Social and cultural factors effects on language learning

Faten Alzaid

Hello everyone. It is nice to share ideas in this blog area. Hence, I would like to share with you and write my first comment.

I am originally from Saudi Arabia. I speak three languages; Arabic, English and a little bit of French. Arabic is my first language and most of my educational life was in Arabic too. Being immerse with Arabic all the time, I always have a desire to teach a new and different language than Arabic. Hence, I decided to specialized in the English language teaching field in my bachelor degree. Since then, English became my favorite and second language. Honestly, I have never been fluent in English and satisfied until I arrived to Montreal four years ago and started learning English language from the zero again. The reason behind that was due to the fact that when I was at my hometown, I was not able to match the language with its cultural content and applied it out side the classroom. I also never practiced speaking in English out side academic contexts due to two reasons; 1) I was not confidant of my language ability at that time 2) there were not enough daily contexts to practice in real life, out side the classroom.

Later on, I realized that “Practice” is the first and last step that will shape a language. I remember that my English became way better when I started making Anglophone friends here in Montreal. I was forcing my self to speak and socialize with English speakers as much as I could. Some times I tend to start friendly short conversations with strangers in the street which have helped me today to be fluent in English. Practice the language in the context where is the language is surrounded by its own culture can make more sense to a language learner. In other words, studying a language and integrate it with a specific culture in classroom might not make sense to learners unless they go out the classroom, practice and visualize that culture. Since then, I always believe that the key concept to master a new language is not only to practice, but also to integrate the language, culture and social factors together.

Few years after that experience, I became a teacher of both English and Arabic language. I always put some efforts through my lessons to integrate social and cultural factors as passible as I can. Furthermore, I still believe that making students surrounded by social and cultural practices can prevent them from straggling to learn the language as I did earlier in my life.

Based on our discussion last week, I am inspired to share In this blog and show you how social and cultural factors can influence both language teaching and learning. I will take you through my experience in teaching English language at one of the schools in Saudi Arabia.

Three years ago, I was doing the internship required for my bachelor degree in Saudi Arabia. I was required to teach English language for fourth grade students. There were thirty students in that class who came from various and different nationalities. There were Syrian, Egyptian, Sudanese, Somali, and Palestinian students beside Saudi. At that time, the curriculum that I taught was based on Saudi social life, culture, and religion. I was worry about how would I teach theses cultural aspects to them beside the English language. However, I was surprise that it was not challenging for me to adapt the context to fit other students who came from out side Saudi Arabia. I found out the reason behind that is the fact that students were surrounded intensively by the Saudi culture out side the classroom in a way that made it easier for them to catch up with the language and its content.

Finally, I realized that sociolinguistics plays a major role in our language teaching in and out side classroom. It is interesting to highlight that books alone can not teach the language unless socializing and practicing are integrated!

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3 thoughts on “Social and cultural factors effects on language learning”

  1. Hi Faten,
    Thank you for this post and for sharing your reflections on how your own language learning experiences have informed how you approach teaching language. Maybe you have come across Claire Kramsch’s 1993 book “Culture and context in language teaching”?
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  2. By Jia Pu: Thank you for your sharing and I’m impressed by the example of teaching cultural aspects as well as English you mentioned. I agree that things which are familiar or interesting to students may attract their attention easily and as a result improve their study efficiency. So maybe teachers should choose topics that act as a bridge between school education and daily life in order to get students more involved in class.

    Like

  3. Coco: Thanks Faten for sharing! I agreed with the fact that as a language instructor, we were supposed to teach students language as well as the culture. I was impressed that you incorporated Saudi culture so well when you taught culturally diverse students.

    Your post reminded me of my Chinese teaching experience. I taught intensive Chinese speaking class back in China. My students were from all over the world, such as Germany, Japan, and Finland, etc. One class, when I taught my students about traditional Chinese festival, I asked my students to share with the class about their favorite festival in their home country. I was surprised that they were all engaged in the discussion. They were willing to be the “culture ambassador” to introduce their own culture. Today, thinking back to that class, I still believe that engaging students in the class participation is essential. The content of the class should not only be the culture connected with the language we are teaching, but it also could be interesting topics that students like to share. In this way, our goal of teaching a language, which is to involve as many as students to speak, is easily achieved, and students learn a new language with fun and passion.

    Like

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