Sociology linguistic Essay

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It has been accepted for inclusion in Senior Thesis Projects, 1993-2002 by an authorized administrator of Trace: Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange. For more information, please contact [email protected] edu. Teaching Sociolinguistic Competence in the ESL Classroom A College Scholars Project Claire Ann Mizne June, 1997 Acknowledgements First and foremost I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Beverly Moser for her infinite patience and confidence in me, without which this project would never have existed.

I would also like to thank Dr. Mellor, Dr. Nakuma, Dr. Reese, Dr. Leki, and Dr. Broadhead for their help and support, and my parents whose encouraging words were always appreciated. Abstract In todays globalized society, the ability to express oneself in a foreign or second language is a vital skill. For a speaker to be able to be considered a bilingual speaker, he or she nlust have the capability to talk about any subject in any situation from the dinner table to a speech at the inaugunil ball.

According to the American Council on the Teaching on foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale for language proficiency, superior level of speaking means the learner is approaching such a capacity. To reach the superior level of speaking ability, one must be able to speak about abstract topics and speak appropriately in a wide variety of settings with very few errors. However, even after studying another language for many years, learners often still never achieve this level of proficiency and have great difficulty in expressing themselves in that language to a native speaker.

Reasons for this continued difficulty in communicating in the second language can include problems with pronunciation, lack of knowledge on actual speech use of idiomatic expressions and slang, and learner differences in the ability to acquire language and in motivation to produce native-like speech. Another important contributing factor for incompetence in the language is that the speaker does not know which utterances are appropriate in the social situation in which he or she is speaking.

This ability to adjust ones speech to fit the situation in which it is said is called sociolinguistic competence, and without this ability, even the most perfectly grammatical utterances can convey a meaning entirely different from that which the speaker intended. One of the factors that makes sociolinguistic competence so hard to acquire is the large amount of variance in cultural rules of speaking; in other words, what is appropriate to say in one culture may be completely inappropriate in another culture, even though the situation in which it is said is the same.

The learner is often unaware of these differences, and uses the rules of speaking of his or her native culture when communicating in the foreign language. This process, called praglnatic transfer, results in misunderstandings between the speech participants, and can cause serious breakdowns in communication. These rules of speaking can be slowly acquired by the language learner as he or she is immersed in the target language culture; however, learning these rules through immersion is a time consuming process, with many rules going nnoticed for years, or even worse, never being acquired at all. Teaching skills in sociolinguistic competence in the second language classroom as a supplement to the immersion process may be a good way to help students learn these skills more efficiently and in less time. Unfortunately, however, there are many difficulties associated with the teaching of sociolinguistic competence to foreign language students which will be enumerated in the following paragraph.

In order to learn appropriateness of speech in the target language culture, it is necessary for students to study culture and cross-cultural differences so that they can see where their native culture differs from the culture of the language they are learning. However, teaching culture in the classroom is quite problematic. Culture is a complex concept that is hard to define, especially to students with a limited proficiency in the language used in the classroom.

It is also a very sensitive topic, and the teacher must be cautious of avoiding stereotypes and unintentionally offending students ” especially in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class where there are students from a variety of cultures in a single classroom. Culture is also so embedded in people that they are not even aware of many characteristics within their own culture. Therefore, it is difficult for teachers to teach culture by relying on their own perceptions of their native culture.

The same is true of sociolinguistic aspects of language. Moreover, what native speakers believe they would say in a given situation is often quite different from what they are found to actually say in observational studies. Since even linguists are often unaware of their own sociolinguistic rules for speaking, it is unrealistic to expect language teachers to have this know ledge readily at hand. However, there is a lack of resources that present this information in a format that can be easily used by ESL teachers in training.

This project serves to enrich the available resources addressing these complicated topics of culture and sociolinguistics through the development of a teaching module that teaches these concepts directly to a class of advanced English as a Second Language students. The module was taught during two consecutive one hour class periods and the class consisted of 11 adult students ” 1 Turkish, 3 Latin American, and 7 Asian. In the first class, the Kluckhohn Model was used to teach cross-cultural differences to the students. During he second class, the speech act of compliments was used with emphasis placed on the American rules of usage for these compliments, as well as the American values that can be seen through these rules of usage. At the end of the class period, a survey was given to the students and regular classroom teacher, asking them to provide some background language information and to evaluate the helpfulness of the cross-cultural information in their language learning process. They were also asked to rank a list of speech acts in order of difficulty.

The results of the survey showed the students to find the information helpful, with students being in the United States more that six months finding the information very helpful, while students who had been in the United States for less than six months found the information only marginally helpful. This finding suggests that the most effective time to teach cultural information in the target language country may be after the students have had some time to experience the culture they are learning about.

The students listed mainly face-threatening speech acts as being difficult, that is, those speech acts such as refusals, apologies, and giving advice, all of which require a careful choice of wording due to the possibility of damaging the other persons face or public image. Also, the teachers perceptions of which speech acts were difficult for the students did not match the students perceptions. A discussion concerning the implications of these findings follows, ending with a series of conclusions regarding the teaching of sociolinguistic competence.

For example, a Japanese learner of English living in the United States may wish to express extreme gratitude to someone, and uses the phrase I am so sorry. In Japan, an apology can function as an intense way of giving thanks; however, a direct translation of such an utterance into English does not have the desired effect since English does not use apologies for expressing gratitude. What results is utter confusion, as the American listener wonders why the Japanese speaker is apologizing, and the Japanese speaker is hurt that the American did not acknowledge his giving of thanks.

The problem that comes to light through this example is that grammar and lexical meanings of words alone cannot give persons the ability to express their meaning in a foreign or second language. There are some other factors that must playa role. in language learning. Culture must be one of these factors, since it is cultural differences in language use that created the problem for the speakers in the example above. Lets look at another example.

An Indonesian student studying in the United States wants to express to his professor his concern for the professors well-being, so after class he 8 advises the professor to eat less fattening foods so that he will look more fit. Here the American listener again understands the literal meaning of the words, but the speakers intention of showing friendliness by giving advice, a common strategy in his native country, is lost as the American listener interprets this action as an assault on his privacy and as an extremely rude comment.

Cultural differences again create problems for the language learner, and in this case, one can see how the speaker has unknowingly violated American rules on what type of advice one can give, when it is appropriate to give this advice, to whom it is appropriate to give such advice, and for what reasons one would choose to give someone advice in the first place. These rules of speaking change as one moves from culture to culture; thus, the cultural context plays a vital role in accurate expression of meaning.

Other contextual factors such as the time when the utterance is said, the setting of the speech event (for example, compare speech in a courtroom to the speech of people eating at Mc Donalds) and the participants involved (looking at such factors as social status, gender, and age of the participants) all affect the language being said. An utterance may be grammatical, but as in the advice giving example, one must know whether or not the utterance is appropriate to the given context. Is it appropriate for a student to give advice to a professor, someone of higher social status?

Should advice be given to a professor in a classroom setting? These environmental j factors that affect language including cultural factors compose a large part of the non-grammatical aspects of language that a language learner must learn in order to become competent in a language. Sociolinguistics is a word used to describe the study of the appropriateness of language in different contexts. In other words, sociolinguistics is the study of how situational factors such as the cultural context and setting of a speech event affect the choice of what should be said.

When language learners learn how to manipulate their utterances to make them appropriate to the situation in which they are speaking, it is said that they have achieved 9 sociolinguistic competence in that language. Along these lines, linguistic competence is the term used to describe a learners abilities in the grammatical aspects of language, including grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. The examples above show what happens when one has a high linguistic competence, and a low sociolinguistic competence.

In this situation, the learner takes the meaning he or she wishes to convey and applies the appropriate grammar rules for speaking that utterance in the target language, but since he or she is lacking a full stock of sociolinguistic rules for speaking in that language, he or she compensates by applying the sociolinguistic rules of his or her native language instead. The result, as shown in the examples, is grammatically sound statements that are misunderstood since they do not conform to the sociolinguistic norms of the target language.

The speaker, in ignorance of the norms, does not even realize that any sociolinguistic rules of speaking were broken, and feels confused when the listener responds strangely or seems put off by what was said. To make matters worse, since the language learner has a high level of linguistic competence, the native listener assumes the speaker also has an equally high level of sociolinguistic competence, and the language learners sociolinguistic errors are not perceived he native speaker as language errors at all, but as flaws in the speakers character.

As a result, the language learner comes across as a rude and ill-mannered person (Marsh, 1990, p. 182). So how can language learners avoid such serious breaches in communication? They can prevent such problems by increasing their level of sociolinguistic competence. How does one , achieve a high level of sociolinguistic competence? For students living. in the target language culture, it might be assumed that they will acquire sociolinguistic competence simply by immersion.

However, a summary by King & Silver (1993) of studies written on the effect of immersion on sociolinguistic competence lead them to conclude H ¢¢¢ that length of stay in an second language environment is beneficial for acquiring sociolinguistic competence but insufficient and time consuming (King & Silver, 1993, p. 48, italics mine). So perhaps 10 classroom instruction is needed in addition to immersion to help students achieve sociolinguistic competence better and faster. So how can the foreign language teacher increase the sociolinguistic competence of students?

An obvious possibility might be to teach culture and sociolinguistic issues explicitly in the classroom; however, this approach is quite problematic. Culture is hard to define, much less teach to students not yet fully competent in the language of instruction, which is why culture is often taught only in the advanced levels classes. In the case of English as a Second Language (ESL), teaching such a sensitive topic as culture to a classroom of students from countries all around the world can be particularly challenging.

Another problem is that both culture and sociolinguistic features are so deeply ingrained within a person that he or she is not even aware of many of these elements on a conscious level, making it hard for teachers to teach their native culture and language to the language learners. In response to these difficulties, culture is commonly taught only as an add-on topic, or it is taught indirectly through literature and facts about the target language country, while sociolinguistic issues are often left for the learner to learn by xperience. The development of cultural and sociolinguistic awareness may not always be effective through these methods alone, and it is beneficial to supplement these methods with approaches that incorporate these topics directly into the teaching syllabus. However, with cultural and sociolinguistic factors not being treated as major issues in language teaching, there is little interest in the development of teaching materials on these topics, and those materials that are available are often of poor quality.

Statement of the Problem There is an obvious need for teachers to help their students achieve a high level of sociolinguistic competence; however, there are not many resources available to help teachers approach this task. As noted above, culture and sociolinguistic aspects of language are vital for 11 sociolinguistic competence, but are extremely difficult to teach. In this project, I address the complicated task of teaching culture and sociolinguistics, and I offer a model for teaching these topics in the ESL classroom.

The following questions guided this project: 1) What methods are currently used to teach culture and sociolinguistic competence in the ESL classroom? 2) Is it possible to teach these methods overtly to students, and would they find it helpful? 3) What difficulties are involved in presenting such abstract information directly to students whose English proficiency may be limited? Definitions Culture A societys values and fundamental elements that distinguish that society from all others; an anthropological view of culture.

High culture The literary, philosophic, or artistic achievements of a society. Linguistic Competence ” The ability to use correct grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary in a language. Pragmatic Rules Non-grammar related rules that characterize the appropriateness of speech to the context in which it is spoken. Pragmatic Transfer The application of native cultural rules for the appropriateness of an utterance in a target language situation.

Sociolinguistics The study of language in context; the study of how situational factors (such as time; setting; age, sex, and gender of the participants) affect the language being used. Sociolinguistic Competence The ability to produce utterances appropriate to the social situation in which they are spoken. 12 Target Language The language the person is learning to speak. Target Language Culture The culture of the language the person is learning how to speak. Literature Review

This section will examine existing literature and will discuss the necessity for addressing the sociolinguistic con1petence of language students, as well as explain the problems and complications associated with the teaching of culture and sociolinguistics in the classroom. Sociolinguistic Competence Early in the twentieth century, language teaching focused primarily on grammar and translation of written text. The shift of focus to speaking competence in more recent years fostered the idea of communicative competence, that is, ability to speak a language proficiently.

Canale and Swain in 1980 and 1983 respectively (cited in Omaggio Hadley, 1993, pp. 6-7) break down communicative competence into four parts: (1) linguistic competence, ability to use the linguistic code, grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary correctly, (2) discourse competence, which is the ability to maintain cohesion between segments of discourse, (3) strategic competence, which is the leamers ability to repair communication breakdown and work around gaps in his or her knowledge of the target language, and finally (4) sociolinguistic competence, the learners ability to use language appropriately in various social contexts.

Canale and Swains model for communicative competence serves to ensure that non-linguistic aspects of language such as sociolinguistic competence would not be ignored in the understanding of communicative competence. Sociolinguistic competence requires adjusting ones grammatical forms to be appropriate to the setting in which the communication takes place. Attention is paid to such 13 factors as the age, status, and sex of the participants and the formality of the setting.

When one travels to a different culture, these situational factors may call for different speech reactions then they would in the native culture. Wolfson (1989) describes the effects of this different cultural context on language learning with the term sociolinguistic relativity, which she defines as the following: ¦ each community has its own unique set of conventions, rules, and patterns for the conduct of communication and (that) these must be understood in the context of a general system which reflects the values and the structure of society. (Wolfson, 1989, p. , emphasis added) This statement says that culture can be used as an underlying framework for making sense of all the regularities in a communitys use of language. Students may better understand the conventions of language use in a society if they also study that societys culture, emphasizing again the importance of teaching both cultural and sociolinguistic aspects of language. Cross-cultural Communication One of the challenges in acquiring sociolinguistic competence is accounting for the multitude of differences of language use among cultures.

Successful cross-cultural communication is an amazing feat when one considers all the potential areas where the cultures involved differ in language use. For example, in India discussion of personal topics with people is not seen as nosy, but as a sign of personal interest, while for Navajo tribesmen, even being asked their first name is considered rude (Applegate, 1975, pp. 276-277). To atten1pt communication without a sensitivity to such wide variances in rules of speaking can result in serious misunderstandings. The next section discusses a sensitive communication phenomenon that is ependent on a cultures perceptions of the speech situation. 14 An example of an important feature of language that can lead to misunderstandings between cultures relates to different cultures estimates offace. Face is defined as the negotiated public image, mutually granted each other by participants in a communicative event (Scollon ; Scollon, 1995, p. 35). People use face as a strategy to accomplish a social goal, since how the speech participants negotiate their public images determines the relationship between the speakers.

One type of face strategies is involvement strategies (Scollon ; Scollon, 1995, pp. 36-37). These are used to show closeness with friends, or they are used when speaking to people of lower status. An example of an involvement strategy is the use of first nanles a speaker may use someones first name to show that this person is a friend, and a boss of a company has a right to call employees by their first name since the boss has a higher social status. The other type of face strategies is independence strategies (Scollon & Scollon, 1995, pp. 7-38). These are used to show distance or respect towards someone the speaker does not know well, and they are often used by a person of low social status to show respect to a person of higher social status. To continue our example of name usage, the use of a title and someones last name is an example of an independence strategy. For example, if one was in a police station, one would address an unknown policeman as officer or Officer Joe. When addressing ones boss, someone of higher social status, one would address him as Mr. _ , unless he or she said to do otherwise; whereas the boss, on the other hand, can call an employee by first name at any time. Every exchange of utterances between people involves face (Scollon & Scollon, 1995, p. 38). Each speaker knows which strategy of face to use by assessing the social statuses of the participants, how well he or she knows the participants, and the circumstances under which they are speaking. Face is thus dependent on situational factors, making it an important part of sociolinguistic competence. A correct assessment of face is crucial, since when two speakers 5 differ in their assessments of face, this difference is perceived as a difference in power (Scollon & Scollon, 1995, p. 48). For example, if one person is trying to show respect to a new acquaintance by using independence strategies, he or she expects the other person to use the same strategy. If the other person instead uses an involvement strategy, the first person may feel like he or she is being spoken down to because involvement strategies are used by people in a higher social status when they are speaking to someone of a lower social status.

Speech Acts Cultural variations in language are most obvious in the function of language known as speech acts. A speech act is the use of speech focusing on the speakers intentions of affecting and eliciting an action or effect on the listener (Jannedy, Poletto, & Weldon, 1994, p. 465). Examples of speech acts include requests, compliments, invitations, and expressions of gratitude. Each speech act has within it a set formula of possible statement types that work together to compose the speech act.

For example, the speech act of apologies can be broken down into the following conlponents: expression of an apology, an explanation or account of the situation, an acknowledgment of responsibility, an offer of repair, and a promise of forbearance (Cohen & Olshtain, cited in Cohen & Olshtain, 1983, p. 22). Speech acts carry a heavy social interaction load and can seriously offend people if not presented according to the proper formula and in the proper circumstances. Even nlore crucially, the situations calling for a certain speech act and the rules for how to give that speech act vary across cultures (Blum-Kulka, House, & Kasper, 1989).

The reverse is also true, that is, different cultures use different speech acts for the same situation (Wolfson, Marmor, and Jones, 1984). This cultural variation in speech act use makes these speech productions especially difficult for nonnative speakers trying to communicate in the unfamiliar target language culture (Blum-Kulka, House, & Kasper, 1989) Exanlples of where speech acts differ across cultures are numerous. For example, in 16 English a direct request can sound a bit rude to native speakers, so they tend to use an indirect request instead.

Hebrew, on the other hand, does not even have indirect requests (Blum-Kulka, 1983). If one looks to the cultural context for an explanation of this difference, one finds that Hebrew social norms allow for more directness than English ones (Blum-Kulka, 1983, p. 46). Another example is in the use of American invitations. Americans often give what could be called false invitations. These are invitations such as Lets get together sometime or Lets do lunch that often are never followed through.

These false invitations are a special use of the invitation speech act by Americans as a strategy to show friendliness and concern for someone, rather than for setting up an actual get-together (Wolfson, D Amico-Reisner, ; Huber, 1983). Pragmatic Transfer Interesting cross-cultural variation can be found in the use of English speech acts by nonnative speakers. In the case of apologies, one study found that Hebrew students learning English tended to show intensity of regret in apologies less than native English speakers did (Cohen ;.

Olshtain, 1983), while Chinese students learning English tended to show intensity of regret in apologies much more so than native English speakers (Wu, cited in Cohen ; Olshtain, 1983). Thus, Hebrew learners of English often come across as being rude, while Chinese learners of English come across as being overly polite. The Chinese student learning English also tends to give an explanation even when there is no need t? do so from the American cultural perspective. Take, for example, the case where a Chinese student accidentally picked up someones umbrella and said, Oh, excuse me. I didnt want to take away your umbrella. Uh .. if I wanted to take your umbrella away, I should take away my umbrella also. But my umbrella is still in place (Wu, cited in Cohen ; Olshtain, 1983, p. 30). In this example, the student might even be regarded with suspicion for giving such a lengthy ¢ 17 response, since Americans regard the apology as disproportionately great for a minor offense. These examples show that students from different cultures alter the sociolinguistic rules of speaking a foreign language in different ways. One explanation for this variation is frequently that these students normally use such speech acts in their native languages in similar situations.

A study comparing apologies between speakers of English, Russian, and Hebrew found that Hebrew uses each component of the apology (expression of an apology, an explanation or account of the situation, an acknowledgment of responsibility, an offer of repair, and a promise of forbearance (Cohen ; Olshtain, 1983)) less frequently than both speakers of English and Russian (Olshtain, 1981, cited in Cohen ; Olshtain, 1983), and in fact, Hebrew has the lowest degree of apology of the three languages studied.

When one looks at our earlier example on the lack of intensity of regret in apology use by Hebrew speakers of English, one can see that these students are applying the rules of apology use in their native language of Hebrew to English. The problem is that the native language rules do not transfer well since English rules for apology use require a higher intensity of regret than Hebrew does. This phenomenon is called pragmatic transfer, and can be defined as the application of the sociolinguistic rules of ones native language to a second or foreign language resulting in non-nativelike speech.

A study by Thomas (cited in Wolfson, 1989, p. 16) describes two types of pragmatic failure. The first kind is pragnlalinguistic failure, in which case the nonnative speaker uses grammatical forms in the target language without regard for the speaking conventions in the target culture. For example, an American in France when asked, Would you like a cup of coffee? might reply thanks as an affirmative response, not knowing that in France, thanks is interpreted to mean no (Applegate, 1975, p. 275). In this case, the same speech act of requesting exists in both languages, but the response sequence works differently in each case.

The other type of pragmatic transfer is sociopraglnatic transfer, in which the native speaker 18 applies the cultural rules of his or her native culture for the speaking situation in progress in the target language. There are many documented cases of pragmatic transfer. As mentioned earlier, Hebrew does not use indirect requests like English does. Blum-Kulka (1983) finds English speaking learners of Hebrew using pragmatic transfer, as in one case where English speakers use the could you request forms in their Hebrew, not knowing that the can you question does not have this same use in Hebrew.

The previously given example regarding advice giving by Indonesian speakers of English is another case of pragmatic transfer, as Indonesian speakers of English give advice frequently and on personal issues to people of higher status because in their native language advice giving is a show of friendliness and concern for the person. However, in American English, advice giving is seen as meddlesome and unduly familiar when given to superiors, so the Indonesian students would inadvertently offend the professor due to pragmatic transfer (Hinkel, 1994).

Yet another example concerns the speech act of giving thanks. In many South Asian languages such as Marathi and Hindi, gratitude is not expressed to a person unless the person being thanked has actually done an action they were not under any obligation to perform. When speakers of these languages interact in the Western world where saying thank you is a formulaic utterance in nearly all service encounters, their lack of participation in these thanking sequences makes them appear rude and ungrateful (Apte, cited in Wolfson, 1989, pp. 21-22). Pragmatic transfer also occurs on the receiving end.

Often a nonnative speaker will interpret a native speakers utterance along the sociolinguistic rules of his or her native language, resulting in a misinterpretation of the utterance. In the case of the American false invitation, many nonnative speakers interpret Americans to be insincere since they never follow through on such invitations (Wolfson, 1989, pp. 23-24). The problem lies in the leamers interpretation of the use of the invitation because they are assuming that the invitation functions the same as it does in their native languagethat is, to set up a get-together. They are 19 ot even aware of the American usage of this speech act as a means of showing friendliness. Another such example involves the case of compliments. Americans have a high frequency of compliment usage as compared to other cultures (Wolfson, 1989), The reason Americans compliment each other so frequently is because compliments can be used in American English to promote good will towards the listener in order to show a desire for good relations with that person. When speakers from cultures where compliments are used less frequently come to the United States, they are often suspicious of Americans excessive use of compliments.

They may believe that such compliments are insincere, and that the compliment may even be a hint that something is wrong with the person or thing being spoken about (Wolfson, 1989, pp. 116-117). Pragmatic Fossilization Pragmatic transfer is a serious problem that can result in numerous misunderstandings and hurt feelings. If language learners must function in a target language culture that is different from their native culture, they may have to suffer through numerous such problems in the struggle to learn the new cultural rules of speaking.

The problem is that many times the language learners may not even notice that they are breaking these rules of speaking, and may unknowingly continue to offend native speakers without ever realizing that they are doing so. In Hinkel (1994) students were found to believe that giving advice on a sensitive topics such as diet to a professor was acceptable even after they had been living in the United States for over a year. These students had still not realized that such actions were inappropriate in the American cultural setting.

A study by Gumperz in 1977 (cited in Gchs ; Schieffelin, p. 308) found that even after living in London for ten years, Indian speakers of English were still making sociolinguistic mistakes in speaking that made them sound rude to British speakers of English. Such cases as these are examples of pragmatic fossilization, a term used to describe when a language learner continues to use the rules of speaking of their native language despite a long 20 time spent in the target language environment (Marsh, 1990).

Classroom instruction may be a vital aid in helping to push students towards higher levels of sociolinguistic competence, thus preventing pragmatic fossilization. Cultural Myopia Why does pragmatic fossilization occur? Why can language learners not simply observe native speakers and adjust their manner of speaking accordingly? The answer lies in the fact that language is so deeply embedded within a persons subconscious, he or she is unable to notice where the target language rules of speaking differ from their native language rules which seem so natural.

From the time of birth, children are raised within a cultural context, and since culture is an integral part of language, the process of socialization in the conventions of this culture occur simultaneously as a part of language acquisition (Ochs & Schieffelin, 1984). For example, the high frequency of indirect requests in Japanese is taught to Japanese children at a very young age. Japanese mothers will make an indirect request for something to their twoyear-old by stating a wish such as Gee, Id like some soup too, and the two-year-old already knows at this young age that such a statement is indeed an imperative (Clancy, 1990, p. 9). Since one is socialized in ones native language culture from birth, much of ones understanding of reality is founded in these early cultural lessons. Culture so thoroughly affects perception of the world and persons may be so thoroughly bound to their own culture that they may be unaware that other ways of viewing life are even possible. Moreover, ways to view the world vary dramatically from culture to culture. For example, Americans measure a persons worth largely by their achievements and accomplishments in life.

This outlook is very different from many non-Western societies that measure a persons worth principally by who they are, looking not at what they have done in life but rather what role or social status they were born into. When people confront a culture whose basic values differ from their own, they may see 21 this culture as silly or wrong. When people are so embedded in their native culture that they are unable to understand or accept the fact that other cultures may view the world differently, they are said to suffer from cultural myopia.

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