Using literature to enhance language and cultural awareness

Tümer, Tuğçe Çankaya
Language teachers, including educators from all levels – from primary to college level – and teacher trainers have all agreed with the idea that it is impossible to consider language skills as independent from each other since each of them has a great contribution to the language itself as a whole system. However; it cannot be ignored that all language teachers have also agreed with the idea that reading is a skill that has its own significance, especially in foreign language education. What makes reading so unique is that it can be considered to be the door that is about to be opening to a new world in which the target language is spoken. In that sense, as an essential skill, reading, throughout the centuries, has also had its own keys that have been difficult to be unlocked even by the native speakers of English. This matter of fact brings the question to the light that what guardians are waiting in front of this castle door especially for foreign language students. Although many scholars claim that formal aspect of language, including syntactical and lexical features, stand as great challenge, they ignore the cultural significance of a language. The relationship between language, thought and culture shows that even formal aspects are affected by culture. This fact brings the importance of ‘content schema’ as well as ‘formal schema’ in reading to surface. However, now the question is that how it is possible to provide students with sufficient cultural background. As foreign language students are less likely to experience exposure to foreign culture when compared to second language learners, there is an urgent need to create a ‘social context’ or ‘second hand reality’ in Kovalik’s terms in classroom settings. At this point, literature is believed to give her helping hand to FL students with her wide range of texts carrying a variety of formal aspect of language, but at the same time, a range of cultural components, and thus, constructing ‘schema’ for them. Apart from this, what literature offers is examined in detail within the framework of brain-based learning principles. This paper tends to contribute to this controversial issue with a case study, which aims to illustrate that the use of literature in FL settings enhance language/cultural awareness. The result of the study showed that 1) literature is a useful source to teach the formal aspects of language such as grammar and vocabulary (language awareness) 2) literature contributes to students’ cultural awareness which is essential to have language awareness 3) literature is a brain-compatible source with various advantages over the other written materials. In accordance with what is mentioned above, this study has a direct aim to show how ELT and Literature can intrude the ancient walls of this castle when work interdisciplinary.


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Citation Formats
T. Ç. Tümer, “Using literature to enhance language and cultural awareness,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2010.