PART A. INTRODUCTION I. RATIONALE: In the light of Communicative Language Teaching, language is taught for but communication. In other words, to teach language is to provide learners with communicative competence, by which Richards et al. (1992:65) means “the ability not only to apply grammatically correct sentences but also know when and where to use the sentences and to whom”. Sharing the same point of view, Saville-Troike (1982) believes that linguistic knowledge, interactional skills, and cultural knowledge are all essential components of communication that must ultimately be accounted for in order to communicate appropriately.
However, the teaching and learning of English in Vietnam are more or less under the influence of the traditional ways of teaching and learning language, which mainly focused on the development of linguistic competence – lexis, grammatical rules, vocabulary, and pronunciation. Meanwhile, little attention has been paid to oral skills and even less to cultural aspects. This leads to a fact that Vietnamese learners of English, though they have fairly good knowledge of linguistic competence, usually find themselves unable to communicate in a natural way or face up with communication breakdown in the target language, especially with native speakers of English. Moreover, it is the lack of the target language culture and cultural differences that lead Vietnamese learners of English experience culture shock in every aspect of cross-cultural communication. Therefore, learners must have mutual understandings and awareness of cultural differences to be successful cross-cultural communicators.
Of the universal human speech acts, criticism is a subtle one, a high face-threatening act in communication, especially in intercultural communication. In addition, criticisms are socially complex even for for native speakers. Furthermore, many studies regarding the speech act of criticizing have been carried out in different languages and in interlanguage of English learners of different language backgrounds such as House and Kasper (1981), Tracy, Van Dusen, and Robison (1987), Tracy and Eisenberg (1990), Wajnryb (1993, 1995) and Toplak and Katz (2000) and others, but not in Vietnamese. The problems posed for Vietnamese learners of English concerning criticism have not yet been adequately investigated. Therefore, a study on the similarities and differences in giving criticism in English and Vietnamese cultures through verbal cues is believed to be of great importance and significance. The findings from the research would partly help teachers and learners of English, especially Vietnamese learners of English, avoid miscommunication, hence cultural shock and communication breakdown.
II. AIMS OF THE STUDY: The research is intended to thoroughly contrast verbal criticism in English and Vietnamese from cultural perspective, thus partly helping to increase the awareness of the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese cultures in giving criticisms. To achieve this overall purpose, the study aims at:
Describing and classifying the criticizing strategies in English and Vietnamese.
Comparing and contrasting different strategies employed by Vietnamese and English people when they give criticism in their own language and culture.
Studying how culture exerts its influence on English and Vietnamese in giving criticism.
III. SCOPE OF THE STUDY: For the limited time and scope, paralinguistic (speech, tone, and pitch) and extralinguistic (facial expression, eye contact, postures, orientation, proximity, movement, clothing artifacts etc.) factors, important though they obviously are and the author is well aware of, play a vital part of effective interpersonal communication in accompanying and amending the spoken word(s), the study is only confined to the verbal aspect of the speech act of giving criticism.
Secondly, to raise learner’s awareness of the wide application of criticizing strategies, the data used for illustration and exemplification are taken mainly from short stories and novels in English and Vietnamese. The collection of the data in this ways brings us some convenience for the contrastive study: it yields a wide range of strategies, used by people from different cultures in different situations, which a questionnaire or an interview, highly or to some extent controlled, would not have offered.
Finally, by English, the author means the English language as a mother tongue; no distinction will be made between American English, British English, Australian English and so on.
IV. METHODOLOGY: Since the main purpose of the study is to compare and contrast verbal expressions in giving criticism in English and Vietnamese, the result of which will be exploited for language learning and teaching; therefore, describing, comparing and contrastive analysis prove to be the best candidates of all. Thus, the thesis will be oriented in the following steps:
identify strategies of criticism in both English and Vietnamese stories in the source of books.
classify them into sub-strategies.
describe them in each language to find out the typical features of each sub-strategies.
analyse, compare, and contrast criticizing strategies based on the cultural features in two languages to point out the basic similarities and differences in this aspect.
reach the comments and conclusions on the subject under research.
make some necessary pedagogical suggestions.
In order to facilitate the process of doing the comparison and best exploit our knowledge of English language, most the the description in this work is based towards English and Engilsh is considered as the basic language and Vietnamese as the comparative language. Source of samples of data: The corpus with 1,100 examples will be collected from selected English, American, Newzealand and Australian short stories and novels and from Vietnamese short stories in early years of 19th century and modern ones before and after 1945. The information about the source of the data is given in parentheses.
V. LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY: This study certainly has some limitations.
The research cannot include the paralinguistic and non-linguistic aspects due to the limit of time, which will certainly limit the authenticity of the data and then the pragmatic effect of the expected results. Secondly, the data in this study are taken from a number of short stories and novels in English and Vietnamese, thus this reveals the disadvantage of missing suprasegmental features such as stress and intonation. In addition, this research is carried out by a non-native speaker of English, so there must be a lack of native linguistic sensitivity in analyzing.
In view of these limitations, the research can only be regarded as a preliminary study and any conclusions are tentative.
VI. RESEARCH DESIGN:
As for the design of the study, it is composed of three main parts:
Part A - Introduction - introduces the rationale, scope, aims and methodology of the study as well as the way to collect the data.
Part B - Development - consists of three chapters. They are:
Chapter I encompasses the relationship between language and culture, the notions of speech acts, theories of politeness, as well as the aspects of C.A. in culture, which are relevant to the purpose of the study.
Chapter II investigates the similarities and differences in the criticism strategies in English and Vietnamese. In this chapter, what is meant by criticizing in this study is taken into account. Then the criticism strategies as well as the criticism modifiers in the two languages will be described, compared, and contrasted.
Chapter III deals with, on the basis of the previous chapter, the implications to the teaching of the criticism strategies in English to the Vietnamese learners of English from a socio-cultural perspective.
Part C – Conclusion – draws conclusions of the study and proposes some suggestions for further research.
PART B. DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER I. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
This chapter reviews the theories and literature relevant to the topic under investigation in the present study. The first two sections mention to contrastive analysis (I.1) and the relationship of language and culture (I.2). The final two sections offer two linguistic notions: speech acts (I.3) and politeness (I.4).
I.1. CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS (C.A.)
Contrastive Analysis dates back to the 1950s when it was first developed and practiced as an application of structural linguistics to language teaching. As regards its definition James, C. (1980: 3) declares:
“Contrastive Analysis is a linguistic enterprise aimed at producing inverted (i.e. contrastive, not comparative) two-valued typologies (a C.A. is always concerned with a pair of languages), and founded on the assumption that languages can be compared.”
(Carl Jame, 1980: 3)
James also claims that there are three branches of two-valued (two languages are involved) interlingual linguistics: translation theory – which is concerned with the process of text conversion; error analysis; and contrastive analysis – these last two having as the object of enquiry the means whereby a monolingual learns to be bilingual. Among these branches of linguistics, C.A seems to be the most effective way in comparing between the first language and the second language as well as a pairs of languages foreign language learners are learning.
Hence, in the preface of his book Contrastive Analysis, Carl James (1980) states,
“In the heyday of structural linguistics and the pattern practice language teaching methodology which derived insights and justification from such an approach to linguistic description, nothing seemed of greater potential value to language teachers and learners than a comparative and contrastive description of the learner’s mother tongue and the target language.”
(In the Introduction of Contrastive Analysis by Carl James, 1980)
Contrastive analysis is defined, according to James (1980), as a form of interlanguage study and a central concern of applied linguistics. As a matter of fact, C.A. has had much to offer not only to practical language teaching, but also to translation theory, the description of particular languages, language typology and the study of language universals. In relation to bilingualism, C.A. is concerned with how a monolingual becomes bilingual; in other words, it is concerned with the effects exerted by the first language (L1) on the foreign language being learnt (L2). Thus, C.A has been a preferable method used by Vietnamese linguists in recent years as it enables them to contrast Vietnamese with other languages not only of the same typologies, but also of different ones. It also helps bring out many interesting differences and similarities between languages, which make a great contribution to lightening the language teaching and learning burden.
It has been suggested that there are two kinds of C.A.: theoretical and applied ones. According to Fisiak et al (cited by James, C., 1980:142), theoretical C.As. “do not investigate how a given category present in language A is presented in language B. Instead they look for the realization of a universal category X in both A and B.” Meanwhile, applied C.As. are “preoccupied with the problem of how a universal category X, realized in language A as Y, is rendered in language B.” That means applied C.As are unindirectional whereas theoretical C.As. are static, because they do not need to reflect any directionality of learning, which is illustrated in the following diagram:
A B A(Y) B(?)
Theoretical C.AsApplied C.As
Figure1. Theoretical C.As and Applied C.As
As James (1980: 142-143) states, applied C.As. are interpretations of theoretical C.As. rather than independent executions, since an applied C.A. executed independently is liable to lose its objectivity; that is, its predictions will tend to be based on teachers’ experience of learners’ difficulties rather than derived from linguistic analysis.
Mentioning to learning theory, particularly the theory of “transfer”- a term used by psychologists in their account of the way in which present learning is affected by past learning, Lado (1957: 2) states,
“... individuals tend to transfer the forms and meanings and the distribution of forms and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign language and culture – both productively when attempting to speak the language and to act in the culture, and receptively when attempting to grasp and to understand the language and culture as practiced by natives.” In fact, there are two types of transfer, namely “positive transfer” (or “facilitation”) and “negative transfer” (or “interference”), which may occur during the process of learning language by learners who have already attained considerable degrees of competence in their first language:
- “Positive transfer” (or “facilitation”): the transfer makes learning easier and may
occur when both the first language and second language have similar features.
- “Negative transfer” (or “interference”): the constraint of L1 or the borrowing of a
first language pattern or rule leads to an error or appropriate form in the foreign
Therefore, to gain the effective teaching and learning of the L2, it is necessary for teachers to recognize the potential transfer problem areas and integrate strategies that would help the learner to overcome difficulties and to avoid errors attributed to these transfer problem areas.
Considering that learning difficulty and differences between L1 and L2 are directly and proportionally related, Lado, R. (1957: 1-2) suggests, “the student who comes in contact with a foreign language will find some features of it quite easy and others extremely difficult. Those elements that are similar to his native language will be simple for him and those elements that are different will be difficult.”
However, Whitman and Jackson (cited by James, C., 1980: 188) argues that “relative similarity, rather than difference, is directly related to levels of difficulty.” What is more, Lee (cited by James, C., 1980) concludes that “different” or “exotic” languages may not be difficult to learn, for L1 and L2 are so far apart that there is a very little or no L1 interference. Supporting that point of view, Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis claimed that the principal barrier to second language acquisition is the interference of the first language systems with the second language system and that a scientific, structural analysis of the two languages in question will yield a taxonomy of linguistic contrasts between them which in turn would enable linguists to predict the difficulties a learner would encounter.
Apart from that, human learning theories highlighted interfering elements of learning, concluding that where no interference could be predicted, no difficulty would be experienced since one could transfer positively all other items in a language. Lado, R. (1957: vii) in the preface to his book “Linguistics Across Culture”, says: “The Plan of the book rests on the assumption that we can predict and describe the patterns that will cause difficulties in learning, and those that will not cause difficulty by comparing systematically the language and the culture to be learned with the native language and culture of the students.” Then in Chapter One of the book, he continues: “... in the comparison between native and foreign languages lies in the key to ease or difficulty in foreign language learning.”
Hence, it is widely agreed that comparison of cultures is considered as an integral part of contrastive linguistics and of the language learning and teaching.
As Lado (1957, cited in Valdes, 1986) notes, when comparing two cultures we must be very careful in the generalisations we make and be prepared to revise or change these generalisations as our understanding of another culture develops. However, generalisations are flexible and change over time with our experiences (Clarke and Clarke 1990, 34). Therefore, we should ignore other aspects of culture such as gender, class, or ethnicity, and Kramsch (1993, 49) urges to consider this range of diversity within culture when teaching cultures. However, our view of culture has broadened to include a more interpretive approach towards culture (Kramsch 1993, 24). Instead of just being concerned with the facts of one culture the emphasis has moved towards interpreting culture based on cross-cultural understanding, involving comparisons and contrasts with a learners' native culture and the culture of the language they are studying (see Valdes 1986). Dunnet et. al. suggest six aspects of culture that learners and teachers should be familiar with:
(1) Languages cannot be translated word-for-word … (2) The tone of a speaker's voice (the intonation pattern) carries meaning… (3) Each language-culture employs gestures and body movements which convey meaning… (4)…languages use different grammatical elements for describing all parts of the physical world. (5) All cultures have taboo topics… (6) In personal relationships, the terms for addressing people vary considerably among languages. (1986, 148-149)
Therefore, teachers and learners should be aware of these features and be prepared to analyse both their own culture and the target culture according to such criteria.
I.2. LANGUAGE AND CULTURE
I.2.1. The relationship of language and culture: Language, according to “Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary” (1992: 506), is defined as “systems of sounds, words, patterns, etc. used by humans to communicate thoughts and feeling”. Crystal (1992: 212) also shares this definition of language when the researcher considers language as “the systematic, conventional use of sounds, signs, or written symbols in a human society for communication and self-expression”. Thus, language is one of the highest and the most amazing product of human being that helps distinguish them from other creatures and that serves the main purpose of communication.
Language, according to Kramsch (1998:3), is “the principle means whereby we conduct our social lives”. That means language is considered as the medium through which a culture is reflected. That point of view is also shared by Saville-Troike (1982; 35), which says, “there is a correlation between the norm and content of a language and the beliefs, values and needs present in the culture of its speaker”. In addition, sharing with Brown’s and Saville-Troike’s idea about the relationship between language and culture, Kramsch in his book Language and Culture (1998) emphasizes this correlation by presenting three functions of language related to culture:
Language expresses cultural reality
Language embodies cultural reality.
Language symbolizes cultural reality.
Therefore, it is widely believed that the correlation between language and culture is obviously undeniable.
What can be derived from the above discussions is the relationship between language and culture. In order to make this interrelation more explicit, it is necessary to clarify what we mean by culture.
Culture is so popular a notion in our daily life that many researchers have defined it in many ways.
According to Veresiaghin, Kostomarov (1990), “culture” is considered as a social phenomenon, which consists of both material and spiritual values. In other words, there are two catergories of culture “tangible culture” (architectual buildings, costumes and the art of food…) and “invisible culture” (folk songs, festivals …). Whereas, others hold the idea that “culture” is limited to products of culture which include visible expressions and invisible patterns –the hidden ones. Therefore, culture in this point of view also refers to the often hidden patterns of human interactions, expressions and viewpoints that people in one culture share. Because of its submergence, it is difficult for most people to realize cultures deeply and encounter in communication.
When defining the notion of culture, Goodenough (1981; in Wardhaugh, 1991: 217) affirms, “Culture is a sort of knowledge which everyone must possess to function within a society.” What is more, “culture is everything that people have, think and do as a member of a society” (Gary Ferrando, 1996; in Quang, N., 2005: 38). It can be interpreted from these points of view that culture is the knowledge of patterns (models/ schemes/ behaviors) learned and shared by a set of people in a community and that the process related to the products of culture and the dynamic factors of the creations of cultural products are paid more attention.
Culture is also defined as ‘human’s behaviors’ by another group of researchers, who emphasize on the mechanisms of human’s behaviors. One of the typical definitions of ‘culture’ related to human’s behaviors is Clinfford Geertz’s (1973: 383), in which culture is:
The total way of life of a person.
The social legacy that individual acquires from his group.
The way of thinking, feeling and believing.
An abstraction from behavior.
A theory on the part of the anthropologist about the way in which a group of people in fact behave.
A store house of pooled learning.
A set of standardised orientation, to recurrent problems.
In addition, sharing the idea about the influence of culture on people’s behaviors, Seelye (in Fantini, A.E., 1997: 23) has his own definition:
“Culture is the systematic, rather arbitrary, more or less coherent, group-invented, and group-shared creed from the past that defines the shape of “reality” and assigns the sense and worth of things; it is modified by each generation and in response to adaptive pressures; it provides the code that tells people how to behave predictably and acceptably, the cipher that allows them to derive meaning from language and other symbols, the map that supplies the behavial options for satisfying human needs”. Parson, T. (1949: 8) also argues, “Culture … consists in those patterns relative to behavior and the products of human action…” Thus, “culture” influences behaviors and it is structured system of patterned behavior. (Lado, R., 1957:110)
Laying the emphasis on the invisible and non-natural aspect of “culture”, a number of researchers consider “culture” as the products of “consciousness” and “behavior”. One representative of this group, Levin and Adelman (1993: XVIII) states,
“Culture is a shared background resulting from a common language and communication style, customs, beliefs, attitudes and values”. Richards et al (in Clyne, 1996: 94) shares the same idea with Levine and Adelman’s and Banks et al’s (1989 :72) when he defines “Culture is a total set of belief, attitudes, customs, behaviors, and social habits.” Culture, according to Redder and Rehbein (1980; in Clyne, 1996), is “an ensemble of social experiences, thought structures, expectations, and practices of action, which has the quality of a “mental apparatus”. Moreover, “culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguished the members of one group or category of people from another” (Hofstede, 1984: 22).
In short, learning about cultures is absolutely enriching. The more one knows others, the more she sees her own culture more clearly. Therefore, Quang, N. (2005:5) states, “by learning about contrast, we can better understand how cultures influence individuals and their communication with others”.