Culture and Critical Thinking Skills for Language Learners


Language Learning is a an indispensable part of human culture. Amajor purpose of language is to express thoughts, knowledge, andbeliefs through the processes of teaching and learning. As a result oflearning and functioning in a language, culture is sustained throughgenerations (Salili & Hossain,2007). At the same time, culture alsoinfluences how knowledge, teaching and learning are construed aswell as how teaching and learning are practiced. The knowledge isacquired in a particular cultural context transforms into schemata(mental representation of knowledge based on personal experience)that may not be universally acceptable. A better understandingof the interdependency of language and culture is paramountto the development of appropriate learning strategies to meet theneeds of an increasingly changing world. This paper examines theinfluence of culture on language learning in relation to the teachingand learning of critical thinking in the context of professional education.The increasing emphasis on critical thinking in education atall levels is applicable to any culture that is currently influenced bychanges in the global environment, but how culture influences theincreasing emphasis on critical thinking is not certain. Just as cultureaffects how people construe and practice teaching and learning(Merriam, 2007), culture can also have an important influenceon how critical thinking is perceived and exercised. The ability tothink well does not guarantee one’s ability to communicate effectively.Students are trained with critical thinking skills in order tosolve problems or make decisions; if they do not know how to presenttheir ideas appropriately, the efforts spent in critical thinkingwould be futile. While it is important to consider the language abilityof students, the manners and methods involved in the expressionof their critical thoughts should also be made explicit to others,regardless of their cultural backgrounds.