Yếu tố văn hóa trong kiểm tra và đánh giá môn học Tiếng Anh

Tóm t t: Cho đến nay, nhiều công trình nghiên cứu khoa học đã cho thấy mối quan hệ khăng khít giữa ngôn ngữ, tư duy và văn hóa. Yếu tố văn hóa đã được bàn luận rất nhiều trong quá trình giảng dạy ngoại ngữ. Tuy nhiên, ở Việt Nam, chúng ta dường như chưa quan tâm đúng mức đến yếu tố này trong kiểm tra đánh giá năng lực ngoại ngữ. Việc kiểm tra đánh giá kết quả và năng lực của người học cũng như cách thức ra đề của giáo viên cũng thể hiện nét văn hóa đặc thù của cộng đồng sử dụng ngôn ngữ đó. Nếu chúng ta quan tâm đến yếu tố văn hóa trong dạy và học tiếng thì chúng ta cũng phải xem xét lại sự ảnh hưởng của yếu tố văn hóa đối với kiểm tra và đánh giá. Bài viết này không đề cập đến các định nghĩa, cách phân loại kiểm tra cũng như các tiêu chí đánh giá mà chỉ nêu lên một số nhận xét về sự ảnh hưởng của yếu tố văn hóa đến chất lượng kiểm tra đánh giá của người dạy va người học tiếng. Bài viết bao gồm 5 phần nội dung là 1. Mối quan hệ giữa ngôn ngữ, văn hóa và tư duy; 2. Yếu tố văn hóa trong nội dung bài kiểm tra; 3. Yếu tố văn hóa trong cách thức chấm bài của giáo viên; 4. Yếu tố văn hóa trong quan niệm kiểm tra, thi cử của người học; 5. Thế nào là xét đến yếu tố văn hóa trong kiểm tra, thi cử tiếng Anh.

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Ti u ban 1: Đào to chuyên ng 64 YẾU TỐ VĂN HÓA TRONG KIỂM TRA VÀ ĐÁNH GIÁ MÔN HỌC TIẾNG ANH Lê Phng Giang Trường Đại học Hà Nội Tóm t t: Cho đến nay, nhiều công trình nghiên cứu khoa học đã cho thấy mối quan hệ khăng khít giữa ngôn ngữ, tư duy và văn hóa. Yếu tố văn hóa đã được bàn luận rất nhiều trong quá trình giảng dạy ngoại ngữ. Tuy nhiên, ở Việt Nam, chúng ta dường như chưa quan tâm đúng mức đến yếu tố này trong kiểm tra đánh giá năng lực ngoại ngữ. Việc kiểm tra đánh giá kết quả và năng lực của người học cũng như cách thức ra đề của giáo viên cũng thể hiện nét văn hóa đặc thù của cộng đồng sử dụng ngôn ngữ đó. Nếu chúng ta quan tâm đến yếu tố văn hóa trong dạy và học tiếng thì chúng ta cũng phải xem xét lại sự ảnh hưởng của yếu tố văn hóa đối với kiểm tra và đánh giá. Bài viết này không đề cập đến các định nghĩa, cách phân loại kiểm tra cũng như các tiêu chí đánh giá mà chỉ nêu lên một số nhận xét về sự ảnh hưởng của yếu tố văn hóa đến chất lượng kiểm tra đánh giá của người dạy va người học tiếng. Bài viết bao gồm 5 phần nội dung là 1. Mối quan hệ giữa ngôn ngữ, văn hóa và tư duy; 2. Yếu tố văn hóa trong nội dung bài kiểm tra; 3. Yếu tố văn hóa trong cách thức chấm bài của giáo viên; 4. Yếu tố văn hóa trong quan niệm kiểm tra, thi cử của người học; 5. Thế nào là xét đến yếu tố văn hóa trong kiểm tra, thi cử tiếng Anh. Abstract: Research done by linguists, sociologists and methodologists has shown that language, thinking and culture are closely interrelated. So far, the cultural aspect of the foreign language teaching and learning process has been greatly discussed. Although testing and evaluation, an important link of the process, have cultural features of the community using the language, insufficient attention has been paid to the incorporation of cultural factors into designing and organizing tests in Vietnam. If we are interested in the cultural aspect of language learning and teaching, we need to examine how culture influences testing and evaluation. In this paper, the writer does not discuss definitions, methods of classifying tests or testing techniques for four skills or language knowledge (grammar, phonetics or vocabulary, etc.). The paper is structured into five parts as follows: 1. The relationship among language, culture and thinking; 2. The cultural factor in the contents of tests and examinations; 3. The cultural factor in organizing and marking tests and exams; 4. The cultural factor in students’ concept of testing and doing exams; 5. What considering cultural issues in English tets and exams means. CULTURAL INFLUENCE ON ENGLISH TESTING AND EVALUATION Introduction Many studies into cross-cultural issues have raised awareness of curriculum designers, writers and teachers to the cultural and social differences across different countries and to how dangerous this breeding ground of mistakes could be. As a result, more attention has been paid to the issue and areas such as sociolinguistics have influenced the field of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). However, in Vietnam, even in universities specializing in foreign studies, pragmatics and sociology have not gained much space in the curriculum in general and appropriate attention has not been paid to the integration of cultural factors into designing and organizing tests and exams in particular. The materials and teaching styles are supposed to focus on language use. Students often face lack of awareness of cultural differences between English speaking countries and Vietnam. In Vietnam, all of the materials being used for teaching and testing are imported and commercially produced Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 65 for large and non-specific international audiences. Therefore, differences in pragmatic and sociolinguistic rules of Vietnamese speakers and English speakers are not explicitly catered for. The seriousness of the problem reinforces the need to share the author’s humble knowledge and experience to persuade people to pay appropriate attention to the cultural issues in English testing and examinations in Vietnam. This paper reviews the current literature on the relationship between culture and language. It consists of five parts. The first part analyzes the relationship among language, culture and thinking. The second part is on the cultural factor in the contents of tests. The third part mentions the cultural factor in test organizing and marking. The fourth part discusses the cultural factor in students’ concept of testing and doing exams. The last part indicates what considering cultural issues in English tests and exams means and gives a conclusion. 1. The relationship among language, culture and thinking. Language, the product of society, has been developed to meet the need for communication and interaction in our human society, and is regarded as a human tool of thinking. Its development has gone parallel with that of mankind. It is a reflection of reality and historical changes and a means of preserving experience, knowledge and customs belonging to mankind from generation to generation. Anyone, who was born and grew up in his mother tongue environment or any community with its own language, is influenced by its lifestyles, ways of thinking and communicating ideas. It is a fact that ways of seeing life and work and dealing with everyday issues represent typically cultural features of a certain community and these facts are reflected in the way people organize thoughts and communicate ideas in writing and speaking in the community of the language. In other words, language, culture and thinking are closely linked. Valdes J.M (1986) viewed these three aspects as three sides of a triangle. Language is not simply dry signs illustrated in the form of texts or sounds we receive through our auditory system, but it conveys many vividly cultural and social meanings. It is a living form and is no longer alive without cultural and social elements. Wardhaugh (1986) asserted that any language research which does not take cultural and social factors into account is one-sided and deviated. Therefore, “when a language learner acquires a language, he also goes native and approaches a new culture.” (Brown, 1991). According to Freeman (1991), if the culture of the L1 learner has a number of similarities to that of the target language, the learner may enjoy many advantages. Also, the bigger the gap between the two cultures is the more difficulties the learner will have. Walscott (1999) indicated that when one has to change his language, it means that he has to change both his culture and himself. It has been shown that when one succeeds in acquiring a language, his cultural identity is more or less assimilated into the culture of the target language. This can be easily understood when we compare advantages and disadvantages for the learner with or without coming into contact with the community of the target language. For this reason, an English test for Vietnamese students studying English in Vietnam has different results as compared with those of the same test applied to Vietnamese students taking English courses of the same level in the USA or Australia. Accordingly, the contents of English tests and exams need to be considered in the aspects as follows. 2. The cultural factor in the contents of tests and examinations Vocabulary is said to comprise the most deeply cultural identity and often go through the most historical changes in the development history of Ti u ban 1: Đào to chuyên ng 66 language. It has kept pace with progress and advances in mankind’s science, civilization and social consciousness. Comparing today’s modern English dictionaries with the old ones in the past, we will recognize the expansion of copious vocabulary. On the other hand, words and expressions have changed their meanings with time. Thus, if the learner can not keep himself up- to-date with changes in the target language or be exposed to the culture of its community, he may misunderstand the usage of spoken and written words and expressions of the target language. Take the survey into the problems of foreign students with TOEFL as an example, many experts of testing institutions in the USA received overseas students’ mail complaining about their difficulties in the ways of communicating ideas and thinking through the usage of language in American style rather than about such problems with language aspects as grammar and phonetics. Apparently, this is not only a language barrier but a cultural obstacle for candidates as well. Candidates may get confused when there are too many slangs, idioms, dialects or jargons in the English test and there are no equivalents in their mother tongue. In addition, the organizations of ideas and the presentation of arguments bear clearly cultural imprints as language, culture and thinking are inseparable. If not familiar with native ways of thinking and communicating ideas, candidates may not be able to answer the questions like “What is the writer’s purpose?”, What can be inferred from the passage?” or “What is the writer’s attitude?”. In general, if we have clear statistics, we will learn that students often have more problems with vocabulary usage and writing in native speakers’ style than phonetics and grammar because these are less changeable. For instance, supposing that there are no contexts and situations, students may not be familiar with the informal and liberal style Americans use in their conversations. A student might not fully understand the meaning of the expression “no way” even though he can hear it clearly in a listening American –English test. Only by observing the style of American communication, especially among university students, can we discover that this expression is very common in an informal conversation and has similar meanings like “wait for it’, “come back next year”, “do not jump to conclusions”, ect. Although hearing expressions clearly, students still might be too confused to choose the right answer to express the speaker’s attitude. Valdes (1994) and Finguera maintained that English testing and examinations present a bias towards culture and in reality, candidates may face obstacles if they are less exposed to the native speaking environment in the process of language learning. In short, language testing means testing cultural knowledge of the target language. 3. The cultural factor in organizing and marking tests Such testing criteria as reliability, practicality and validity are much spoken of; however, the application of these criteria is inevitably influenced by culture in practice. At present, the methods of testing and evaluation in Vietnam are still formalistic and tend to focus on marks and scores rather than the quality. Brown (1991) mentioned the influence of cultural differences on studying, diplomas and examinations. For example, in Asian society where collectivism is highly appreciated, certificates, diplomas and degrees serve as a means to gain prestige, reputation or a passport to career opportunities. It is this belief that the aim of testing is to get a diploma or a degree, no matter what its true value is whereas in an individualism society, a diploma merely has a symbolic value and it is the competence that truly matters. This belief has a great impact on the quality of testing and evaluation. In Vietnam, many tests and Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 67 examinations do not really reflect the quality of teaching and learning. They created extrinsic motivation rather than intrinsic motivation for students. Nevertheless, facts have shown that it is the intrinsic motivation that maintains students’ interests, attempts and efforts. Now, the fact that the majority of Vietnamese teachers adopt tests with keys designed by foreign teachers for tests and examinations at their school may create an opportunity for their students to cramp and swot for exams. This may cause their students to assign one another to learn tests by heart and help one another to cheat in exams. There are also problems with marking tests. As achievement test are different from other kinds, these tests must be acceptedly match what has been learnt and taught so that students might be able to overcome their weaknesses and complement their shortcomings. However, most Vietnamese teachers lay an emphasis on marks and often do not analyze whether their tests are good or bad and suitable or not suitable. We should bear in mind that teachers’ feedbacks play an important role in motivating and encouraging students to study with enthusiasm. If inappropriately used, feedbacks may demotivate, discourage or take away their direction and trust in teachers’ assessments. Looking at tests with feedbacks from foreign teachers, we can notice the differences in styles and views, which indicates differences in culture. For example, comments and marks are often written at the end of the exam paper to respect students’ privacy. The results of final exams can be sent directly to students or publicly informed without names being shown or only giving students’ index number or the number on their identity card in order that students may not lose their face or avoid unfavorable and negative comments. Foreign teachers often express their appreciation of students’ ability to think independently and students are believed to take a test or an exam to discuss and exchange ideas with teachers but not to copy teachers’ models. Therefore, in writing and speaking tests, foreign teachers often focus on the content, idea organization, logicality and the overall plan rather than grammatical and phonetic accuracy. Normally, they deal with the mistakes that negatively affect students’ communication skills. As a result of this approach, students can be more relaxed and confident to express their ideas in their exam papers. On the contrary, from the Asian point of view in general and Vietnamese one in particular, teachers are thought to have responsibility for providing models for students. Students expect their teachers to give them speaking and writing models to swot for exams. Because of this belief, it is highly unlikely that students’ creativity and critical thinking will be developed. 4. The cultural factor in students’ concept of testing and doing exams In Vietnam, the most common way of teaching pupils from an early age is listening to teachers’ explanations and hardly ever expressing their own ideas if not asked to do so. Consequently, they may not get used to speaking in public or presenting their own ideas and arguments. For instance, in speaking and writing tests, many students are too afraid and shy to give relevant answers to questions with clarity and they often psychologically fear that they will make mistakes and get low marks since teachers expect more accuracy than fluency. When it comes to the influence of personality factors on the language learning process, Brown (1994) observed that there are more Asian students adopting the strategy of error avoidance than their counterparts in other parts of the world. They feel that they are more likely to be hurt in communication if what they present or write is not Ti u ban 1: Đào to chuyên ng 68 favoured and given high marks. Hence, marks and scores might not truly show students’ communicating competence in the target language. Due to that fact that Vietnamese students have hardly ever got accustomed to communicating ideas in public since an early age, they tend to be nervous, afraid and stressful in oral exams, especially the exams organized, supervised and judged by foreign examiners in which problems like cheating and helping each other to cheat are more unlikely to happen. It is crucial to stress that the English language that both Vietnamese teachers and students speak or write is an interlanguage, the result of our mother tongue coming into contact with one or more varieties of English (British-American English, Australian-English.etc.) and to create Vietlish. This interlanguage is also the result of cultural contacts and assimilation. Schuman (1982) believed that the creation and development of this interlanguage is a process in which students get adapted to aculturation in the target language. If the language learner does not live in a native speaking environment, there is slight possibility that the mother tongue will be assimilated. Actually, the development process of interlanguage, which is called “enculturation”, takes place more slowly. On condition that both teachers and learners are rarely exposed to authentic English, it might be hard for their language to be highly developed. In practice, Vietnamese teachers can understand what our students say and write because we share the first language, ways of thinking and culture, but our assessment of the “so-called English” or “interlanguage” mentioned above might be limited due to the lack of objectivity. 5. What considering cultural issues in tests and examinations means As discussed and analyzed above, English testing assesses not only language levels of proficiency but also cultural knowledge of the target language. In the language learning process, if the learner does not pay attention to cultural factors shown through the usage of idioms, phrases, simile, metaphors, metonymy or communicating ideas in native style, he will probably have trouble in doing tests and exams. The most ideal condition to enable the learner to be aware of cultural influence on tests and exams is the required coordination between the teacher and the test designer to identify what language level of proficiency the learner is at and how sensitive he is to culture. If a native teacher with a great deal of experience in EFL and a good understanding of the learner’s culture designs and selects tests and exams which are culturally suitable for the learner, the result will definitely be very satisfactory. Because tests and exams designed by foreigners or native speakers do not mention which culture candidates belongs to, the organizer, the examiner or the judge has to anticipate candidates’ sensitivity to cultural differences when using them. For example, Vietnamese candidates might be puzzled when asked to discuss the advantages of using a credit card and a traller’s cheque as they are less familiar with this concept. Besides, in everyday practice, teachers should incorporate culture into lessons and discuss cultural questions relating to the cultural usage of expressions and idioms so as to make it possible for students to explore and discover the cultural characteristics in the target language and help improve their language sensation. Teachers themselves should analyze mistakes in the exam in a proper way. According to Corder (1993), making errors and mistakes is a a natural phenomenon and inevitable in the development process of acquiring interlanguage of students and it should be noted that mistakes in communication due to misusing contexts and misunderstanding cultural and social meanings are truly serious. Only by trying these approaches, can Chin lc ngoi ng trong
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