Chapter 1: Introduction
This chapter presents the rationale, aims, scope, methods and design of the study.
English has gained its great popularity in Vietnam, a country attempting to develop
her technological capacity and to increase her participation in the global processes. For many
people in Vietnam, English is seen as one of very necessary means to get a good job. Thus,
there is a growing demand to learn this language for communication.
We have been concentrating on structures and forms and producing materials that
may help our students to have perfect diphthongs or a flawless command of the third
conditional while leaving out anything approaching real, valid, meaningful contents. If our
students have any hope of using their language skills to communicate in the global village,
cultural awareness is crucial. Therefore, language teachers should realize that knowledge of
the world’s language and culture is increasingly important. In order to use the language
effectively, language learners need to have mastery of not only the language itself but also
the culture in which the language is used. Language learners 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 behaviours and intonation patterns
that are appropriate in their own speech community may be perceived different by members
of the target language speech community. They have to understand that, in order for
communication to be successful, language use must be associated with other culturally
In short, culture becomes an indispensable part in any foreign language curriculum.
Tourism students at HCC are fully aware of this. When being asked why culture is very
important, they believe that understanding culture helps them become more confident and
successful in communicating and that cultural information is one kind of their motivation in
learning English. On the contrary, many of them do not realize the importance of culture in
ELL because they say that learning English is a hard work for them to master it as a
language, and English cultural knowledge is one of their problem.
Teaching English culture is considered important by most teachers but it has
remained “insubstantial and sporadic in most language classroom” (Omaggio, 1993:357).
Omaggio gives several reasons for this including lack of time, uncertainty about which
aspects of culture to teach, and lack of practical techniques. Although language teachers
realize the importance of teaching English culture in EFL classes and the potential of
improving the teaching of English culture is tremendous, the outstanding problems to be
solved are still improving. Among many others, I found that the biggest headache for
language teachers, especially the teacher of EFL, is how to integrate English culture teaching
into our language programs. This is the matter I want to raise in my thesis. It is an attempt to
look into the matter of how to incorporate cultural elements into English training at HCC.
1.2. Aims of the study
With the hope to contribute a small part in working out the effective ways of
incorporating English cultural elements into English training at HCC, that is to get insight
into sociocultural problems facing Tourism students, this thesis is aimed at:
- Emphasizing the importance of cultural knowledge in foreign language teaching and
- Investigating conditions of Tourism students in learning English culture and their
expectation on English culture.
- Finding out the effective ways of incorporating English cultural elements into the English
training with the Comparing- Contrasting approach.
Hopefully, with a deep insight into the situations, in terms of both theory and
practice, the study will improve current situation of English culture learning of Tourism
students at HCC.
1.3. Scope of the study
The focus of the study is on the corporation of English cultural elements into English
training in the light of the communicative approach. The specific purpose of the research is
confined to English cultural elements as the culture of the target language. The textbook
HIGH SEASON (Keith Harding & Paul Henderson, Oxford University Press, 1999) is
selected as a basis for the performance of the study.
The participants of the study are Tourism students of HCC. The study focuses on
working out a general profile of English cultural corporation into English training at HCC so
as to try out methodological activities that could improve the current situation of English
culture learning of Tourism students.
1.4. Research questions of the study
My study is intended to answer two following questions:
1. What are Tourism students’ attitudes towards English cultural learning?
2. How does students’ cultural understanding change through the incorporating English
cultural elements into the lessons?
1.5. Methods of the study
In this research, the theoretical background mainly bases on books written by a
variety of scholars on foreign language teaching and cultural teaching issues.
The thesis author employs action research to analyze the data collected. Comments,
remarks, comparisons and conclusions are based on factual research: observation, survey
questionnaires, interviews, discussion, and experience.
In order to achieve the purpose of the study, survey questionnaires are utilized to
survey the situation of learning culture being developed and administered at the beginning of
a semester. Tests in culture for the participants after applying the culture- teaching activities,
interviews and other survey questionnaires on the focused group are conducted in the end to
gain quantitative and qualitative data of how these teaching methods take effect on students’
English culture learning and achievement. Observations and informal discussion are
effectively combined with them, too.
1.6. Design of the study
The study is divided into four chapters:
Chapter one presents the rationale, aims, scope, methods and design of the study.
Chapter two reviews the related literature that helps to give the theoretical
foundation for this study. This review consists of the literature on the place of culture
knowledge in foreign language learning, goals for incorporating culture into the foreign
language class, and Comparing and Contrasting as activities of raising students’ culture
Chapter three contains the study that includes three sections. The first summarizes
the situation analysis. The second describes the data collecting instruments. The third
provides the data analysis.
Chapter four focuses on conclusion, which includes the summary of the study,
limitations of the study, and recommendations for the further study.
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
In this chapter the researcher will provide a discussion of findings from previous
researchers on the topic of cultural knowledge’s roles to Tourism students at HCC. This
chapter is divided into three sections: 1. The place of culture knowledge in foreign language
learning, 2. Goals for incorporating culture into the foreign language class, 3. Comparing and
Contrasting as activities of raising students’ culture awareness.
2.1. The place of culture knowledge in foreign language learning
2.1.1. Definition of Culture
Culture may mean different things to different people. Therefore, it can be defined in
many ways. Some depict it as the art, literature, and music of people, their architecture,
history, religion, and their traditions. The others focus more on the customs and specific
behaviours of the people. Anthropologists define culture as “ the whole way of life of a
people or group. In this context, culture includes all the social practices that bond a group
of people together and distinguish them from others” (Montgomery and Reid- Thomas,
1994: 5). Based on this definition, it is my opinion that culture is all the accepted and
patterned ways of behaviour of a person. The ways of thinking, feeling and acting are the
reminder of a certain community. Besides, this concept of culture also includes the physical
manifestations of a group as exhibited in their achievements and contributions to civilization.
Culture has a certain influence on our lives at every moment.
Nowadays, some researchers claim that cultural learning positively affects students’
linguistic success in foreign learning. Others state that culture can be used as an instrument
in the processes of communication when culturally- determined behavioural conventions are
taught (Byram et al. 1994). These two conceptions are far too narrow for our purposes here,
however. We believe that culture should not be seen as a support to language teaching but
that it should be placed on an equal footing with foreign language teaching.
“Culture” may be explained “the ideas, customs, skills, arts, and tools which
characterize a given group of people in a given period of time ” (Brown, 1987 :122).
Besides, “ what is important in culture is what one is expected is think, believe, say, do, eat,
wear, pay, ensure, recent, honor, laugh at, fight for, and worship, in typical life situation”
(Brooks, 1968: 218, cited in Oxford, 1996: ix). The concept of culture, therefore, involves
the way people from a particular cultural background think, make friends, worship and
behave in a society. No single individual can live without sharing a culture with others. Put
in other words, culture is derived from a community and a community, in turn, reflects its
In this paper, I takes Nguyen Quang’s view of culture (2006: 24) as the working
“ Culture is the whole complex of tangible and intangible expressions that are
created and adapted by a society or a social group as well as the ways it functions
and reacts in given situations”. Based on this definition, in my point of view, culture
helps distinguish one society or social group from another not only o terms of the
availability of those expressions and behaviour, but also in terms of their
proportionality and manifest ability”
In short, these above opinion of culture show that culture is a deeply ingrained part of
people’s life. However, language- the means for communication among members of a
culture- is the most visible and available expression of that culture. And so a person’s world
view, self- identity, and system of thinking, acting, feeling, and communicating can be
disrupted by a change from one culture to another. Therefore, when we learn a language we
can not separate it from culture. Culture should be taught with the language until advanced
level, and teachers should make students aware of the cultural features in relation to the
language which will be presented in the next part.
2.1.2. Culture knowledge and foreign language learning
In the field of foreign language teaching, one aspect that occasionally emerges as a
topic of discussion is the relationship between knowledge of a foreign language and
knowledge of the culture. It is likely that the question of “culture” is often regulated to the
end of a language teaching plan. It seems as if it is always something of a bonus if the
teacher manages to find time to introduce a bit of the culture of the foreign language into the
classroom- some music perhaps, or a traditional dance, in the final lesson of the course.
In learning a second language, culture becomes highly important because it is “an
ingrained set of behavior modes of perception” (Brown, 2000: 118). As Vietnamese saying
goes, “language and culture are two sides of a coin”, one cannot exist without the existence
of the other. Since language is used to reflect culture, there is a close relationship between
the two. According to Brown (1987: 123), a language is a part of a culture and a culture is
part of language; the two are intricately interwove such that one can not separate the two
without losing the significance of either language or culture. Language, then, is the trace of
the development process of civilization. The language is contained in the culture and the
language itself contains almost everything that one says about the culture. Without the form-
language, the culture can not be explicit. Obviously, language can not exist outside the social
context, so the relationship between culture and language must be put into that social
context. This relationship is expressed in the following diagram (Nguyen Van Do, 1999 : 9):
It can not be denied that the words utter refer to common experience. They express
facts, ideas or events that are communicable because they refer to a stock of knowledge
about the world that other people share. Words also reflect their authors’ attitudes and
beliefs, their points of view, which are also those of others. In both cases, language expresses
In addition, Kramsch (1993: 93) points out: “If language is seen as social practice,
culture becomes the core of language teaching. Cultural awareness must then be viewed as
enabling language proficiency. Culture in language teaching is not an expendable fifth skill,
tacked on, to the teaching of speaking, listening, reading and writing”. She explains that
language is inextricably connected to culture. We can not be competed in the language if we
do not understand the culture that has shaped, and how that culture relates to our own first
language/ first culture. Thus, foreign language teaching and learning must equip students
with the tools they need to be effective world citizens. Their increased ability to appreciate
the complexities, similarities and differences that exits in our world will lead them toward
careers and service related to activities based on this substantive knowledge and experience.
Cultural understanding prepares the ability to acknowledge and respect cultural differences.
As language teachers, we need to be interested in the study about culture in order to
teach the culture of another country because we have to teach it. Robert Politzer (cited in
Valdes, 1994: 123) remarks that if we teach a language without teaching, at the same time,
the culture in which the students may attach wrong meanings, they will receive culture
instructions. Besides, cultural learning has previously been seen as something for advanced
learners, an extension exercise that can be taken on to an ordinary lesson. This is partly due
to the frequent error of assuming that students with a low level of English also have a low
intellect generally. Kramsch (1992: 125) states “intercultural awareness, as a fundamental
feature of language and an integral part of language learning, is important at all level.”
Briefly, regardless of different points of view, the study of culture takes an important
place in language teaching and learning studies in order to facilitate the process of learning
and avoid culture shocks. The process of foreign language learning involves not only
perceiving the similarities and differences in other cultures but also recognizing the native
culture. Thus, the question “ What are the cultural topics in foreign language learning ? ”
good for teachers’ thought
2.1.3. Cultural elements in foreign language learning
This is the conclusion of Robert Politzer, who says in the Georgetown University
Report of the Fifth Annual Round Table Meeting on Linguistics and Language Teaching:
“As language teachers we must be interested in the study of culture not because we
necessarily want to teach culture of the other country but because we have to teach
This point of view make me consider one question : “ How much of the culture of a
country should be taught along the language?”. It is the fact that many successful language
teachers habitually begin their classes with a five- minute presentation in the foreign
language of a subject that has not been previously announced. The content for this simple
and effective device may often be a topic that brings out identity, similarity, or sharp
differences in comparable patterns of culture.
Some topics can be presented within the course are suggested by Ismail Cakir
(2006: 155) below:
Climate History Pets
Clothing Holidays Population
Crime Language Religion
Eating Leisure activitiies Social occasions
Education Meeting people Sports
Family life Money Transportation
Geography Nonverbal communication Vacation
Besides, the following list of topics ( Roseanne Tavares and Ildney Cavalcanti,
1996: 19) may consider all properties that are included in the definition of the word
* Social identity: Groups characterized by social class; Ethnic minorities.
* Social interaction at different levels of familiarity
* Belief and Behaviour: Patterns of everyday life, usually taken for granted.
* Socio- political institutions: Institutions of the state and of socialization such as
ceremonies, local government.
* National history and geography: Historical events; Geographical places.
* Media: TV; Newspaper; Radio.
* Arts: Literature; Cenima.
* Language variation: Cockney ( Here the main focus is on how language is presented)
To sum up, the above cultural elements to be used to teach the target language should
be presented in the contexts accompanying the native ones with the aim of increasing
students’ awareness and developing their curiosity towards the target culture, helping them
to make comparisons among cultures. The comparisons are not meant to underestimate any
of the cultures being analyzed, but to enrich students’ experience and to make the aware that
although some culture elements are being globalized, there is still diversity among cultures.
In order to do this, it is necessary for teachers to be aware of goals for incorporating culture
into the foreign language class.
2.2. Goals for incorporating culture into the foreign language class
According to Seelye (1994 : 154), the following goals should be achieved to teach
culture for understanding:
* Goal 1 = Interest- The student demonstrates curiosity about the target culture and empathy
toward its people.
* Goal 2 = Who- The student recognizes that role expectations and other social variables
such as age, sex, social, class, ethnicity, and place of residence affect the way people speak
* Goal 3 = What- The student realizes that effective communication requires discovering the
culturally conditioned images that are evoked in the minds of people when they think, act,
and react to the world around them.
* Goal 4 = Where and When- The student finds that situational variables and convention
shape behavior are important ways. (s/ he needs to know how people in the target culture act
in common mundane and crisis situations)
* Goal 5 = Why- The student understands that people generally act the way they do because
they are using options society that allows for satisfying basic physical and psychological
needs, and that cultural patterns are interrelated and tended mutually to support need
* Goal 6 = Exploration- The student can evaluate a generalization about the target culture in
terms of the amount of evidence substantiating it, and has the skills needed to locate and
organize information about the target culture from the library, the mass media, people, and
Additionally, Nostrands (1976 : 175) listed nine objectives that students should have
the ability to get:
1) React appropriately in a social situation
2) Describe a pattern in the culture
3) Recognize a pattern when it is illustrated
4) “Explain” a pattern
5) Predict how a pattern is likely to apply in a given situation
6) Describe or manifest an attitude important for making oneself acceptable in the foreign
7) Evaluate the form of a statement concerning a culture pattern
8) Describe/ demonstrate defensible methods of analyzing a socio- cultural whole
9) Identify basic human purposes that make the significant understanding that is being taught
In fact, students will be more interested in their learning if they are brought into the
contexts which easily to see the differences and similarities. Thus, it is advisable for any
teacher who tends to incorporate cultures into his or her language classroom is to pick out
the interesting aspects of a culture and present them in a way that will engage students. One
of many effective ways that many teachers consider nowadays with the view of raising
students’ culture awareness is using Comparing and Contrasting as activities which will be
shown in the next part.
2.3. Comparing and Contrasting as activities of raising students’ culture
2.3.1. Comparing- Contrasting approach
Teaching culture is considered important by most teachers but is has remained
“insubstantial and sporadic in most language classroom” (Omaggio, 1993: 357). Omaggio
gives several reasons for this including lack of time, uncertainty about which aspects of
culture to teach, and lack of practical techniques. Although language teachers realize the
importance of teaching culture in EFL classes and the potential of improving the teaching of
culture is tremendous, the outstanding problems to be solved are still improving. Among
many others, the biggest headache for language teachers, especially the teacher of EFL, is
how to integrate culture teaching into our language programs.
Comparing- Contrasting is an approach to teach language and culture together in the
Framework of Cultural Awareness Model (Liddicoat and Crozet, 2001 : 120). The model
assumes that in order to successfully interact with people from other cultures we have to
understand ours and the other’s cultural values, norms, customs, and social systems. It also
argues that the knowledge of ourselves as the cultural being is the foundation of knowing
others in terms of their own culture.
It is especially important that students have the opportunity to think about and talk
about what they notice, either in their first language or in the second language. According to
Comparing- Contrasting approach, students’ noticing is followed up wherever there is an
explanation of the function of particular actions in the target culture. Some teachers may
worry that as non- speakers, they do not have enough insight into the other culture to teach it.
However, being a native speaker is not always an advantage, because in an intercultural
approach, the teacher needs to know something about both cultures. Because this approach is
comparative and is based on learning to notice differences, the important element is the
exploration of difference that is something teachers and students can do together.
Oxford (1994 : 26) shares the same view that teacher must be careful to teach the
pleasant aspects. The essence of culture understanding is to know how your own culture is
both similar to and different from the target culture. Therefore, activities and materials
should portray different aspects of the culture. In other words, teachers need to “sell”
different views of the culture to their students. Introducing deliberate contrasts within a
culture can be useful. Some different ‘selling points’ are contrasted below:
+ Attractive vs. Shocking
+ Historical vs. Modern
+ Similarities vs. Differences
+ Old people vs. Young people
+ Dark aspects of culture vs. Bright
+ City life vs. Country life
+ Facts vs. Behaviour
+ Stated belief vs. Actual belief
Briefly, the Comparing- Contrasting approach that has been found to be successful in
raising students’ cultural awareness through lessons. Nevertheless, how do the teachers
employ Comparing and Contrasting activities in their language classroom with the view of
encouraging students to learn and understand about culture in such an easier way ? This
matter will be discussed with some activities for incorporating culture into foreign language
2.3.2. Activities for incorporating culture into foreign language training
It is the fact that interesting activities will get students more involved in the culture
lessons. Some Comparing and Contrasting activities introduced below are cited from the
book of Barry Tomalin and Susan Stempleski (1993, 41- 100). These activities are designed
to adapt the Tourims students’ learning styles and interests. Each activity offers students the
following information: the cultural aim of the activity, the materials needed, the level at
which the activity can be used, what preparation is needed, and step- by- step directions for
carrying out the activity in class. Where appropriate, variations of the activity have been
220.127.116.11. Cartoon categories
* Aim: To increase awareness of the subject matter of British cartoons; to
compare British cartoons with cartoons in the students’ own
* Materials: Cartoons from British newspapers and magazines
* Level: Advanced
* Preparation: Select 15- 20 cartoons from British newspapers and magazines.
Make sure you have enough copies of the cartoons to give a complete
set to each group of students.
* In class:
1. Divide the class into groups of three or four, and give each group a set of cartoons.
2. Tell the students to look carefully at the cartoons and to group them according to the
subject matter of the humor; for example, the desert island situation, relations between men
and women, polities, drunkenness, etc. The students’ task is to work together and draw up a
list of the different types of subject matter used.
3. The students work in groups, categorizing the cartoons and preparing their lists.
4. A spokesperson for each reads the list to the class.
5. Write the different categories of subject matter mentioned by students on the board. Then
write the following questions on the board:
- Are cartoons common in your country?If so, what is the most common subject matter?
- How are British cartoons similar to cartoons in your country? How are they different?
6. Students work in groups, discussion of the following questions:
- What did you learn about British humor from this activity?
- What did you learn about humor in your own culture?
* Variation: Intermediate level and above
Instead of focusing on the subject matter of the humor, students can draw up a list of
visible aspects of British life contained in the cartoons, for example:
1. Houses and homes (rooms, furniture, etc.)
2. Work environments (offices, factories, etc.)
3. Leisure (fishing, reading, watching TV, etc.)
4. Eating and drinking (restaurants, pubs, etc.)
5. Travel (traffic, road signs, etc)
6. Shopping (supermarkets, department stores, etc.)
7. Clothes and fashion (uniforms, hairstyles, etc.)
18.104.22.168. Dating customs
* Aim: To compare relationships between men and women in
the UK with those in the students’ culture(s)
* Materials: A task sheet for each student
* Level: Lower- intermediate and above
* Preparation: Photocopy the task sheet overleaf.
* In class:
1. Explain to the class that they are going to compare relationships between men and women
in the UK with relationships between men and women in their our culture(s)
2. Divide the class into pairs, distribute the task sheet.
3. The students work in pairs, discussing the customs listed on the task sheet, and indicating
whether each practice is the same or different in their culture.
If the custom is different, they make brief notes explaining the difference.
4. Following the pairwork, volunteers take turns to report their answers to the class.
5. Follow up with a whole- class discussion on the following questions:
- What have you learned about relationships between men and women in the UK from this
- Can you make generalizations about relationships between men and women in the UK?
- In what ways are the relationships different from the relationships in your culture?
- In what ways are they similar?
* Variation: As homework, you could ask the students to write a short
composition, comparing and contrasting between men and women in the UK with
the behaviour between men and women in their country.
The statements below give information about relationships between men and women in the
UK. Are these customs the same ( S) or different ( D) from ones in your country? Tick the
appropriate box. If a custom is different, write brief notes explaining the differences.
In the UK In your country
1. Young men and women go to the party together.
2. A men often goes to collect his date at her home.
3. In their mid- teens, boys and girls go on dates (to
parties, dances, the cinema).
4. Parents very rarely choose dates for their children.
5. Women may invite men to parties or other social
6. Teenagers usually date people of the own age, but
sometimes girls date boys who are two or three years
7. Teenagers meet members of the opposite sex at
school, parties, or other social events.
8. Men and women sometimes share expenses on a
9. Teenagers and young adults meet and choose their
10. Men and women date people of different economic,
ethnic, social, or religiuos backgrounds
22.214.171.124. Cross- cultural role plays
* Aim: To increase awareness of the types of misunderstanding that
can occur between people of different cultures
* Materials: No special materials are needed
* Level: Intermediate and above
* Preparation: Prepare a brief description of an incident that happened to
you and that led to a cultural misunderstanding.
* In class:
1. Explain to the students that, at one time or another, most of us have been involved in
situations that have led to cultural misunderstandings.
2. Divide the class into groups of three or four. To make sure that the students understand
what you mean, and to encourage recall of similar incidents in the students’ own experience,
describe a cultural incident in which they were involved.
3. Each group selects one of the incidents described. Together they plan how to dramatize
4. Groups take turns to perform their role plays in front of the class. The other students try to
guess which student was actually involved in the incident.
5. The whole class discusses each incident and its cultural implications.
126.96.36.199. Shopping habits
* Aim: To compare shopping habits in the UK with shopping
habits in the students’ culture
* Materials: A task sheet for each student
* Level: Lower- intermediate and above
* Preparation: Photocopy the task sheet below.
* In class: 1. Explain to the class that they are going to compare shopping habits in the
UK with shopping habits in their own culture (s).
2. Divide the class into pairs and distribute the task sheet.
3. The students work in pairs, discussing the statements on the task sheet, and nothing
whether the practice is the same or different in their culture(s).
4. Follow up with a whole- class discussion on the following questions:
- What have you learned about shopping habits in the UK from this activity?
- In what ways are shopping habits in the UK different from shopping habits in your
The statements below give information about shopping habits in the UK. Are these habits the
same ( S) or different ( D) from ones in your country? Put a tick in the appropriate boxes. If
any of the habits different, write brief notes explaining the differences.
In the UK In your country
1. Adults do most of their own shopping for
2. Mothers usually buy all the clothes for the
young children in the family.
3. Teenagers usually choose their own clothes.
4. Married couples usually shop for large items
such as cars, furniture, and TV sets together.
5. Shopping for groceries usually done by going
to the supermarket once a week.
6. Shops do not close for lunch, and some stay
open till 7.00 p.m. or later on certain days,
especially in big cities.
7. Department stores and grocery stores are
open all day on Saturdays.
8. In families, it is often the mother who does
most of the food shopping.
9. Many oven- ready items are available in
10. Many people buy bread, cakes, and pies in a
supermarket rather than in a bakery.
188.8.131.52. Show and Tell
* Aim: To heighten awareness of one’s own culture;
to practice speaking about something characteristic of