LI Международная научная филологическая конференция имени Людмилы Алексеевны Вербицкой

Is it Realistic to Enhance and Elaborate Students' Cultural Sensitivity?

Elena Borisovna Grishaeva
Сибирский федеральный университет

16:00 - 16:20

Ключевые слова, аннотация

Cultural sensitivity; communicative practice; conversational interactions.
The paper features cultural sensitivity as a central, if not a critical, factor of a communicative practice. Diverse behavioral strategies either strengthen or ruin the joy and pleasure of a friendly banter, business meeting or social convention. The purpose and scope of the research deal with raising awareness of the fact that interlocutors’ “soft skills” are no substitute for technical know-how, and that without that knowledge people have little chance to be acknowledged in any societal setting. It is important to recognize that behavior makes sense through the eyes of the person behaving and that logic and rationale are culturally explained. The contrastive conceptual analysis comes into play and explains cultural conversations, as far as envisages symbolic meanings of basic interpretative approaches to deciphering cultural constructs. 


Learning a foreign language is problematic for learners because they are, as a rule, in a deficit position. As V. LoCastro mentioned, “It is necessary to change attitude towards acceptance of difference and diversity, because it requires awareness and understanding of intercultural communication so that styles and strategies of enactments and communication of pragmatic meaning become a part of everyday life” (LoCastro, 2011: 319). As far as the language learning process must be contextualized both socially and psychologically, communication implies that there is now more emphasis on exposure and use of the target language through situational dialogues and practice [Grenfell, 2000: 4]. Language learning begins at the micro level of social activity. Social interactions are characterized by joint actions that are dependent on intersubjective or shared cognition, that is, a human being’s recognition that can share beliefs and intentions with other humans [Clark, 1996]. The scope of these contexts can be wide-ranging and includes every day, informal contexts of interaction, such as ad hoc conversations, text messaging, online game-playing, as well as more formal contexts such as those comprising Foreign Language classrooms where students are instructed, and informed: they discuss, solve problems, and so on.
We are formulating general research questions as the following ones: “How to teach students to acquire a new language and to develop their cognitive skills that will provide them with a needed intuition and cultural sensitivity?”; “What theory can propose instruction, and how to design and best facilitate the learners’ cultural journey?”, “What types of teaching methodologies, strategies and techniques contribute best to construct learning, identity, intuitions and retention of culturally-induced information? In terms of academic literacy skills, it is important to focus on communication success and ways to explain it. Understanding of learning, teaching and using a foreign language pragmatics, studying interactions in naturalistic, real-life encounters is a basic requirement for progress. Generally saying, pragmatics is grounded in the language use seeking to explain how communication functions through linguistic forms. Moreover, L2 pragmatics specializes in a variety of linguistic and non-linguistic enactments across different cultures to make meaning.
David Crystal, a renowned and notoriously famous linguist, writer, editor, and broadcaster, explores in one of his latest books the factors that make possible to produce different kinds of talk and put a strong emphasis on the rules speakers use unconsciously in their conversations. Speaking in a mother tongue, people think of conversation as spontaneous, instinctive, or habitual. Crystal describes the rules of conversational constructs, shows how they work, and how people can manipulate with them when circumstances warrant it. So, the point is: how to strengthen soft skills to be able to play conversational games and remain on a strain of interlocutors’ principles and priorities, how to be efficient in articulating ideas and delivering them in an appropriate and rational way that is up to everyone’s cultural understanding and a mental picture constraint. There is a trend in cognitive linguistics to combine various quantitative and qualitative methodologies as, for instance, discourse analysis and corpus studies with socio-cultural theory, in order “to explore the ways in which the systematic study of natural language usage can provide insights not only into the nature and specific organization of linguistic system, but also the interplay between linguistic, cognitive, and cultural phenomena” [Mittelberg, Farmer & Waugh, 2007: 19]. 
This study was based on inclusive approach to learning and teaching that tries to fulfill the unique learning needs of each individual student to acquire a foreign language intricacies. The diversity Pedagogy Theory and transdisciplinary approaches contended that there is a natural and inseparable connection between culture and cognition. In the context of the study, the specific association of cultural sensitivity was explored. The study endeavored to determine the cultural sensitivity and classroom management of teachers. Findings revealed that both teachers and students have high level of ability to assess and evaluate other cultures. They also are able to reach a high level of cultural competence in terms of message skills; intercultural management; behavioral flexibility; identity management, and relationship cultivation. The results strengthen the suggestion that an effective cross-cultural communicator should be able to adapt to “new social conventions and behavior demands”. Another revelation is: awareness of the impact culture has in shaping students’ behavior is a critical part of emotional intelligence. These two constructs are interrelated to one another. The results revealed that students could demonstrate high level of ability to assess and consider other cultures: their conversations refer to behavior, to the way people conduct themselves in daily life, and describe a regular social occasion where people meet to talk about things. 

Clark, H.H. (1996). Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grenfell, M. (2000). Beyond Nuffield and into the 21st century. Language Learning Journal 22, 23-30.
LoCastro, V. (2011). Second Language Pragmatics // Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning in Eli Hinkel (Ed.). Volume II. 319-344. Routledge: Taylor & Francis.
Mittelberg, I., Farmer, T. A., & Waugh, L. R. (2007). They actually said that? An introduction to working with usage data through discourse and corpus analysis. In M. Gonzalez-Marquez, I. Mittelberg, S. Coulson, & M. J. Spivey (Eds.), Methods in cognitive linguistics. 19–52. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.