Importance of Cultural Competence Development in Training Pre-service Teachers of Foreign Languages
AbstractTeaching and learning a foreign language is incomplete and inaccurate without the study of culture. For learners, language studies seem senseless if they know nothing about the people who speak the target language or the country in which the target language is spoken. By failing to draw students’ attention to the cultural elements and to discuss their implications, teachers allow misconceptions to develop in students’ minds. Therefore, realizing it or not, language teachers cannot avoid conveying impressions of another culture: language cannot be separated from the culture in which it is embedded. For both scholars and teachers, cultural competence, i.e. the knowledge of the conventions, customs and beliefs of another country, skills and abilities to interpret and relate one’s native and foreign cultures, as well as provide critical judgment, is indisputably an integral part of foreign language teaching and learning, and many teachers see it as their goal to incorporate the cultural dimension into the foreign language curriculum. Hence, the article focuses on the importance of developing the cultural competence of pre-service teachers of foreign languages. With this aim, a research was conducted in spring and autumn 2013 and involved a sample of 504 students of foreign languages of five Lithuanian universities: Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, Vilnius University, Šiauliai University, Vytautas Magnus University and Klaipėda University. The questionnaire consisted of several sections, which aimed at identifying the current level of the cultural competence of pre-service teachers of foreign languages, namely their knowledge about culture in general and country-specific culture facts, emotions evoked by different cultural events, abilities and experience of functioning in different cultural environments, as well as other factors determining their cultural competence.
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