Literary work: a medium to cross-cultural understanding and communication

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Literary work: a medium to

cross-cultural understanding

and communication

Within the workshop:

The role of literary work in teaching and learning


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Literary work : What is it ? 3. What is culture ?

4. What is communication ?

5. What does cross-cultural communication mean ?

6. Literary work in English: cross-cultural communication ? 7. Two examples: The Kite Runner and Corruption







1. Impossible to divorce from culture of language we are teaching

2. English is “globalized,” inc. through literary work in various types of English: cultural influence from location creates differences Speech (English), like behavior, is influenced by social variables

3. English words have cultural connotations


2. Literary work : definition


Prose, drama, novels, essays, short stories, plays, etc.,



8. Literary works in the classroom

• Material presenting issues important for that culture (to learn the appropriate

vocabulary), ex.: books of Pramoedya Ananta Toer

• Purpose: learners link the values


3. What is culture ?

• Def.: “The total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action.” Collins English Dictionary



Culture and traditional beliefs

• Local traditional practices dealt with rulers, authority, power, different ethnic groups, and languages.

• Earlier traditions are better than present values. (Golden Age of Rome, Renaissance…) Local values are retained. Whoever tries to reject, let alone, destroy them, risks sanctions by cultural authority. Whoever destroys local values will be excluded from the culture that dominates.


• Community links based on shared past, a shared tribe, a shared nation and ethnic groups, and religious or educational background. People with different bases are not trusted as they are beyond this community.


4. What is communication?

• Def.: “The imparting of exchange of information” Collins English Dictionary

Communication occurs between two agents. • It is a two-way process. It is the result of

negotiation of meaning

– One person sends a message


9 between culture and communication




Theory of communication

Communication is radically different from culture

1. Culture is turned to the past



Communication and


• Communication encourages people to work together

• Relationship based on mutual trust (from other ethnic group or religious background). (cities)

• A negotiation process promotes equality, and justice. Negotiation is supported based on the current and future needs. (uprooting, America)

• The past is not seen as the best of times. Present and future are opportunities to improve. One group of people is not higher than the others…. Trust between people and group becomes an objective, as opposed to links based on the past.


5. What does cross-cultural

communication mean?

• It is an exchange of information between individuals from two different cultures

• The sender of information is active, and the receiver is also active, as he or she interprets the information according to his or her own experience, background,



Words need to be learnt

in a context, in a cultural and

geographical environment

• What is a “nice” café?

• What is an “ideal” dog?

• What is a “beautiful” house?


6. Literary work in English:

a cross-cultural communication

• A communication tool: As a medium, literary work is a bridge between the writer and the reader, 2 cultures • Ex: books by Indian authors, Japanese authors,

Indonesian authors

• Using literary work encourages cross-cultural communication



Literary work addresses

global / human issues

• Relationships

between individuals • Outlook on society • Spiritual issues

• Gender issues

• Environmental issues • Morality

• Class / hierarchy issues


7. Two examples

1. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Pulitzer Price



7.1. The Kite Runner : Summary

A well-off boy (the author) in Kabul, Afghanistan, and his friendship with the son of a servant.

How the rich boy failed to protect the poor boy How this experience hauted him well after his

emigration to the United States

Able to escape to Afghanistan, he is however called back to Kabul by his dying uncle


The Kite Runner :

What do we learn ? In Afghanistan

• The historical and geographical context • The classes and their relations

• The symbols, behavior associated with status (impossible for servants to fight back : HR




The Kite Runner :

What do we learn ? In the United States

The pluralism which exists in the US

Please loose their previous status and rebuild a new status based on work


The Kite Runner :

What do we learn ? Back in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is seen through the eyes of a new American

Afghanistan is the old life, the US is the



7.2. Corruption : Summary

A civil servant is happy and proud of his honest life. His spouse and family, however, compare their life with that of other civil servants and

they want to have more money.

Little by little, he enters the spiral of corruption, seduced by his new wealthy lifestyle. He gets more and more caught in the rules of corruption and falls into a spiral of compromises from


Corruption :

What do we learn ?

• The historical and geographical context • The classes and their relations

• The life of civil servants

• The working of a bureaucracy

• The communication approaches in the society described



How to use literary texts in the

English classroom

• Ask students to identify the issues addressed • Ask them to identify vocabulary used

• Use to initiate debates, ask students to

compare the way the issue is addressed here • Look for the values implicit in the text *


Conclusion :

Studying literary work

in the language classroom

• Makes students more aware of belonging to the human civilization as a whole: bridge between cultures

• Makes students more aware of issues important in a specific culture and society

• Enables students to discuss the issues important in that culture (use of voc., ref.)

• Helps students become critical about their own values and other values

• Helps students to learn other cultures, in particular the




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