Written by: Nadezhda Georgieva Doychinova,
39 SOU “P.Dinekov”, Sofia
(Built on a simulation game called business maze and post game activities)
With an emphasis how to combat xenophobia and racism
It is a study based on the general idea that the implementation of versatile methods in the classroom can raise students’ awareness of their own culture and thus help them acquire better intercultural communicative competence.
This paper comprises a simulation game called ”Business Maze” and post game activities conducted in the classroom resorting to the theoretical background of small culture approach; language-culture-meaning, and language-culture-thought relationships.
I. INTRODUCTION – SUBJECT AREA, AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The idea of “Making It Big”1 has left neither the culture of today’s high school students, nor the high school education of nowadays unaffected.
Questions of teaching and learning culture in foreign language education and their relation to the issue of being successful in business and life are of crucial importance both to students and teachers.
To students, who should develop a good intercultural communicative competence in the target foreign language which, would, in turn, help them make their dreams come true; and to teachers who should be more inventive, resourceful, and above all very well qualified to practise a wide variety of methods including culture-oriented ones aiming at better motivation of their students for accomplishing their common goal:
“I’m able to make it big, because I can, and because I know how to do it.”
In this paper I adopt the position of a researcher analyzing the results of a simulation game called ”Business Maze” and post game activities conducted in the classroom resorting to the theoretical background of the small culture approach; the language-culture-meaning and the language-culture-thought relationship; applying a simulation game as a training tool and as a vehicle for achieving the aims and objectives of the overall activity.
All this coincides with the general idea of the research: the implementation of versatile methods in the classroom can raise students’ awareness of their own culture and thus help them acquire better intercultural communicative competence. The applied interactive methods (group work; simulation game, fill-in-a-questionnaire activity, conducted after the simulation game, for developing students’ critical thinking; discourse) could contribute significantly to their becoming more tolerant, less prejudiced, less confined to stereotyping and old conventions; able to make effective decisions, able to accept “otherness” etc.
For the sake of clarity my main objective can be outlined as follows: “I want my students to become more comfortable and to be more at ease in business situations, such as negotiating and making business decisions.” The specific objectives, such as: “I want my students to know how to make their stand be understood, and accepted by the others, how to recognize xenophobic and racist attitudes and behaviours and to combat them ” are refined from the cited general objective.
In view of the above, this research is supposed to answer a very important question:
Can these aims and objectives be achieved through applying a simulation game and to what extent can these expectations be met?
The results of this activity are to be analyzed in view of the mentioned theoretical background. Some conclusions are to be drawn following the cited theoretical points of guidance aiming at showing the diversity and richness of meaning and interaction contained in the data gathered from the questionnaires filled in by the students and the charts of the business decisions compiled by them, not analyzing all the aspects of the activity such as, for instance, body language. An attempt is to be made to move from one general to more specific areas, from given to new, staying in the main track – from linguistic competence, through communicative competence, to intercultural communicative competence in view of the extent to which the pursued aims and objectives are achieved by applying the simulation game as a training tool.
II. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
A. TEACHING CULTURE
1. Small Culture Approach
“Small culture is the sum total of all the processes, happenings, or activities in which a given set of people habitually engage.”(Holliday 1999:248), and a researcher can establish it by observing people who reveal a recurrent type of behavior. It consists of the way a group operates, its adaptability being its vital characteristic. “Cultural dopes” are group members who automatically follow accepted patterns of behavior while the term “ active, often skilled users” refers to the group members who know how to observe the rules of society. Small culture is useful in enabling people to understand and adapt to the group.
In Holliday’s interpretation (1999: 249) small culture is characterized by the following four stages of formation: need for group cohesion; cultural residues and influences; social constructions; and products. Later on, in the Analysis and Appendix 1, an attempt will be made to illustrate this interpretation in view of the overall activities and thus the small culture approach is to be exemplified.
2. Language-Culture- Meaning
The relationship between language and culture in the process of making words, actions and behaviors mean is referred to as meaning attribution. Culture is a system of attributing meaning. Linguistic knowledge alone is not sufficient to make out statements like: “ I took the cab to the four seasons”. Unless one knows that “The four seasons” is a worldwide five star hotel chain, understanding the meaning of all the words won’t be helpful at all. It’s cultural knowledge that counts in similar situations. Sometimes the vehicle of meaning is non-verbal and even non-human.2
When we focus on the link between word and concept, it can easily be explained why some nuances are lost in translation. A well-known example is the translation of the English words uncle and aunt in Bulgarian. Are they to be translated respectively чичо or вуйчо; леля or вуйна ? We have the same case with the word حرم in Arabic. It can be translated both харем or грях. In Arabic there are more than one hundred words for camel, just like in other languages there are many more words meaning snow. Such variations in language does not relate only to vocabulary. They spread over grammar, phonology etc. (Whorf in Agar 1964) Let us remember that Present Perfect tense in English can be translated in Bulgarian in three different verbal tenses. So a language creates its lexicon and grammar according to the way society develops and functions.
Another interesting aspect that sheds light on the Language-Culture-Meaning relationship is the fact that: “ The meaning of linguistic expressions and behaviors is shaped by the context in which they occur.” (Tarasheva 2001:30) Just look at the way a child responds to the words: “I’ll give you a good spanking” pronounced by mom and the same words said by dad. The falling or rising intonation can attribute different meanings to tag question in English, for example. In addition to this, sociological parameters, such as class, religion, occupation, age, gender etc determine the meaning attributed to words, expressions and non-verbal behavior.
3. Language – Culture – Thought
It is not only of vital importance to know how language and culture are related but it is also how they both relate to thought that matters a lot for getting the hidden messages.
Language is viewed by some as a system of communication and as such can be isolated and studied like any other human system. It is this definition that Bennett argues and states that such an approach can result in what he calls the fluent fool: “A fluent fool is someone who speaks a foreign language well but does not understand the social or philosophical content of that language.”(Bennett 1993:16)
In order to avoid becoming a “fluent fool” one should learn that the language and culture connection can be tackled in terms of: “system of communication; cultural foci; and world view.” (Madjarova 2001 : 6)
“Language serves to facilitate classification and order. It enables those who use it to relate to their environment, to identify and classify cultural objects, and to coordinate their activities.” (Damen 1987:12) In other words it is an indisputable fact that language is a major vehicle for communication.
Another aspect of the language and culture connection is the way languages reflect cultural emphasis. In one language at a given period of time a different emphasis can be given to certain phrases or words – let us remember the “Prohibition” in the US in the 1920s. We, the Bulgarians, have been witnessing the dramatic changes that have occurred in our language for the past 16 years, not only related to introducing new vocabulary but concerning grammar and phonology as well. We have almost forgotten a very popular phrase that popped up some 15 years ago: ”shock therapy”, known until then only to some medical men. Hicherson gives the best summary of this aspect: “Cultural emphasis may indicate environmental or economical factors which are crucial to substance; it can also comprehend aesthetic, religious, or other kinds of values.” (Hicherson 1980:108)
Thirdly, language is related to the world view of their speakers – it is not only a means of communication; it is also a powerful tool available to human beings in coping with reality. The notion of “worldview “ is revealed by Damen: “Worldview … is a cover term that refers to the particular set of realities associated with a given group. It includes attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about the environment, human relations, social organizations, and all that constitutes human life.” (Damen 1987: 124)
Another essential aspect of avoiding being a “fluent fool” revolves around understanding the relationship between language and thought.
It is considered to be a memorable statement that Whorf made about language representing experience: “We dissect nature along lines laid down by our languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is represented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has been organized in our minds – and this means largely by the linguistic system in our minds” (Whorf 1956 : 213)
The interpretation of Whorf’s words and of the so called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has both its strong and weak forms (the strong one represented by the above quotation). What is very well phrased is the implication that the world view of a speech community is reflected in the linguistic patterns they use and in other words it means that language determines the way in which we understand reality.
To me, however, this is an impressive, though not entirely irrefutable vision of the linguistic system in general, and in my modest opinion some 17 years ago such a theory would have had no other place in a scientific research in our country than that of a definitely denied or even condemned one. How lucky we are to have the chance to enjoy and discuss it openly.
I would like to quote Jana Molhova’s words that appeal to me not to a lesser degree and though not so memorable, sound comprehensible and reveal the relationship between language, culture and thought from yet another angle: ”Briefly, language is the direct reality of thought which makes itself manifest in language. But language should not be identified with thought. Mental processes follow their special development and language – its own, which is not that of thought.” (Molhova 1967: 18) All this shows that this is a very complex issue. Here we are going to take the position expressed by Whorf stating that language, thought and perception are interrelated, and that there is a profound alliance of language, mind, and the total culture of the speech community, without going any further in this vast area.
B. TRAINING TOOLS
1. ASPECTS OF THE AIMS OF CULTURAL TRAINING AFTER KIRSTEN JAEGER
The broader perspectives of Intercultural Studies and Intercultural Training require understanding of the culture training programmes. The first step in this respect is to define the aims of the culture teaching. In her article “Teaching Culture – State of Art” Kirsten Jaeger (1995: 20-21) distinguishes three courses in terms of the aims of the culture teaching:
- training concepts concerned with the acquisition of knowledge, a cognitively oriented approach;
- training concepts concerned with changes in the participants’ attitudes, an affectively oriented approach;
- training concepts concerned with the participants’ concrete behaviour in intercultural encounters.
However, to pursue this train of thoughts and to put them into action seems an easier task than it actually is. This difficulty has not only been recognized but clearly stated by authors like Kramsch: “ We should not be unaware of the difficulties inherent in a true pedagogy of the intercultural speaker. It is one thing to encourage students and teachers to become aware of others’ and their own national identity; quite another to speak openly in class about their own ethnic, gender-related, race-related, or class-related particularities.” (Kramsch 1998:31)
There are a wide variety of many other points and even pitfalls awaiting to be taken into consideration by the teacher, one of them revealed in the following extract: “Yet with social psychology, it has long been recognized that the categorization is a fundamental cognitive process necessary to make sense of the world. Humans constantly impose structure on events, experiences and people, particularly when faced with little information. Thus stereotypical judgments are made by everyone as part of creating order out of everyday life, as well as providing sense of group identity… Media representations may serve to inform, reinforce or challenge such stereotypes.”(O’Sullivan 1994: 127-128)
In brief, Kirsten Jaeger’s hypothesis is to be considered fundamental for this research, part of the pillars of its foundations. At the same time the teacher is to be alert about any impediments and pitfalls that might occur and thus hinder or even jeopardize the successful fulfillment of the task – both in the classroom and in the process of analyzing and interpreting the data, paying special attention to the possible obstacles mentioned above.
2. SIMULATION GAMES
Simulation games are experiential exercises which stimulate participants’ cognitive and affective understanding and widen their horizons thus being very useful in intercultural training. Damen (1987:290) notes: ”A simulation is a model of a physical or social situation: it is a game but a game played with simplified rules and for specific purposes.”
A simulation follows a process model and allows learners to control the nature of the interactions that take place. Of course there are simulation games when students decide on the event to be simulated, choose a relevant issue within the event to explore, identify roles of participants, etc What matters here is that a simulation game is done in a friendly environment which is very important because students, and people in general, learn best when they feel secure. This and some other essential features of simulation games are excellently put in the following extract:
“Simulation games provide interactive opportunities to practise new behaviors and experiment with attitudes and points of view in a non-threatening, non-judgemental environment… Through simulation games, participants eliminate the interval between learning and applying: they tie the present, the future, and their skills, values, and knowledge together to make the ongoing situation relevant and useful.” (based on Sisk in Fowler: 82:88)
Basically each simulation game consists of three parts: “1. activity or exercises that aim at learning by doing; 2.simulation – an exercise becomes a simulation exercise when the participants are given workplace roles and they do the exercise using their new roles to refer to each other in order to get the job done; 3. game – a simulation exercise turns into a simulation game when game-like elements and rules are added to it.”(Botsmanova 2001 48:49)
One of the greatest challenges in foreign language acquisition is understanding the best way a group of learners work and the best context in which they do their learning. In this respect, being a powerful and at the same time an enjoyable training tool, simulation games provide teachers with wonderful opportunities to make the teaching-learning process more effective.
When the simulation technique is employed, it should be integrated with other language learning activities, as it is done in this research, and it should also be given the preparation and care which is required in any language learning method, and adapted to students’ needs and level. If these guidelines are followed, it can be a rewarding experience for both the students and teacher.
III. METHODOLOGY OF THE RESEARCH
The following quotation evokes a strong feeling concerning the very essence of the work to be done, and inspired by it the researcher of this paper is to take it into consideration throughout the whole research process: “Scientific research seeks to describe, identify, and control relationships among phenomena in order to study them” (Seliger and Shohomy 1989:6-12)
The conclusions to be reached in the end are based on the major methodology points summed up below.
Some key concepts in action research:
reliability, validity, population and sample
Although no account will be given here about what these fundamental issues refer to, the author of this research feels obliged to emphasize the fact that they are to be pillars to lean on in the research. Nevertheless, some points considered to be of utmost importance to the researcher are to be mentioned below.
“The minimal definition to which I shall adhere in these pages is that research is a systematic process of inquiry consisting of three elements or components: (1) a question, problem, or hypothesis; (2) data; (3) analysis and interpretation of data. Any activity that lacks one of these elements (for example data) I shall classify as something else than research” (Nunan 1992:2-3) Nunan’s quotation was paid a special attention in this paper.
To make a distinction between reliability, validity, consistency, and generalisability is a matter not to be omitted in the overall process. For example the following statement appears to be vital for this research: “Reliability refers to the consistency and replicability of the research.” (Nunan 1992;14-15). As the data should be reliable, out of the two distinguished types of reliability the researcher has chosen to use the internal reliability which refers to the consistency of data collection, analysis and interpretation.
One way of the ways of guarding against threats to reliability is the so called triangulation. It is a procedure which guarantees more than one perspective on the topic or the phenomena being investigated. Applied to the context of this research, this would mean that the researcher will increase the reliability of her findings by collecting data in different ways (e g questionnaires, charts, field notes, classroom observation). However, it will not be done from different sources (e g students, colleagues, parents etc but only from students).
When one does research, in order to make one’s findings more credible, it is important to include enough background information about the context in which the research was carried out. For example, age group of the students, their level of language proficiency and motivation, kind of syllabus and approaches to teaching traditionally used etc. This point is also to be carried out and presented in a tabular form.
Some key approaches in action research
Action research includes the following approaches: qualitative-quantitative; introspective-empirical; individual-collaborative; complementary-intrusive (questionnaires, interviews, experiments and observation are potentially intrusive techniques); illuminative-conclusive.
This research will resort to the use of qualitative-quantitative, individual-collaborative approaches. Students are to fill in the questionnaires individually whilst the charts will be compiled in groups as will the simulation game be conducted. The data will be collected, analyzed and interpreted applying these approaches and some of the results are to be given in tables in the appendices.
In the analytical part, the conclusive approach is to be applied bearing in mind the following extremely important points clearly defined by Wallace: “Illuminative/heuristic research is used to discover whether the findings of conclusive research actually apply to one’s own particular context… The question for the professional here is does this finding relate to my particular case?…It is possible statistically to prove that a certain group work task has had specific positive results. But will it have the same results in another country with different cultural norms; or even in the same country, but in another context with different institutional norms? “(Wallace 1998:43-44) So many findings in social studies such as education are indicative rather than truly conclusive and this is not to be overlooked in this research.
Data collection techniques
Information can be collected by using: 1.diaries, journals, field notes; 2. questionnaires, charts, and interviews; 3. classroom observation; 4.verbal report; 5. Case studies.
In this research questionnaires, field notes, classroom observation and compiling a chart are the indispensable tools to resort to. A questionnaire has been chosen as the focal point for this research for two reasons: it is applicable for finding out the solutions to the problem under investigation, and it is the right type of data collection for getting to know students’ opinion.
The questionnaire comprises: yes/no questions; multiple choice; wh- questions; and ranked questions to elicit information about the order of preference or importance as seen by the respondents. Questionnaires could be rather intrusive so the intrusion can be mitigated by sensitive handling, for example in this activity it is to be kept short in duration, so that it can be part of a normal evaluation process.
Field notes are used to overlap or supplement the other techniques – to remind the teacher of the subtle points which should be included in the research – the important thing is to capture on the spot ideas, feelings or responses that otherwise be lost.
The research cycle will pass through four stages: planning, action, observation and reflection. An attempt will be made to reflect them in this thesis.
What is specific about this research is that it originates from the teacher’s everyday classroom activities and is aimed at improving their effectiveness.
IV. DESCRIPTION OF THE PROCEDURE
The central part of this activity is a maze, similar to the sort of activity often used in business training to develop team-building and decision making skills. The aim is to measure the extent to which the students develop the intercultural skills described in the introduction of this thesis. The students are eleventh graders and their language proficiency is supposed to be upper intermediate or B2 according to the Common European Framework of References.
Before class, teacher photocopied and cut out five sets of the situation cards. One complete set of cards was needed for each group of about four students. Although highly time-consuming (it took more than 7 hours!), it was a good idea that teacher stuck the cards onto different-coloured cardboards. That way teacher could easily hand out the card to the respective group without any threat of mixing them up, and managed to put the sets of cards back together in the different-coloured sets without any reshafflement that might have caused confusion.
In the warm-up phase teacher explained the rules and the goal of the game, divided the students into groups of four or five paying attention students of approximately equal proficiency in English to work in one and the same group. Teacher previously had written on board an example of what was expected from the students to be done, and answered their questions.
In the work phase, the introduction of the maze was read as a class. Then students were asked in their groups to read the problem on the card and discuss the options. When the students had made their decisions, teacher handed out the relevant card. Teacher monitored each group equally, and told them to discuss their options fully before asking for the next card. Teacher pointed out that the aim was not to get to the end quickly, but to carry out the twofold goal: to make successful career decisions and to compile a chart of the decisions they were to make at each step. Teacher had previously written a sample on the board how this was to be done. In the meantime teacher was taking some field notes and observing the overall activity.
The maze itself and the warm up phase took roughly 40 minutes.
Inevitably groups finished at different times. Then students (approximately at the beginning of the second lesson) ware handed out and asked to fill in the questionnaires individually and to consider their performance. This activity aimed at developing students’ critical thinking took around 15 minutes at most.
In the closing phase each group was asked to elect a spokesperson to summarize their group decisions. This time teacher set a time limit of no more than 3-4 minutes for each group. Finally students were to vote for the most successful group, something that was not done since there was only one group in each class that finished the maze by running a successful business. Nevertheless, in one of the classes students agreed that though bankrupted, one of the groups had made very interesting decisions and had it not been for one mistake at the final stage, they would have really “made it big.”
The feedback was done in a third lesson after teacher collected, analyzed, summarized and presented all the data before the students in a comprehensive way, guiding a hot discussion about the real pros and cons of the overall activities.
V. ANALYSIS OF THE RESEARCH DATA AND RESULTS
In the Appendix bearing the title: “Exemplifying the Small Culture Approach in view of the Overall Activity”, a detailed analysis is conducted applying the small culture approach to the Business maze simulation game following Holliday’s cited four stages of its formation. Many conclusions have been drawn in the Appendix but here I’ll mention just one which I find most telling and impressive – the culture embodied in the concepts and attitudes of the students reveal that they are a generation where the number of the cultural dopes is very insignificant – only 3 %. Partly this is due to the fact that young people of any time tend to be brave enough to demonstrate their opinion openly but the fact remains that the data show students’ determination to keep their individuality and to” have it done their way”.
All the points of the analysis in Appendix 1 are revealed by peeling just one layer or one stage of the game (It took averagely 9 stages or decisions to be made from the beginning up to the end of the maze). I dare say everything included in the Appendix is not an assumption but really existing conclusions based on carefully analyzed reliable facts. Only one stage/business decision/ was discussed and analyzed which means that all the nine stages open a broad field for further and deeper research to analyze the rest of them and penetrate and reach for the core. This is a fruitful and gratifying issue that needs to be discussed from many angles (drawing full comparisons between the decisions made by all groups; in view of stereotyping and prejudices; in view of Hofstede’s theory about feminine and masculine society etc) (Hofstede 1986:315)
Language – Culture – Meaning
When we come to think what conveys meaning, how words and concepts are linked in the context of the Simulation game, examples are swarming up one over the other. Let us take just one and see what messages we can get from it.
|Card No 1
You were working as a chef in a large restaurant. You have been made redundant, as the restaurant is being converted into a cinema. You have received $15,000 redundancy money. You have a family to support, and cannot survive for long without an income. You want to start a restaurant in your local town, as you believe there is a need for one. It is going to require more than your $15,000, so what are you going to do?
|Go to card No 8
Approach the bank for the extra funding to get your plans underway.
Go to card No 22
Go into business with a partner. A friend of yours was also made redundant and received the same amount of money. Why not do it together?
The choice of this group of students was to go to Card No 8:”Approach the bank for the extra funding to get your plans underway.” The interesting part here is that, asked to put down the words and phrases that provoked them to the decision-making at this step, students did not write in the questionnaire “extra funding”, but “approach the bank”. Firstly, it means that they are aware of the figurative meaning of this word, i.e. they demonstrate good linguistic competence because the meaning of the verb “approach” here is: ”to ask someone for something, or ask them to do something, especially when you are not sure if they will do it.” There is no doubt at all that they got the meaning conveyed by this phrase.
Secondly, their choice prompts that they made correct guesses about the meaning of this word (in case they did not know all the shades of its meaning), which makes them good communicators. Treated from another angle, the choice of these words clarifies the relationship between words and concepts, and more precisely how meaning is shifted according to concepts in a particular context. It also presupposes the idea that students are generally acquainted with banking.
Thirdly, students did not put down the whole phrase: “approach the bank for extra funding”, they wrote only: “approach the bank”. This shows that in addition to being good communicators, in this particular case students are good intercultural communicators too, since not using the second part of the phrase (“extra funding”) suggests that students foresee the fact that extra funding could be either not granted or not accepted by them.
So the use of just one phrase reveals many messages about the way meaning is conveyed and how it reflects students’ concepts in a particular context – they demonstrate the culture of linguistically competent, well educated young people, possessing both communicative and intercultural skills, generally familiar with banking and the opportunities it provides.
Faced with similar situations in their future students will be more self-confident as to eliciting the focal point of a situation like this, presented by the lexical unit they came across and got across so well.
Language – Culture – Thought
Pondering over the problem of the relationship between language, culture and thought in the Simulation game and the post game activities I decided to dwell on the following situation. It happened so that all the eight groups of students had to make a decision at card No 44 which looks like that:
|Card No 44
You are ready to open the fast food restaurant, but no one knows about it. You need to generate some awareness in the town, but you only have a limited budget. You must spend the money wisely.
|Go to Card No 37
The budget could be spent on traditional advertising in the local press. It has an excellent readership so everyone will see the ad.
Go to Card No 20
Or you could do a PR stunt! You could make some ”funny food’ costumes and dress up as a carrot! Then you could go around town handing out leaflets to everyone. Wouldn’t it be fun?
The collected data indicate that all the eight groups have chosen Card No 20, i.e. to do a PR stunt. That makes 100% of all students that took part in the activity. The analysis of this situation can be interpreted in the following manner.
As true representatives of today’s young generation, notorious for its neglect for reading, students were not impressed by the powerful phrase “excellent readership” for they simply did not believe it, as they themselves rarely happen to read the local press, so how come other people do! This is probably the way these 100% thought, for they unanimously and very quickly chose card No 20, i.e. the PR stunt.
Another explanation could be given for this high percentage and it refers to the miraculous effect phrases like ”PR” still have over our minds nowadays. The culture of today both subconsciously and ostentatiously prompts that almost anything can be done, sold etc as long as a proper public image is given to it, especially if done in a generally approved and spectacular way. Where this could lead us to, is another story, what matters here is that the allusion of the ever successful “PR” is in full swing with these students and the data prove this.
A third view of this situation can be involved with the fact that such “PR stunts” are on the whole something new and therefore seem very attractive. The culture of today teaches us that there is nothing wrong with the philosophy of: “I want it all and I want it now.” The mass media, with their pervasive influence over everybody, try to persuade us that everything is within easy reach, and all one has to do is to stretch one’s hand and grab it. In my opinion here students fall prey to stereotyping like “all you do must be fun.” And since there is no fun in having an ad published in the local press, let us do the stunt. As a matter of fact they have been taught a lesson, for though successful, the “PR stunt” choice led to the arrest of their partner for obstruction of pavement and to the risking of the whole venture.
In conclusion the phrase ”PR stunt” reflects the cultural emphasis revealing that in this specific situation students do not defy conventions, just the other way round, they stick to stereotypes that have popped up recently and that they have little or no knowledge about except from movies and commercials.
The analysis of some sides of only two steps of the overall activity in view of the language-culture–meaning and language-culture-thought relationships, prove that the simulation game and the post game activities, such as fill-in-the questionnaire, help students learn the hidden messages words and phrases convey. In addition to this, students acquire knowledge in a simulation-of-a-real situation environment which actively engaged all of them and helped them develop a number of intercultural skills such as knowledge of their own culture (their concepts and behaviours tested in a real situation). The applied interactive methods such as group work led to though modest yet positive development of team building skills, of getting to know and understand each other better.
The fact that such a high percentage of them failed to run the business successfully (87.5%) taught them to try to accept “otherness’, to be more tolerant and less prejudiced as far as popular clichés and easy decisions are concerned. Appendix No 4 gives further details about the collected data and analysis of other aspects included in the questionnaires and charts respectively filled in and compiled by the students.
Let us step aside, muster our courage and take a birds’ eye view of all that was said above. In order to avoid falling prey to not seeing the whole picture, let us go back to the basic features of culture because culture happened to be virtually the middle word in all the issues we’ve been dealing with : Small Culture Approach; Language-Culture-Meaning; Language-Culture-Thought. These are the basic features of culture according to Porter and Samovar:
“Culture is not innate, culture is learned. Culture is transmissible. Culture is dynamic. Culture is selective. The facets of culture are interrelated. Culture is ethnocentric, that is, centered on its own group.”(Porter and Samovar 1994; 12-14)
We can dwell for hours on the fact how many evidences in support of the above statement we can find in the Simulation game and post game activities. Many conclusions may be drawn but the one that should be stated in the first place is this: the analysis covers a very small part of all the possible research work that can be done analyzing the activities.
This leads to the second very important conclusion: in view of conclusion number one, the scope of the drawn conclusions is also limited. However, the analysis of the Simulation game and post game activities gives positive answer to the problem under investigation: the applied interactive methods (group work; simulation game, fill-in-a-questionnaire activity, conducted after the simulation game, for developing students’ critical thinking; discourse) contribute to positive developments with the students: they become more tolerant, less prejudiced, less confined to stereotyping and old conventions; able to make effective decisions, able to accept “otherness” etc.
Apart from achieving the pure cognitive objectives, a certain progress was noticed, though very modest, in the change of students’ behaviours and attitudes such as acknowledging the existence of behaviors and attitudes that entirely differ from theirs.
So the objectives of this research are also met: students develop their cognitive skills; they gained some experience how to act in similar situations, how to make effective decisions, how to express and explain themselves more clearly so that they are not only persuasive but are also convincing .
This paper outlines some essential aspects of Small Culture Approach; the relationship between Language-Culture-Meaning; and the linkage between Language-Culture-Thought, in view of the applied Simulation game and post game activities, and thus modestly diversifies and enriches the interpretation of these issues.
The topic of this paper is: “Some aspects of teaching culture and implementing combined interactive methods in the classroom (built on a simulation game called business maze, and post game activities).
In the introductory part my motivation to choose the topic, the aims and objectives of the thesis, and a short description how the aims and objectives are to be pursued and eventually achieved, are given.
In the chapter called “Theoretical background” a review is made on the following theoretical issues: teaching culture with an emphasis on the small culture approach; the language-culture-meaning relationship, pointing out what conveys meaning, the concept-word link, and the relationship between language and context. The language-culture-thought connection is the axis around which revolve the other reflections on the teaching culture process chosen to be investigated. The theoretical part puts two other emphases: on the aspects of the aims of cultural training after Kirsten Jaeger, and simulation games as a training tool.
In the third chapter under the title “Methodology of the research” some key concepts in action research such as reliability, validity, population and sample are tackled, as are some key approaches in action research – qualitative-quantitative; introspective-empirical; individual-collaborative; complementary-intrusive (questionnaires, interviews, experiments and observation are potentially intrusive techniques); illuminative-conclusive. Data collection techniques are briefly described and the selected ones to be used are identified.
Chapter four gives an account of the research cycle that goes through four stages: planning, action, observation and reflection. However, its focal point consists in the description of the procedure, the warm up, the work phase, the closing phase and the feedback.
The analysis of the research data and results presented in Chapter five is done in view of the mentioned theoretical background and the methodology given in the respective chapters. The important thing here is that the analysis is based on specific parts of the activities, some of the reflections and contemplations being summarized in Appendix 1 and Appendix 4.
Chapter six sums up the conclusions drawn on the analysis of the previous chapter stressing upon the positive answer to the question under investigation in this research.
The summary provides a concise review of all chapters included in the paper without entering any further details.
The thesis comprises four appendices: the first one exemplifies the small culture approach, the second one is a sample of the questionnaire filled in by the students, the third one is a sample of the chart compiled by them, and the fourth one presents in a tabular form the collected data and their analysis.
The bibliography is complete and includes in alphabetical order all the authors and their works mentioned in the thesis.
1 making it big (here) – an idiom meaning being successful in business and life. This is also the subtitle of the simulation game.
2 Hallowell gives an example with Indians attributing communicational meaning to natural phenomenon like thunder. (Hallowell 1964:64)
Download: Appendix in Adobe .PDF format