A Vietnamese – American cross – cultural study of English language teachers’ nonverbal behaviour in INTERACTING WITH THEIR Vietnamese STUDENTS

Since 1986, when the open - door policy and doi moi began to be applied in Vietnam, the country and its people have witnessed significant changes in many aspects of life. People from other countries have started to come in with investments. The presence of multinationals in Vietnam, in particular, has created an appetite for learning English and communicating in the language. In the light of globalization, language and communication cannot be separated from our daily lives (Marley, 2001). It is omnipresent that, in communication, we express our emotions and attitudes more nonverbally than verbally. One study in Anglophone countries showed that in the communication of attitude, 93 percent of the message was transmitted by the tone of the voice and by facial expressions, whereas only seven percent of the speaker’s attitude was transmitted by words. Birdwhistell (1997), who deserves most credit for awakening interest in serious nonverbal studies, has also estimated that at most only about 30 percent of what is communicated in a conversation is verbal. People observe us to see HOW we are saying things and what we are DOING, more than they actually LISTEN to the WORDS used. If we smile, they relax and smile; if we scowl at them, they tense up and become defensive. Likewise, if we stand rigidly behind, tether ourselves to the lectern and scarcely move, they become rigid – physically and mentally. Hence it is safe to assume that non - verbal behaviour is undeniably important in communication, within a culture and across cultures. Considering the facts given above, we can see that in English language classrooms, teachers frequently conduct direct communication, which serves as a fundamental skill not only in university teaching but in real life as well. Among the many direct communication forms, making presentations, delivering speeches and explanations, giving lectures, reports and briefings in class have become a compulsory part of teachers' tasks. Nonverbal behaviour including gesture, posture, facial expression, gaze, and distance is tightly weaved in all these skills. There are various chances or occasions when Vietnamese learners of English are taught by native teachers, and Vietnamese teachers attend or observe their classes. It is for this reason that both Vietnamese learners and teachers of English should develop a thorough understanding of non – verbal behaviour performed by native teachers of English. While a case may be made that they will grasp the meaning and the use of native speakers’ nonverbal behaviour after extensive and prolonged exposure to the target culture, perhaps through immersion in the host culture, this is a luxury enjoyed by only a small minority of language learners and teachers. Most Vietnamese foreign language learners and teachers may never have the chance to observe and absorb the subtle nuances of non - verbal communication at first hand. Therefore, Vietnamese - Anglophone cross – cultural studies of English language teachers’ nonverbal behaviour in interacting with their Vietnamese students appear vital and useful in this way.

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Part I - INTRODUCTION I. Rationale Since 1986, when the open - door policy and doi moi began to be applied in Vietnam, the country and its people have witnessed significant changes in many aspects of life. People from other countries have started to come in with investments. The presence of multinationals in Vietnam, in particular, has created an appetite for learning English and communicating in the language. In the light of globalization, language and communication cannot be separated from our daily lives (Marley, 2001). It is omnipresent that, in communication, we express our emotions and attitudes more nonverbally than verbally. One study in Anglophone countries showed that in the communication of attitude, 93 percent of the message was transmitted by the tone of the voice and by facial expressions, whereas only seven percent of the speaker’s attitude was transmitted by words. Birdwhistell (1997), who deserves most credit for awakening interest in serious nonverbal studies, has also estimated that at most only about 30 percent of what is communicated in a conversation is verbal. People observe us to see HOW we are saying things and what we are DOING, more than they actually LISTEN to the WORDS used. If we smile, they relax and smile; if we scowl at them, they tense up and become defensive. Likewise, if we stand rigidly behind, tether ourselves to the lectern and scarcely move, they become rigid – physically and mentally. Hence it is safe to assume that non - verbal behaviour is undeniably important in communication, within a culture and across cultures. Considering the facts given above, we can see that in English language classrooms, teachers frequently conduct direct communication, which serves as a fundamental skill not only in university teaching but in real life as well. Among the many direct communication forms, making presentations, delivering speeches and explanations, giving lectures, reports and briefings in class have become a compulsory part of teachers' tasks. Nonverbal behaviour including gesture, posture, facial expression, gaze, and distance is tightly weaved in all these skills. There are various chances or occasions when Vietnamese learners of English are taught by native teachers, and Vietnamese teachers attend or observe their classes. It is for this reason that both Vietnamese learners and teachers of English should develop a thorough understanding of non – verbal behaviour performed by native teachers of English. While a case may be made that they will grasp the meaning and the use of native speakers’ nonverbal behaviour after extensive and prolonged exposure to the target culture, perhaps through immersion in the host culture, this is a luxury enjoyed by only a small minority of language learners and teachers. Most Vietnamese foreign language learners and teachers may never have the chance to observe and absorb the subtle nuances of non - verbal communication at first hand. Therefore, Vietnamese - Anglophone cross – cultural studies of English language teachers’ nonverbal behaviour in interacting with their Vietnamese students appear vital and useful in this way. Furthermore, the relationship between the Social Republic of Vietnam and the United States has been enhanced with the expansion of mutual concern whereas failure in communication due to culture shock, cultural conflicts, communication breakdown, etc. has been reported in recent research works. For those reasons stated, ‘a Vietnamese – American cross – cultural study of English language teachers’ nonverbal behaviour in INTERACTING WITH THEIR Vietnamese STUDENTS’ is deemed academically and practically worthwhile. ii. Objectives of the study The research is conducted with the objectives of a. Investigating the frequency of nonverbal behaviour performance of American and Vietnamese teachers of English and specific situations in which teachers use the nonverbal cues in interacting with their Vietnamese students. b. Comparing and contrasting nonverbal behaviour in the two cultures in order to clarify the similarities and differences in the way Vietnamese and American teachers of English perform nonverbal behaviour in interacting with their Vietnamese students, setting forth a number of underlying cultural factors that rule over these similarities and differences as well as the way they affect the English language teaching process in Vietnam in the view of the thesis writer herself. c. Contributing to raising cross – cultural awareness of Vietnamese students and teachers of English of potential areas of culture shock and cross –cultural communication breakdown in interacting with American teachers of English in particular and American communicating partners as a whole. iii. scope of the study The study of the nonverbal behaviour of American and Vietnamese teachers of English is merely confined to classroom interaction with Vietnamese students. American teachers surveyed are those who have been teaching English in Vietnam for a certain amount of time. Vietnamese teachers are all from Division I – English Department - College of Foreign Languages – Vietnam National University. They are equivalently teaching pre – intermediate leveled students. The paper is intended to cover three factors of non – verbal behaviour namely eye contact, posture and distance. The situations to be discussed are the most common and typical ones in classroom setting and they are generalized into the four following situations: You are lecturing on a topic or giving instructions When organizing group - work or pair work for students, you are sitting down with one group or one pair and joining the activity they are doing Students do not understand your points and raise questions Students are doing their presentations iv. methodology The major method to be employed is quantitative. Additionally, contrastive analysis is used. All the considerations, comments and conclusions in the thesis are therefore largely based on the following methods: Reference to relevant home and foreign publications in both primary and secondary research, Survey questionnaires, Statistics, descriptions, and analysis of the collected and selected data, Personal observations and experience, Consultations with supervisor, Discussions with Vietnamese and foreign colleagues. v. Design of the study This study consists of three major parts. Part I: Introduction I. Rationale II. Aims of the study III. Scope of the study IV. Methodology V. Design of the study Part II: Development Chapter I: Theoretical Preliminaries Chapter II: Nonverbal Behaviour in Focus Chapter III: Research Design Chapter IV: Data Analysis and Findings Part III: CONCLUSION I. Summary of main findings II. Implications for the avoidance of culture shock and cross – cultural communication breakdown III. Suggestions for further research Part II - Development CHAPTER 1 - THEORETICAL PRELIMINARIES 1.1. Culture 1.1.1. What Culture?  In considering the term Culture, scholars and linguists have based their conclusions on many different criteria and arrived at different definitions which can be classified into one group or more. To a language teacher and in this thesis also, theories and definitions of culture which identify culture on grounds of establishing and emphasizing on one or more constituting factors of culture itself are believed to be the fittest working definitions because they illustrate the relationship among social members or social groups, their communication and behaviour. In the first place, UNESCO (1996:108) launches the formal definition focusing on the character of culture as follows ‘Culture is a set of symbolic systems which regulate the behaviour and enable the mutual communication of a plurality of people, establishing them into particular and instinct community.’ Perception CULTURE Ferrando (1996:18) considers Culture according to the nature of human beings’ possession, perception and action: Culture is everything that one has, thinks, and does as a member of a society. Possession Realization Figure 1 - 1. Ferrando’s definition of culture Levine and Adelman (1993:58), on the other hand, look at the visible and invisible nature of constituting factors of culture. The definition they put forth may be the most imaginative definition of all. In their view, as for an iceberg, we can hardly see most of the influence of culture on an individual. The risen part of culture is not always which that causes difficulties in cross – culture; the hidden aspects of culture exert meaningful influences on one’s behaviour and interaction with others. Food Appearance Language Values Beliefs Customs Perceptions Attitudes Communication style Traditions Taboos Figure 1 - 2. Levine and Adelman’s definition of culture As a matter of fact, various definitions of culture reflect different theoretical concepts of what culture is. It is, however, necessary for the researcher to adopt one that best guide her study. Therefore, the thesis author finds the definition offered by Sikkema and Niyekawa (1987: 27) useful because of its influence on communication. Culture is defined as the sum of total ways of living, including values, beliefs, esthetic standards, linguistic expressions, patterns of thinking, behaviour norm and style of communication which a group of people has developed to assure its survival in a particular physical and human environment. A number of researchers, for example, Robinson (1985: 9) and Samovar, Porter and Stefani (1997: 36) also share their view when they hold that culture is a concept referring to ways of acting, believing, valuing and thinking which are shared by members of a community (social group) and which are transmitted to the next generation. When people of a community communicate with people of other cultures, their culture will shape the communication. It can be seen from the definition that culture is viewed as a process of transaction rather than as a body of facts, which puts forth a convincing argument for introducing culture into second, or foreign language learning. The writer is personally interested in this definition as among different cultural descriptions, those factors clearly shown to affect intercultural and cross - cultural communication are absolutely the main concerns of classroom practices in second and foreign language. 1.1.2. Characteristics of Culture It is undoubted that there are various ways in identifying the characteristics of culture. However, most researchers including Nguyen Quang (forthcoming: 19) generally agree on the six - characteristics paradigm as follows. Culture is not innate, but a product of the process of acquisition Culture is able to be propagated widely Culture is dynamic Culture is optional Culture is a perfect whole with intertwined and related factors. Culture is ethnocentric 1.1.3. Place of Culture in English Language Teaching in Vietnam As mentioned from the very beginning of the research, English has regained its position of importance from Russian and French after suffering years of neglect. English schools and centres have been mushrooming all over the country, especially in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the two most populous cities in Vietnam. In the light of globalisation, language and culture cannot be separated from our daily lives (Marley, 1996:17). It is also undeniable that language plays an essential role in the perpetuation of culture (Kramsch, 2000:52). Therefore, an overview of how cultural factors affect the learning and teaching of English in Vietnam should undoubtedly be included in this research. Towards this end, the influence of Confucianism and more modern philosophies needs to be investigated to get a picture of the classroom culture in which the target language is taught and learnt, as language needs to be understood within the particular context in which it is used (Pennycook, 1997:35). To elaborate on the current situation of learning and teaching English, the thesis author will address two issues concerning the effects of Confucianism: the traditional method of teaching and the implementation of communicative language teaching (CLT). The Vietnamese people have a long tradition of appreciation of educational achievements. However, Tong (2000:46) points out that the remaining traditions do not always represent the most beautiful aspects of the people but may contain elements to hinder progress and create inappropriate attitudes toward improvement. One aspect of this tradition is reflected in the hierarchy of both the society and education systems. The highest institute of education is the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), which decides all the activities of the whole education system. School authorities, teachers and students have almost no power at all. Their success is usually assessed by the results of exams and passing exams shows their mastery of knowledge. Respect paid to teachers is another piece of evidence of how Confucianism has left its stamp on classroom culture. Phuoc (1975, cited in Ellis, 1995:10) notes that ‘the Confucian model is teacher – centered, closed, suspicious of creativity, and predicated on an unquestioning obedience from the students.’ The compulsory book recitation in the old days accounts for the popularity of the translation and grammar method in learning and teaching English today. Ellis (1995:58) writes that teaching and learning styles are mainly decided by the value orientations of a particular society. He believes that communicative activities, unfamiliar to Vietnamese learners, may not be welcome. Other researchers, such as Le (1999:69), report that Vietnam is where English is taught as a decontextualised subject. These researchers point out that choral repetition is a common practice and learners avoid interrupting, asking for clarification, or challenging each other. So far it seems that Vietnam is not a hospitable environment for the communicative approach. Nevertheless, a closer look at the situation presents a different view. While it is true that the grammar translation method is considered the basis for English teaching and learning, C.L.T, since first implemented in the early of 1990s, has gained certain favourable approval. Although Jones (1995:102) observes that the culture of traditional Vietnamese education insists on quiet and subservient students, in another article, he points out that East Asian students are willing to take part in discussions within groups (Jones, 1995, cited in Littlewood, 1999:55). Pair and group work creates enough confidence for even weak students to join in following class discussion. This conforms with the concept of individualism and collectivism in the findings of Hofstede (1991:24). Working in groups to achieve their goal gives Vietnamese learners a supportive relationship while striving for the target language competence. The shift toward a new way of learning with more opportunity to use the target language, not only in the classroom but also in reality has brought a livelier atmosphere to learning and teaching English in Vietnam. More language centres inside big cities now cater to more and more students living in the suburbs. One of the reasons these students go such a long distance for their English studies is because they believe these centres can provide them with more communicative courses (Le Tran Hong Phuc, interview, 2001- an extract from the Internet). The need to use English in actual communicative contexts is beginning to emerge as learners realize that the traditional learning and teaching styles do not help them communicate with foreigners, both native and nonnative speakers of English. ‘The way English was learned and taught at high school did not help me to speak and understand English at work’ (Phuc, interview, 2001- an extract from the Internet). Development in the society brings forth the demand of using English in the work place, especially in the field of computer and research sciences. Another factor that urges learners to alter their traditional aversion to communicative learning is the annual availability of scholarships. This altogether means the need for the application and enhancement of C.L.T in English teaching and learning. Generally speaking, due to the culture influenced by the Confucian ideology, Vietnamese education still heavily centers around the traditional, grammar- translation centred methods. Although there have signals of CLT approval, it is not adequate to confirm that CLT is so far the most successful method in Vietnam. However, knowing that there is still a long way to go, it is justifiable to take an optimistic view of learning and teaching English in Vietnam. 1.2. Communication 1.2.1. What Communication? There have been a great number of studies by scholars and linguists on communication who agree on one point that communication is an interactive or transactive process. However, they hold different points of view so they give out various ways of classifying and defining the term. Their definitions therefore have different emphases and factors. The definition may focus on the meaning of the conveyed message. According to Rudolph, F. Verderber (1989:4), ‘communication may be defined as the transactional process of creating meaning. A transactional process is one in which those persons communicating are mutually responsible for what occurs.’ In Saville – Troike’s words (1986:9), ‘communication is also considered the process of sharing or exchanging information between people both verbally and non – verbally.’ It can easily be seen from this definition that the writers concentrate more on the information sent rather than anything else. Saundra Hybels and Richard L. Weaver H (1992:5) have a different identification of communication, which says ‘Communication is any process in which people share information, ideas, and feelings that involve not only the spoken and written words but also body language, personal mannerisms and style, the surrounding and things that add meaning to a message.’ This is perhaps the most comprehensive out of the three definitions because it focuses altogether on the information, concept, attitude and emotion of the message sent. In terms of communication categories, Toth (1997: 6) argues that ‘communication can take place in many different ways. Generally speaking, two categories of communication can be defined. The first is verbal communication; that is communication using language and speech to share or exchange information. The second is non – verbal communication: that is communication without the use of language but depending rather on other channels such as body language, eye contact, physical appearance, attitude distance and physical contact.’ Sharing the same perspective, Nguyen Quang (2004: 292) stresses upon the components of verbal communication and non – verbal communication. The following diagram can be highly regarded as a scientific and generalised source of approach to communication in its crucial interrelationship with language and culture (figure 1 - 3). Communication Verbal communication Non-verbal communication Intralanguage Body language/ Kinesics Extralanguage Paralanguage Environmental language Object language Lexicon Rules of grammar Rules of phonetics Rules of language use and interaction skills Vocal characteristics + Pitch + Volume + Rate Types of vocal quality Vocal interferences Silence .... Eye contact Facial expressions Gestures Postures Touch/ Haptics/ Tactile Clothing Jewellery Accessories Make-up Artificial scents Flowers Gifts Setting Conversational distances/ Proxemics Time/ Chronemics Lighting system Colour Heat ... Figure 1 – 3: Nguyen Quang’s diagram of communication components (2004) 1.2.2. Elements of Communication Many researchers like Rudolph F. Verderber (1989:5
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