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Skkn cross cultural factors affecting do luong 3 high school students’english reading copprehension problems and solusions

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1.1 Rationale of the study
Along with the development of Applied Linguistics and Psycholinguistics,
the American scholar, Goodman [13] negated the traditional reading theory and
posed a “psycholinguistic reading model”, which considers that reading is not the
process of passive decoding and reading literally any more. Rather it is the process
of active “guessing – confirming” and interaction between the readers and the
reading contents. In English learning, the linguistic knowledge elements play a
vital role in RC, mastering linguistic knowledge of phonetics, vocabulary and
grammar is helpful to decode the word symbols. However, in the process of
reading, many Vietnamese students already possess the above knowledge but they
still cannot comprehend the texts completely because the meanings of words are
acquired in a certain circumstance of culture. “Every stage of comprehension
involves reader’s background knowledge of culture (Anderson, [3, pg 14:369]).”
Language is the carrier of culture, people's words and deeds reflect certain cultural
connotation consciously or unconsciously. Every social communication possesses
its own certain thought pattern, value, custom, and way of life. Therefore, if a
Vietnamese student does not know about the English culture, such as histories,
values, mode of thinking, customs, religion and life style, he may fail to
understand the exact meaning of the texts so understanding the cultural content of
what one reads is a crucial factor in RC.
From my personal observation and professional experience as a teacher of
English at DL3 high school for six years, I have realized that, in spite of its
importance, the cultural content is not really concerned by both students and
teachers while studying reading lessons in textbooks. The cultural knowledge
remains unexplored and neglected in English reading learning and teaching process
in this school. That is why the great efforts made by teachers to improve the
quality of English reading lessons can not help to meet the teaching goals and
students have much trouble in comprehending of the reading texts in spite of
achieving linguistic elements. This can be seen that the marks in reading tests of

almost DL3 high school students are rather low and many of them seem not to be
interested in learning English reading lessons. This has given rise to the question,
“How can DL3 teachers improve the quality of reading lessons and help the
students to get exact comprehension of reading texts?” And the following answer
can be heard, “To teach reading texts in incorporation with the cultural
knowledge.” But how can this be done? This issue has brought the researcher a
great desire to conduct a research study to try to answer this question “ Crosscultural factors affecting Do luong 3 high school students’english reading
copprehension: Problems and solusions”. The researcher conducts action research
in order to examine cross-cultural factors that cause barriers in English RC for


students at DL3 high school as well as to give some suggestions for incorporating
the cultural knowledge into reading lessons. With this study, the researcher hopes
to help students at DL3 high school to have a better RC skill.
1.2. Scope of the study
As mentioned above, to improve students’ RC in the classrooms at DL3 high
school depends on many different factors. Because of the limited time, it is
impossible to cover all of these in this study. The scope of this thesis is limited to a
research on cross-cultural factors causing barriers in RC lessons in DL3 high
school. From these barriers, the internal and external causes are analyzed to give
some suggestions for reducing them in order to improve students’ RC. The study
was conducted on the students of grade 10, 11, 12 at DL3 high school with the
textbook “Tiếng Anh 10”, “Tiếng Anh 11”, and “Tiếng Anh 12”.
1.3. Aims of the study
The study aims at improving the students’ RC skills and cross-cultural
background knowledge at DL3 high school. To complete the overall aim, the
following specific ones must be obtained:

- Investigating the attitudes of students at DL3 high schools towards the
importance of culture in English RC.
- Finding out the cross-cultural factors in students’ English RC process at DL3
high schools
- Discovering students’ cross-cultural barriers to English RC in the classrooms, and
suggest some solutions to reduce and eliminate them in order to achieve the exact
1.4 Research questions of the study.
This study is implemented to find answers to the following research questions
1. What are typical cross cultural factors causing barriers in English RC at DL3
high school?
2. What are the causes of these barriers?
3. What are some suggestions for solutions?
1.5 Research methods of the study.
In order to get the goals of the study, this study is conducted action research
that employs both quantitative and qualitative approaches to collect data. With this
action research, the quantitative analyses are through the process of data collected
from pre-test and post-test, pre-questionnaire and post-questionnaire. In addition,
the qualitative approach is employed to deal with the data gathered from follow-up
interviews that are made to help the researcher interpret the questionnaire data


more accurately to collect exact information and evidence for the study.
The combination of these data collection methods will help the author
achieve the aims of the study. All comments, remarks, suggestions, and
conclusions provided in the study are based on the results of the data analysis.
1.6 Significance of the study

Even though cross-cultural factors in English RC are necessary for most
English learners, it is surprising that there is not much investigation into these.
This research provides an insight into cross-cultural factors that cause barriers in
English RC that most of the Vietnamese students who are studying English
* Theoretical aspect: It is hopefully expected that this study would make a small
contribution to help teachers and students realize the essential role of the crosscultural background knowledge in their reading lessons. More importantly, the
findings of the study are believed to identify cross-cultural barriers from crosscultural elements. From this, to give some suggestions for solutions
* Practical aspect: with the results of the study, it is hoped that teachers and
students would find the best ways to incorporate cross-cultural knowledge in their
reading lessons.


2.1 RC skills and their position in English language teaching
2.1.1 What is reading?
In our daily life, we spend time reading books, newspapers, novels or stories
because we find them interesting and useful. When reading, we understand the
texts, we analyze and find its meaning, give out meaningful conclusion. But no one
can define exactly what reading is. This question attracts much attention and
researchers have defined reading in various ideas. According to Goodman [13,
pg.135]: “Reading is a psycholinguistics process by which the reader, a language
user, reconstructs, as best as he can, a message which has been encoded by a writer
as a graphic display”. Goodman thought that this act of reconstruction is viewed as
“a cyclical process of sampling, predicting, testing and confirming.”
One more definition of reading is offered by Allen [2] and Vallete [44.
pg.249]. They thought that: “reading is developmental process”. We learn reading

not only to know how to read, to master the symbols, the language, grammar, .etc.
used in the text but also to understand the ideas, the information expressed in that
text or to develop the ability reconstructing its contents in our own words.
In short, from these opinions above, it is clear that no one can give all the
ideas and features of what reading is. Each definition reflects what reading means
as seen from the scholar’s own view. However, all definitions reveal their common
feature that is the nature of reading. Moreover, the definition “reading is
understanding of the author’s thought” seem to be preferable. We- the readers read
the author’s mind not the author’s words.
2.1.2. What is RC?
RC plays an important part in learning a foreign language. RC can be
understood as the ability to get the required information from the text as efficiently
as possible. In the reading process, there are three elements appearing: the text
being read, the background knowledge of the reader and the contextual aspects
relevant for interpreting the text.
Swain [41, pg:1] stated that: “When we say a student is good at
comprehension we mean that he can read accurately and efficiently, so as to get the
maximum information a text with the minimum of understanding” . In the same
view, Richard [36, p.9] claims that: “RC is best described as an understanding
between the author and the reader”. Sharing these ideas, Grellet [14] takes the
point that “RC or understanding a written text means extracting the required
information from it as effectively as possible”.
These above opinions are not exactly the same, but they all show that
reading is much more than just pronouncing words correctly or simply knowing


what the author intends. It is a process in which the readers (as they read) can

recognize the graphic form and understand the relation between the writing and the
meaning. In the other words, after reading, students can find the way to bettering
their grammar, words, pronunciation and can understand the content of the text and
use it in their real life as effectively as possible. Therefore, it is important for us to
understand what RC is. For the teachers who teach reading, a profound
understanding about the nature of RC may help them find out the students’
difficulties of learning reading.
2.1.3 The position of RC skills in English language teaching and learning
Learning a foreign language is a process which requires learners to integrate
many language skills. Learners of a second or foreign language may rarely find
chances to communicate with native speakers orally, but they can read different
texts in different subjects with varying degrees of detail and difficulty It is
generally accepted nowadays that reading is a key skill for most students learning a
foreign language and that it should, therefore, take place along side the
development of oral ability in the school program. From time to time, reading itself
has proved its importance in daily life as well as in teaching and learning a foreign
language. And from our experience in real life, we find reading quite important. Its
importance is also confirmed by many linguistics.
It is obvious that reading is a means by which further learning takes place.
Reading is, in addition, an important way of expanding the students’ receptive
knowledge of a language, and in terms of classroom activities, it is an effective
way of stimulating students to talk, write and listen. Being well informed by
reading, learners can have stable background knowledge, wide vocabulary and
much information so that they will feel self- confident to share opinions and
communicate with others. Moreover, listening will be easier if learners listen to the
topic they have read because when listening, learners have to face up with many
new words of a certain topic. Only by reading can they enrich their vocabulary so
that they will not be stuck with new words, and they can understand the listening
easily. In short, RC plays a vital role in teaching and learning a foreign language.
2.2 The relationship between culture and language

2.2.1 Definitions of culture
The concept of `culture` is something that everybody implicitly understands
but nobody can define precisely. A lot of time can be spent on trying to give a
precise definition of the word. According to some eminent scholars define the term
“culture” as follows:
According to Hinkel [16] the popular definition of “culture” refers only to
that part of culture that is visible and easily discussed. This can include the


folklore, the literature, the arts, the architecture, styles of dress, cuisine, customs,
festivals, traditions, and the history of a particular people.
Peck [35] refers to culture as; culture is all the accepted and patterned ways
of behaving of a given people. It is the facet of human life learned by people as a
result of belonging to some particular group; it is that part of learned behaving
shared with others. For Goodenough ([12, pg 258-259]), culture…consists of
standards for deciding what is, standards for deciding what can be, standards for
deciding how one feels about it, standards for deciding what to do about it, and
standards for deciding how to go about doing it. Clearly, culture is a ubiquitous
force, forging our identities and our relationships with other things and individuals.
2.2.2. Language and culture
Language is the product of culture. One important instrument of cultural
expression is language. Language is a part of culture and plays a very important
role in it. Without language, culture would not be possible. On the other hand,
language is influenced and shaped by culture; it reflects culture. The relationship
between language and culture is deeply rooted. Language is used to maintain and
convey culture and cultural ties. “Culture is in language, and language is loaded
with culture” (Agar, [1, pg 28]). Brown [4] puts that culture is a “deeply ingrained

part of our being and language is the most visible and available feature of culture” .
The thought and behaving of a society is the aggregate of the thought and behaving
of individuals, which itself is shaped by culture; thus on a very practical level
culture is the force that makes communication between individuals through
language possible. “Culture and language are so tightly related that may be
regarded as parts of the same thing. Obviously, no language can survive in
isolation and no civilization can be built up without language. Cultural changes
tend to occur along with changes in language; the two proceed reinforcing each
other” (Krishnawamy, [26]). In other words we can conclude that language and
culture are intricately interwoven to one another and cannot be separated.
2.2.3. The role of culture in language teaching and learning.
Linguistic competence alone is not enough for learners of a language to be
competent in that language (Krasner, [25]). Language is rooted in culture and
culture is reflected and passed on by language from one generation to the next.
From this, one can see that learning a new language involves the learning of a new
culture. Consequently, teachers of a language are also teachers of culture (Byram
As Holmes [20, pg 275]:) points out, “Learning another language usually
involves a great deal more than learning the literal meaning of the words, how to
put them together, how to pronounce them. We need to know what they mean in
the cultural context in which they are normally used. And that involves some


understanding of the cultural and social norms of their users”. Culture and teaching
language cannot be separated, thus culture must be recognized as an important area
in language learning and teaching .If languages are taught without their cultures,
students are only the strangers who aren’t familiar with the target languages. It is

important to mention that cultural elements of the target language should be taught
To emphasize the importance of culture in learning and teaching foreign
languages Eli Hinkel [16] has said,” Applied linguists and language teachers have
become increasingly aware that the second or foreign language can rarely be learnt,
or taught, without addressing the culture of the community in which it is used .This
can be with the idea that culture plays an important role in teaching and learning
From these above ideas of culture, it can be said that cultural content is a key
to effective teaching and learning a second or foreign language. Necessarily,
students cannot master the language unless they have mastered the cultural
contexts in which the language occurs. It is actually hard for language learners to
communicate well without knowledge of culture such as codes of behaviors, and
different beliefs, etc. The facts have shown that some breakdowns in
communication between inter-collators have been caused just by cultural
misunderstandings. For example, when an Asian communicates with an American
or Westerner, they take no care of eye contact unless they know direct eye contact
is considered as conveying honesty in English cultures. What would happen if
someone knew the expressions of greetings very well but, with an inadequate
knowledge of culture, he didn’t know how to response “how are you?” , or even
how to shake hands in business? It is easy to fail in learning English if learners are
not provided with cultural values. Therefore, teaching and learning language,
separated from knowing culture, can not be done properly. As a result, this is the
reason why we can come to the conclusion that teaching and learning language are
more than teaching and learning a system of syntax and lexicon.
2.3. The cross-cultural background knowledge of and the English RC
2.3.1. The role of the cross-cultural background knowledge in English RC
Foreign language learners are generally less proficient in the cross-cultural
background information during their reading processes. It is assumed that there is a
high degree of relationship between reader’s prior background knowledge and the

text. Schema theory, a psycholinguistic model, emphasizes that RC is an
interactive process between the reader’s previous background knowledge and the
text. According to the theory, EFL readers’ RC is not only due to how easy or
difficult a text is for them but more depends on the level of readers’ recall from
their culturally familiar background knowledge and from the contextual clues
about cultural origins (Carrell, [6])


For a long time, in Vietnam, English teaching has just focused on the
language forms such as phonetics, vocabulary and grammar and ignored the effect
of background knowledge of culture. As the carrier of culture, the cultural
background of language is rather extensive. Lacking of the necessary cultural
background may hinder people from comprehending language. For instance, when
the president Reagan took up his post, an American wrote to a Vietnamese teacher:
“the United States has gone from peanuts to popcorn”. The syntax of this sentence
is very simple. However, the Vietnamese teacher did not understand the sentence
at that time until her friend explained to her that former president Jimmy Carter
owned a big peanut farm while the present president Reagan is an actor and people
eat popcorn while they watch TV. She suddenly realized the real humorous
meaning of this sentence. From this case, we can see that to comprehend the
language, not only depends on the comprehension of vocabulary and grammatical
structures, but also depends on the comprehension of relevant background
knowledge of culture
2.3.2. Cross-cultural factors in English RC
The differences of cross-cultural background in English RC can be classified
as the following aspects.
* Historical Culture

Historical culture refers to the culture that is formed by the developing
process of certain history and social heritage which varies between nations at often
times. In the process of cross-cultural reading, we often meet the comprehension
barriers that are caused by such differences of historical cultures.
* Regional Culture
Regional culture, here, refers to the culture that can be shaped by natural
conditions and geographical environment of an area. These effects on culture may
lend themselves to creating comprehension barriers to Vietnamese students of
English reading. For example, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art
lovelier and more temperate. This poem is a part of Shakespeare’s sonnet 18. He
compared the lover to a summer’s day, which is difficult for Vietnamese students
to understand. Only knowing some relevant geographical knowledge, can they get
real understanding of this sonnet. As Britain is a high latitude country, the average
summer temperature is about 20 degrees and the daytime is very long, from about
4 o’clock in the morning to about 10 o’clock at 3 night. Therefore, the summer in
Britain is pleasantly cool and delightful. It is obviously different from the hot
summer of most regions in Vietnam, especially, in the north of Vietnam, where the
hot summer is very hard to endure and causes people to feel unhappy.
*Social Culture


Language is an important component of culture, the existence and
development of language are influenced by society, and the social phenomenon
and vocabulary of a certain historical periods reflect the objective history of
society. Such vocabulary may confuse foreign readers.
2.4. Cross-cultural teaching and learning in foreign language instruction
In learning English, especially in learning reading, students are required with

not only the knowledge of language system but also the understanding of the
culture carried in the target language. If not, misunderstanding caused by cultural
barriers may occur. So the most effective way to avoid this misunderstanding is
that teachers should motivate the students’ curiosity and sensitivity over the crosscultural knowledge in the classroom.
2.4.1 When should the study of culture begin?
Should culture be postponed until students can study it in the target
language? Will special emphasis upon culture be wasteful of precious class time?
Should cultural materials be postponed until students have greater maturity and
greater language competence? Ideally, the study of culture should begin on the
very first day of class and should continue every day. The concept of culture
should be communicated to students in the earliest phases of their instruction in
order to lessen their difficulties in mastering the language, and help them
communicate effectively.
2.4.2 The principles for culture teaching
Like teaching other aspects in foreign language instruction, culture teaching
requires systematic development of its teaching principles. Principles for culture
teaching are mentioned in a number of studies and Kramsch’s [23] list may be
considered one of the most noticeable. Her principles of teaching culture led to a
new way of looking at the teaching of language and culture. These include:
- Establishing a sphere of inter-culture, which means that teaching culture is not
transferring information between cultures but a foreign culture should be put in
relation with one’s own. The intercultural approach includes a reflection on both
- Teaching culture as an interpersonal process, which means replacing the teaching
of facts and behaviors by the teaching of a process that helps to understand others.
- Teaching culture as difference, which means considering the multi-cultures and
multi-ethnicity of modern societies and looking at various factors like age, gender,
regional origin, ethnic background, and social class . In other words, cultures
should not be seen as monolithic.
- Crossing disciplinary boundaries, which means linking the teaching of culture to

other disciplines like anthropology, sociology and semiology.


Kramsch [35] concludes that: “These lines of thought lay the ground for a
much richer understanding of culture than heretofore envisaged by the majority of
language teachers”.
Other approaches, such as the theme-based approach, the problem-oriented
approach, the skill-centered approach, may be classified as the comparative
approach to the teaching of culture as they deal with an element of comparison
during the teaching. The theme-based approach is based around certain themes
which are seen as typical of a culture, for example: family, education, religion,
honor, ceremony…Though mono-cultural by nature, it tries to show the
relationships and values in a given culture and encourage students to compare it
with the other. However, it is sometimes supposed that the theme-based approach
provides learners with a segmented view of the target culture. It might be difficult
for them to see individual people and understand social processes and values from
this perspective and could lead to stereotyping. The problem-oriented approach is
aimed at getting learners interested in the other culture and encourages them to do
some research on their own. According to Seelye [38, pg 47]:), the teacher plays a
very important role in defining the problem that interests learners. He claims that
the more precise a problem is, the easier it is for a learner to reach the desired
outcome. The result of student research should be a report, either written or
presented orally.
The skill-centered approach differs from the above-mentioned approaches in
the sense that it is more practical and might be useful for those who need to live
within the target-language community. By developing learners’ skills which are
needed for managing the issues involved in miscommunication between cultures,

the skill-centered approach emphasizes their similarities as well as differences.
2.5. Culture-based activities
The aim of culture-based activities is to increase students’ awareness and to
develop their curiosity towards the target culture and their own, helping them make
comparisons among cultures. These comparisons are not meant to underestimate
any of the cultures being analysed, but to enrich students’ experience and to make
them aware that although some cultural elements are being globalized, there is still
diversity among cultures. This diversity should then be understood and respected.
Culture-based activities are derived from language material being taught and
learnt and constitutes a minor but important part of the language lessons. Cultural
information may be introduced to students through different activities such as
cultural aside, cultural capsule, quiz, culture assimilator, critical incidents and
student research As teaching culture is not the primary objective in English classes
in Vietnam and it is aimed at developing students’ cross-cultural awareness, the
activities selected in this study are supposed to help integrate culture into reading


2.5.1. Cultural aside
Cultural aside is an item of cultural information presented by the teacher
when it arises in the text. It is often unplanned and brief culture comment. This
activity is called by Nostrand ([31, pg; 298]) an incidental comment. It helps to
create a cultural content for language learning and make mental associations
similar to those that native speakers make. In some cases, this activity may provide
disordered and incomplete information.
An example of “the cultural aside” may be taken for the teaching of the topic
“National Park” (Reading section, Unit 11; Hoàng Văn Vân [17]). As two other

National Parks in Kenya and USA, in addition to Cuc Phuong National Park in
Vietnam, are mentioned in the reading task, the teacher may explain to the class
some specific cultural features introduced in the passage. For example:
+ Explanation of geographical places such as Nairobi, Kenya, Everglades.
+ Emphasis on educational purpose of the National Park in Kenya
+ Emphasis on tourism purpose of the National Park in Vietnam
2.5.2. Culture capsule
Culture capsule is a brief description of one aspect of other cultures followed
by a discussion of the contrasts between the students’ and other cultures. It is also
suggested that students prepare a cultural capsule at home and present it during
class time. The oral presentation may be combined with realia as well as a set of
questions to raise discussion. Normally, one capsule does not take more than ten
minutes. According to Stern [40, pg 240] and Chastain [17, pg 310] the main
advantage of using a culture capsule is its “compactness and practical quality”.
Furthermore, when conducting this activity, students become involved in the
discussion and can consider the basic characteristics of their own culture.
The activity of “the cultural capsule” may be designed for the teaching of
the topic “The story of my village” (Unit 8; Hoàng Văn Vân [17]). Students are
asked to read the reading passage in advance at home and prepare some
information which should contain some contrastive features between their own
everyday life routine and that of the people in an English-speaking country. Or
contrasts may be presented about the traditional model of a Vietnamese village and
that of an English-speaking village.
2.5.3. Quiz
Quiz is a quite useful activity in learning new information. In addition, it
may be used to test knowledge that the teacher has previously taught. Students may
be familiar with this activity in an earlier stage of learning English, even in
primary school. For Grade 10, the teacher should develop it into a more
complicated and attracting activity. Along with getting the right answer, students


should be encouraged to predict and through that they can become more interested
in finding new knowledge.
The following example of “the quiz” can be suitable for the teaching of the
topic “The World Cup” (Unit 14; Hoàng Văn Vân [17]).
1. The World Cup is held
a. every year

b. every two years

c. every four years

2. The governing organization for football in the world is


c. AFC

3. The first football championship was held in
a. 1903

b. 1913

c. 1930

4. The first country that has won five times in the World Cup is

a. Argentina

b. Brazil

c. France

2.5.4. Cultural assimilator
Cultural assimilator, according to Stern ([40, pg 223]) was originally
developed to prepare Peace Corp volunteers for life in a foreign environment. The
activity consists of two parts: a brief description of a critical incident of crosscultural interaction that may be misinterpreted by students and a suggestion of four
possible explanations, from which students are asked to choose the most
appropriate one. At the end of the activity, students are often given feedback why
one explanation is right and the others wrong in certain cultural context. The
cultural assimilator is advantageous in many ways. It seems fun to read and
involves cross-cultural problems. Furthermore, it helps create tolerance of cultural
- Example of Culture assimilator
The following examples may be used when teaching Unit 1. “A day in the
life of…” or Unit 2. “School talks” ( Hoàng Văn Vân [17])
Situation 1. You are a student at a high school in London. Today you are 10
minutes late for the English class. When you arrive, the teacher is reading a story
to students. In this case, you’d better:
1. Knock the door and wait until the teacher lets you come in.
2. Go in quietly and take a seat in the class.
3. Wait outside the classroom until the break in order not to disturb the class.
4. Go to the teacher and apologize.


Situation 2. You are a Vietnamese student studying in an English-speaking
country. During the lecture, you have a question to ask the lecturer. What would
you do?
1. Raise your hand, stand up and ask your question.
2. Wait until the break and ask your question after the lecture.
3. Look confused and keep silent.
4. Call out “May I ask a question?”
2.5.5. Critical incidents
Critical incidents are developed from the culture assimilator and therefore it
looks like the culture assimilator in some way. In doing this activity, students are
also given a brief description of an incident or a situation which demand them to
make some kind of decision. This kind of activity does not provide ready-made
solutions and students should read the incident independently and make individual
decisions as well as reasoning for those decisions. Next, group or class discussion
may be organized to see how students’ decisions and reasoning compare and
contrast with those of the members from the target culture. Like the culture
assimilator, critical incidents easily get students involved in doing the activity and
promote intellectual understanding of cross-cultural issues. Anyway, preparation of
both of these activities seems to be time-consuming and require a certain level of
familiarizing with the target culture.
- Critical incidents: This example may be used when teaching Unit 8. “The story of
my village.” (Hoàng Văn Vân [17]).
Situation 3. Six years ago Peter was an exchange student and lived in a Vietnamese
family in a small village not far from the university. After class, he often went to
his room in the evening for an hour or two and did his homework or wrote letters
or just relaxed and listened to music. He didn't think there was anything wrong
with it - to him it was just normal. One day his host-Mom came to him and asked if
he was OK. She said they had thought that he was sad and homesick, or maybe not
happy with the host family because he would go to his room and stay there for a

couple of hours every evening. He was really surprised to hear this.
Discuss in groups about what causes the misunderstanding in this situation.
Situation 4. When Peter finished his exchange study in Vietnam and was going to
leave for his country, he wanted to give his host-Mom a present, but he hesitated to
ask her about what present he should give her.
Discuss in groups about what Peter should do in this situation.
2.5.6. Student research


Student research is considered a more complicated activity which should be
used with more advanced students. Student research can be carried out as a miniproject on any aspect of the target culture that interests students themselves. This
kind of activity may be done individually or in group. Students should be
encouraged to find out a research topic that seems interesting to them. Student
research often takes time and effort, but for some students, it can lead to a longterm interest in the target culture and research skills may stay with them even after
they leave school.
There are many topics in the textbook that may be used for student research.
In order to do some research into cross-cultural comparison, students may be
organized in groups of five-ten and choose their favorite topic, for example:
- School routine of students in Vietnam and an English-speaking country
- Vietnamese and American young people’s attitudes towards folk (rockand-roll, pop, classical, ) music
- Everyday life routines in a Vietnam’s city/village and an English-speaking
country’s city/village
In conclusion, through the brief literature review, it is obvious that culture
must be fully incorporated as a vital component of English language learning.
English language teachers should identify key cultural items in every aspect of the
language that they teach. Students can be successful in reading comprehension
only if cultural issues are an inherent part of the curriculum. The chapter has

discussed the concepts and ideas relating to culture as well as language in general
and in reading comprehension in particular. The following chapter will display the
methodology of the research under the light of the above discussed theories.


The previous chapter has presented a literature review on RC, culture, the
relationship between them as well as the teaching and learning cross-cultural
elements in reading lessons, and provided a necessary theoretical background for
the present study. This chapter presents the methodology used for the data
collection and analysis procedures of the study. It starts with a description of the
setting and the participants of the study. It then describes the method and rationale
for choosing this method as well as method procedure. It ends with a detail
description of data collection instruments and the data analysis procedure.
3.1. The setting of the study
The syllabus
The study is carried out based on the content of 3 textbooks: “Tiếng Anh 10,
11, 12” which follows the theme-based approach. Each theme, in its turn, is broken
into sub-themes/topics which are used as titles for units in the textbooks. Each
textbook consists of 16 units organized broad topics such as: daily routine,
friendship, personal experiences, a party, celebrations, games, hobbies, recreation,
the wonders of the world…Each unit consists of five sections: Reading, Speaking,
Listening, Writing, Language Focus and each section is supposed to be taught
during one period of forty-five minutes. Reading is the beginning section in each
unit. It is aimed at introducing the topic and the language content of the unit and
helping students to speak, listen and write about related issues of the next periods
and outside classroom. The reading passage is presented as a monologue or a

dialogue within not more than two hundred and thirty words. The teaching of
reading is divided into three stages: Before you read, while you read and after you
read. While you read is the main part of the section and normally includes three or
four reading tasks.
3.2 The participants
The study is conducted with the participation of students of three grades 10 th,
11th, 12th.(10T1, 11D1, 12A1) at DL3 high school. It is known that it is not always
feasible to carry out the study with all the students from three classes (115 students
in all) in the population individually because of the time limitation, expense and
accessibility. Thus, the researcher, who is in charge of teaching English for these
classes, only chose 48 students at the age of 16-18 (6 males and 10 females from
one class) as the final sample of the study. They took part in data collection
instruments: Tests, questionnaire and follow-up interviews
Moreover, this selection of these participants was convenient rather than
random due to the fact that these students from the classes have been assigned with
a relatively equal proportion of good, average and poor English proficiency


students. They were learning English under the researcher’s supervision so it was
feasible and convenient for the researcher to conduct all the steps of the study.
The subjects were divided equally into 2 groups (9 males and 15 females in
each) that is the control group and the experimental group. 3 males and 5 females
from one class were in one group. The other students in the three classes still
attended the program but no data were collected on these students. With the aims
at selecting two compatible groups for the treatment, the subjects in this study were
arranged in accordance with their level of English based on the results of their
placement test.

Hopefully, the participants selected in this study could be the representatives
for all of the students at DL3 high school and give the reliable data for the study.
3.3 The research methods
The method employed in this study is action research, with the use of a
number of instruments, namely tests, questionnaires and interviews.
3.3.1 The rationale for the use of action research
Teachers in general and teachers of English in particular actually carry out
action research for most of their time. Whenever s/he identifies a problem which is
happening in the class, it is his/her task to find ways to solve that problem.
Therefore, action research is inevitably a very common practice.
As defined by Mills [27, pg 4]: “ action research is any systematic inquiry
conducted by teacher researchers to gather information about the ways that their
particular school operates, how they teach, and how well their students learn. The
information is gathered with the goals of gaining insight, developing reflective
practice, effecting positive changes in the school environment and on educational
practices in generals, and improving student outcomes.” Kemmis and Mc Taggart
[22] identify three characteristics of action research, which are: “carried out by
practitioners”, “collaborative” and “aimed at changing things”.
The researcher, as a teacher, decided to choose action research as the best
methodology for this study because action research is classroom-based research in
order to reflect upon and evolve the teaching and learning. This meets the main
purpose of my thesis, that is to find out the cross-cultural factors that causing
barriers in RC and then get over them within a certain context. The combination of
different instruments used in this research would help to gain reliable data and help
the researcher have a close investigation into the problems that the students were
having to gain a deep understanding of teaching and learning within my own
classroom and to use that knowledge to increase my teaching efficacy and improve
my own students’ cross-cultural knowledge and RC.


Steps in action research vary from different points of view as Creswell [9]
asserts that “action research is a dynamic, flexible process” and there is “no
blueprint exists for how to proceed.” Hence, it is really impossible to assert this or
that researcher is right with exact four, five, six, seven or eight steps in their action
research. Sometimes, it is hard to define a clear cut between the steps and the
number of steps in action research may vary depending on different points of view
held by researchers
Nunan [33] defines the framework of a research as consisting of seven

Step 1: Initiation (Identify the problem)

Step 2: Preliminary investigation (Collect data through a variety of means)

Step 3: Hypothesis (Develop research questions)

Step 4: Intervention (Devise strategies and innovation to be implemented)

Step 5: Evaluation (Collect data again and analyze it to work out the


Step 6: Dissemination (Report the result by running workshops or issuing a

Step 7: Follow-up (Find alternative methods to solve the same problem)

The researcher chose Nunan’s model of action research for this study because
it is more effective and suitable than the others. However, depending of particular
situations and education settings, the study was only conducted as the first
experiment in a high school, the researcher only used five first steps in the research
process. The two last steps: Step 6 and step 7 were left out for further study.
According to this research process, the first step of this action research is to
identify the problem. Then, data must be collected through means of tests,
questionnaires and interviews. Next, the data is analyzed to find out problems and
a hypothesis is formulated after reviewing the initial data, from these to develop
research questions. The fourth step is to design a plan of action that will allow the
researcher to make a change and to study that change. In this step, a number of
strategies are devised and applied, some innovation will be implemented. The last
step of this study, after the intervention has been carried out, it is time for the
researcher to evaluate its effects in order to justify whether the intervention worked
or not. Then, the researcher will collect data again and analyze it to work out the
This action research is conducted by using both quantitative and qualitative
approaches to collect the data. The quantitative analysis is used through the
process of data collected from pretest and posttest, pre-questionnaires and postquestionnaire which were administered to students. In addition, the qualitative


approach is employed to deal with the data gathered from the interviews for both
students and teachers, that are made to help the researcher interpret the data more
3.4. The instruments of data collection
The present study utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods
including tests, questionnaires, and interviews to collect data.
Tests were administered to explore the subjects’ treatment and attitudes
towards the reading lessons containing cross-cultural factors. And then, they were
used as a base to get to know about the subjects’ language proficiency.
Questionnaires were collected to examine the attitudes of teachers and
students at DL3 high schools towards the importance of culture in English RC.
Then, find out the cross cultural factors in English RC process of teachers and
students at DL3 high school, discover teachers’ and students’ cultural obstacles to
English RC in the classrooms. All information collected helped the researcher to
identify results of the study
Interviews were conducted with the subjects who are six students having
unclear or ambiguous answers to the researcher in order to make sure once again
about the data collected.
The combination of various data collection instruments would provide a
comprehensive overview of the research. The following part discusses the
advantages and disadvantages of each data collection instruments used in this
3.4.1. The tests
A test is a procedure to collect data on subjects' ability or knowledge of
certain disciplines. In second language acquisition research, tests are generally
used to collect data about the subjects' ability and knowledge of the second
language in areas such as vocabulary, grammar, reading, metal-linguistic
awareness and general proficiency. All good tests should have five main

characteristics including validity, reliability, discrimination, practicality and
backwash in order to accurately assess the learners' ability.
In this study, two separate tests, a pretest and a posttest, were used to collect
data. When deciding the one for my students, I had to take their reading abilities as
well as cultural background knowledge into consideration. At the time of the study
their English proficiency was at elementary level. Therefore, I only chose short and
quite simple reading tasks which were more appropriate for my students.
In order to reach those aims of the tests, both pre- and post-tests were
designed based on the format of the progress tests. Specifically, both pre- and posttests are reading comprehension tests that consist of three multiple choice tasks :


Task 1 is about universal culture, Task 2,3 about English- speaking and crossnational comparison culture
Based on the analysis of the comparison between the results of the post-test
and the pre-test, the subjects’ language proficiency was identified.
3.4.2. The questionnaires
Questionnaires are printed forms for data collection, which include questions
or statements to which the subjects are expected to respond, often anonymously.
Using questionnaire has some advantages: low cost in time and money; easy to get
information from a lot of people very quickly; respondents can complete the
questionnaire when it suits them; analysis of answers to closed questions is
straightforward; less pressure for an immediate response; respondents’ anonymity;
lack of interviewer bias; standardization of questions (but true of structured
interview); can provide suggestive data for testing an hypothesis.
In this study, the questionnaire, containing 12 questions was designed to
gather the needed dada: the same one delivered before and after the treatment was
aimed at getting the reliable data for the research.
3.4.3. The interviews

Besides questionnaires, interviews are regarded as a useful tool for
collecting data in second language acquisition research. These interviews have
truly provided a lot of valuable information about the attitudes, treatment and
habits of the subjects when dealing with the reading lessons containing crosscultural factors.
The interview of 6 participants (one male and one female from each class)
was delivered right after the students did the post-questionnaire to get qualitative
data explaining for the changes. It was aimed at finding evidence for the students’
choices over some multiple choice questions. This helped the researcher get a
deeper understanding of the factors causing cross-cultural problems students’ RC
as well as their expectation for this. In the interview, the researcher asked the
students to explain their choice by providing evidence for that.
All the interviews were conducted in Vietnamese, audio-taped, and lasted
around one hour. The data collected from the interview were transcribed for the
purpose of analysis.
3.5. The procedures
The chronological steps of the study are summarized as follows:
- Study the literature to set up the theoretical background for the study;
- Work out the methodological frame work of the study;


- Apply the research program on the groups (the experimental group and the
control group);
- Collect all the data for analysis;
- Analyze the data for findings;
- Draw conclusions, implication and suggestion for further study based on
The data collection procedures can be described in details as follows:

The data collection procedures commenced in early March and ended at the
end of April 2013. All of the procedures involved the following steps.
Step 1: In the first week of March, DL3 students were given a RC test considered
to be pre-test. The test scores were collected and then analyzed to identify results.
Based on these results, cross-cultural factors in reading lessons were classified.
Step 2: Also in March, after doing pre-tests, the subjects were piloted with the prequestionnaire. The participants had one day to think carefully and give their
answers. The pre-questionnaire was administrated to identify cross-cultural factors
in RC and gather information about the reality of teaching these elements in
classrooms by the teachers. From these to find out the answers for research
questions, all of this work was completed in the middle of March.
Step 3: After collecting data from the pre-questionnaire and pre-test, the researcher
taught the students for one month. It is time the treatment of principles,
approaches, culture-based activities were tried out into the lessons as much as
possible to investigate the solutions for the problems. This lasted for four weeks
between March and April.
Step 4: In the third week of April, students were asked to do other test which was
equivalent to the first one. This is used as post-test. Then, the students were given
the post-questionnaire Test score from this test and the answers of these questions
were analyzed and compared with the pre-ones to find out how effective culturebased activities were to students’ RC.
Step 5: Individual instructed interviews were conducted with 10 students in mid
April. Each subject was required to stay after class to do the interview and each
interview often lasted for about an hour. During the interviews, the subjects were
asked about their motivation for reading learning and their habits when dealing
with the cross-cultural barriers in reading lessons. Illustrations were made by the
researcher to make this process clear. The results of the interviews helped the
researcher to have deeper understanding of their thoughts, their reflection on the
ways to incorporate cultural contents into reading lessons which they had
experienced for four weeks. All of the interviews were tape-recorded and then
transcribed. All of this work was finished at the end of April