Discourse Reflection 1 - Essay Example

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Also documented by Paltridge (2006), the researcher observes that the difference in communication brought about by cultural differences…
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Discourse Reflection 1
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Reflection on Jones, J. F. (1999). From silence to talk: Cross-cultural ideas on participation in academic group discussion. English for Specific Purposes, 18(3), 243 – 259.
This article has been informed by the minimal research on the required oral skills in both academic and professional setting (Jones, 1999). Also documented by Paltridge (2006), the researcher observes that the difference in communication brought about by cultural differences propagates not only miscommunication but dangerously, non-communication. Considering an academic setting where an asymmetrical relation of power exists, the teacher holding power and the students being subordinate despite their active role, the researcher observes that native speakers, NS of English would be more comfortable participating in class discussions as opposed to their counterparts that are non-native speakers, NNS. The reason for this goes beyond the linguistic consideration, also documented by Subbiondo (2005), to consideration of how a student’s cultural and educational backgrounds cause passivity among international students in class. Therefore, the article evaluates the perceptions of silence and reticence among NNS students in group discussions and recommending pedagogical solutions.
Jones (1999) acknowledges that Asians constitute the majority of international students in Australasia and the US. As such, the researcher carries out a literature survey from various secondary sources to determine the perception of Asians on silence and reticence in group discussions in class. The findings indicate that teachers in the surveyed institutions consider Asian students as polite and inactive in class and hence find it better dealing with European, American and Australian students. It was also observed that majority of the teachers have little knowledge on non-Western culture which deters communication between Asian students and teachers. On their part, the students were found not to be keen to learn the host culture despite its great influence in defining the academic system. The students from southeast and northeast Asia in the US, New Zealand and Australia consider reticence and silence as crucial for one’s moral disposition and for maintenance of harmony of social order. I support this observation because even scholars like Paltridge (2006) document that face and politeness vary among cultures and societies. Therefore, the study recommends the need to provide the NNS students with an understanding of the culture of academic English speaking and equip them with the requisite participatory skills. EFL teachers have to be sensitive in class and attend training for cross-cultural awareness. According to Shemshadsara (2012), cultural awareness gives an understanding of one’s culture and that of others and creates a positive interest in understanding how these cultures connect and differ. Course planners should develop courses that articulate students’ roles and responsibilities in group discussions and impart participation skills among the students. The courses should provide for conversation between the teacher and student with the teacher being the informant.
Analysing the findings herein, I support the postulate of communication as an important aspect of language teaching. Supporting the observation by Jones (1999) that cultural differences could be a deterrent to effective communication, Wolfson acknowledges that “a single speech act may vary greatly across speech communities” (1981, p.117). Therefore, I support that EFL teachers should be sensitive to NNS students so as to ensure that despite the cross-cultural differences, the students and the teacher communicate effectively to propagate understanding between the two parties. Furthermore, the incorporation of academic advisors and course planners in coming up with courses that encourage participatory approach in teaching and setting assimilatory standards that bridge the cross-cultural barrier would ensure effective communication between students and teachers.
Paltridge, B. (2006). Discourse analysis: An introduction. London: Continuum.
Shemshadsara, Z. G. (2012). Developing cultural awareness in foreign language teaching. English Language Teaching, 5(3), 95 – 99.
Subbiondo, J. (2005). Benjamin Lee Whorf’s theory of language, culture and consciousness: A critique of western science. Language and Communication, 25, 149 – 159.
Wolfson, N. (1981). Compliments in cross-cultural perspective. TESOL Quarterly, 15(2), 117 – 124. Read More
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