Learning English as an International Language: EFL Learners' Perceptions of Cultural Knowledge Acquisition in the English Classroom

  •  Hsuan-Yau Tony Lai    


Culture is an important element in the foreign language classroom. Some scholars believe that culture is the fifth language skill along with the four traditional skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) of English. Traditionally, learning English required learners to acquire some target language cultural knowledge (e.g. British culture and/or American culture) especially in the context of English as a foreign language. However, with the increasingly important status of English as an international language, the ownership of English has been extensively discussed. Scholars have argued that English is no longer in the custody of any particular country or community. Therefore, whether we should address target language culture in the English classroom or not has become a matter of debate. The study aims to explore EFL learners’ perceptions of the ownership of English and acquiring cultural knowledge in the classroom through in-depth interviews. In total, twenty undergraduates, including both English-major and non-English-major students, from three different universities in Central Taiwan participated in the study. The results show that the majority of the participants reject the notion that English belongs to particular countries in today’s world. In terms of acquiring cultural knowledge, they believe that it is necessary to have some target language cultural knowledge (e.g. British culture and/or American culture) in the English classroom. However, apart from the target language cultural knowledge, they would also like to explore various cultures worldwide, using English as a communication tool to become global citizens. Therefore, rather than debate whether to teach a specific culture or language model in the English classroom, it is perhaps more meaningful and important to develop a language learner’s intercultural communicative competence. These findings provide some insightful implications for English language teaching professionals and educators in terms of teaching culture in the English classroom.

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