same language, whereas, there is no necessary relation between language and culture. It is national culture that decides the choice of language that is the same geographic environment, same economic structure, same social institution, and the same style of living of the same psychological quality shared by people. Language is the reflection of culture. Culture changes constantly in the process of social development. These changes can be reflected in the using of language. Although the basic
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ingredients of a language can alter, there are some changes like vocabulary, grammar and some sentence structures. Even the components of a certain culture like people’s feeling, thoughts, costumes and their ways of doing things can be embodied in the form of speech. In conclusion, language shares a close relationship with culture. Language is the carrier of culture and is the reflection of culture. As culture, language is the common feature of human beings, and it is the indication distinguishing mankind and animal. This system is determined by human inheriting genes, and all the people share the same inheriting genes of language system. Human language phenomenon can be divided into two levels: language capability and language structure. The former is shared by all the human being, distinguished with animals, while the latter is based on different nations, different cultures. A man with the capability of language must live in a language environment. Only in this case can he acquire the language. Away from the environment, people can not achieve this purpose. In a word, to master a language, one must live in the very language cultural environment, or make every effort to learn the language culture.
Ⅱ. The Significance of Developing Learners’ Intercultural Communication Awareness
Intercultural communication awareness is very important to help learners to learn English efficiently and it is helpful to promote learners’ comprehensive ability. What’s most important is that developing learners’ intercultural communication awareness plays a very important role in improving learners’ appropriateness of communication. The developing of learners’ intercultural
communication awareness meets learner’s needs of learning English and fits for the requirement of intercommunication between different countries. Inevitably, the developing of learners’ intercultural communication awareness has irreplaceable significance for English teaching in China.
  1. Helping Learners to Learn Efficiently Development of learners’ intercultural communication awareness will greatly help learners to learn English efficiently. As have demonstrated above, language and culture share relationships with each other, so it is clear that intercultural communication awareness is helpful to advance learners’ learning. It is a common sense in English learning that one will find it difficult to understand completely the meaning of the English sentences, although he has recognized the meaning of these words which construct the whole sentence. The reason of this is that these sentences involve culture contents, which Chinese students feel strange to deal with. Still, usually we have this experience: when we are listening to something familiar to us, no matter what is concerned, usually we can easily understand. Even if there are some new words in the material,
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we are able to guess their meanings according to its context. However, when we encounter some unfamiliar material or something closely related to cultural background, we feel it rather difficult. Even if the material is easy, we only know the literal meaning, but can’t understand its connotation, because we lack knowledge of cultural background. Reading English articles requires a certain language basis, but the competence of reading comprehension is not entirely related to one’s language level. Knowledge of cultural background is also important. Reading is a process affected by integration of one’s language knowledge, cultural background knowledge and other professional knowledge, and a process of continuous guesses and corrections according to available language material, cultural background and logical reasoning. As a result of this, learners will spend more and more time on pondering the sentences without a clear understanding of this sentence. Consequently, they have wasted much of their time. However, it is known that there is not much spare time given to middle school students and they should learn as much as possible in the limited time. As language is the reflection of culture, to some extent, learning language means leaning culture itself. In other words, the four basic courses of English learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing contain many components about culture. That is to say, without knowing culture and culture-related knowledge, it is hard to learn English well. Developing learners’ intercultural communication awareness aims to make middle school English teaching pay more attention to English culture teaching. And it aims to stimulate learners’ awareness of recognizing that learning English culture is necessary and helpful to enhance their English. Through this, students will have more chances to contact with English culture, after a long time’s training of this, students will know much about English culture. Thus, when dealing with questions that involve culture, students need not waste much time in thinking over and over. What’s more important is that students will have gained English language sense, which will greatly improve their speed and accuracy of solving questions in the text book or tests paper. In short, developing learners’ intercultural communication awareness will greatly help learners to learn English efficiently.
  2. Promoting Learners’ Comprehensive Ability Developing learners’ intercultural communication awareness is helpful to promote learners’ comprehensive abilities. It is known that there is a culture block between English culture and Chinese culture, for English is learned in China as a foreign language. As most Chinese learners know little even nothing about English culture, and in their English study there is no good cultural environment that can enhance learners’ English. However, as has been demonstrated, language shares a close relationship with its culture, so it is necessary for learner to know as much about English culture. What’s more, English learning, as the learning of a language, has its special
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features which differ from the learning of other subjects. It is well known that people who are born and grow up in China need not spend much time learning Chinese language as does an English person who is born and grow up in England. What matters here is the environment under which culture can exert a subtle influence on their thinking and behaviors of acquiring their native language. It is clear that culture has great effects on a language. However, in China there is a lack of English cultural environment for English learning. In addition, traditional foreign language teaching does not pay much attention to culture teaching. It focuses mainly on the vocabulary and structures of the sentences. But plenty of facts prove that language is not only a symbol, a system, which was put forward by pure linguistic scholars, but also a social practice. Therefore successful foreign language teaching must help the student master the knowledge of culture rules, in addition to use them in particular situation. Every nation has its unique culture pattern and language is the carrier of culture. For instance, Asians emphasize the importance of orderly society whereas Americans emphasize the importance of personal freedom and individual rights. Developing learners’ intercultural communication can promote learners comprehensive abilities. It is difficult for learners who know little even nothing about English culture to comprehend English culture and English language, because English culture differs overwhelmingly from Chinese culture. Now that the English language is different from Chinese language in grammar, structure and thinking ways and so on, it is highly demanding to learn English well. By stressing on the importance of culture teaching and learning, the concept of developing



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