Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cultural Schemata and Reading Comprehension

Nowadays, I really interest in schemata theory and as an EFL teacher candidate, I think that our job is more difficult than ESL teacher, because we are going to teach English in a different country whose customs are different than English spoken countries.Unfortunately, generally text books are published in England or in USA so the culture is effected by them.For example, in Turkey when students read a passage about football.Their cultural schemata  is lead them to sport which is playing with feet and as a rule there shouldn't be force but if this text was written by American author, he was write about football which is required to be harsh and catch the ball with hands. He probably doesn't mean  soccer. So, Cultural schemata is really difficult subjects for teachers especially EFL teacher. It is  totally abstract process which is occurred in student's brain


  1. Yes, this is an interesting issue. Nowadays, with globalization and mass media, one could assume that there aren't many 'unknowns' in terms of cultural schemata. However, this is a good example (extract copied from Wikipedia) where an innocent act had very serious ramifications:

    "Ms. Gibbons, a British school teacher, left Liverpool, England in August 2007 to teach a group of six and seven year olds at Unity School in Khartoum, Sudan. Shortly after her arrival, Ms. Gibbons class was due to study the habitat and behavior of bears. Upon her request, a student brought in a teddy bear to serve as a case study. Students were invited to vote on a name for the bear. After considering the names Abdullah and Hassan, 20 of the 23 children voted in favor of the name Muhammad. What seemed like a harmless children’s learning tool took a turn for the worse on November 25, 2007, when Ms. Gibbons was arrested at her home inside the school premises; Sudanese police claimed a number of parents complained to Sudan’s Ministry of Education about the bear. Charges against Ms. Gibbons were prepared under article 125 of Sudanese criminal law which covers insults against faith and religions. Ms Gibbons’ particular crime: insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. In Islam, insulting the Prophet Muhammad is considered a grave offense. Ms. Gibbons’ was held in a Khartoum jail facing a maximum penalty of 40 lashes and 6 months in jail. Ms. Gibbons was found guilty of insulting Islam and sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation from Sudan after her release. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir granted her a pardon after she served nine days in jail due to pressure from the British government. She immediately returned to England upon her release. While colleagues, friends, and family regarded the whole situation as a misunderstanding, many local Sudanese disagreed. Hundreds of protestors gathered outside of the presidential palace to denounce Ms. Gibbons. Some protestors waved ceremonial swords, some voiced anger at the Sudanese government for not treating her more severely, some distributed leaflets which condemned her as an infidel and accused her of polluting children’s mentality by her actions. At the edge of extreme were those who called for her execution (BBC News, 2007; CNN, 2007; New York Times, 2007; TIME, 2007; Times Online, 2007). This highly publicized incident can be explained quite well by the Cultural Schema Theory, particularly by discussing Ms. Gibbons’ status as a sojourner in an unfamiliar culture. Axiom number three and axiom number nine apply quite well to Ms. Gibbons. As a sojourner, the acquisition of host culture PSI schemas would be necessary in order for the sojourner’s cross-cultural adaptation to occur. Ms. Gibbons may have lived in Sudan, but she lived inside the walls of Unity School. According to BBC News (2007), once inside the walls of Unity School one would think s/he was at standing on the grounds of an Oxbridge University. This private school with children of well-to-do parents is much different than the rest of Sudan. Ms. Gibbons did not need to acquire the PSI schemas of the host culture because her native PSI schemas worked equally well inside the walls of Unity School. Had Ms. Gibbons been constantly made aware of the local PSI schemas (naming an animal after the Prophet Muhammad is unacceptable) she may have adapted and not allowed the children to name the teddy bear Muhammad. Naming a teddy bear was not a novel situation to her as a children’s school teacher, but she was not in England. After the bear’s naming she certainly encountered a novel situation where she experienced cognitive uncertainty and anxiety because of her lack of the PSI schemas in the situation. Hence the difficulties of cross-cultural adaptation for sojourners like Ms. Gibbons. They do not intend to stay and thus will not adapt/experience the stages of axioms which will best prepare them to appropriately fit in."

  2. I felt sorry for Ms.Gibbons as it is really difficult and time-taking to adapt a new culture. I am taking Sociolingusitics course this term and I have just realized how it is important to knoıw about culture shock stages and know about the new culture you are in, in order to have a healthy communication with people. As we will become teachers, we will have to know the cultural values behind the language if we want to teach it properly.