the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Culture shock

I've been reading the book "Principles of Language Learning and Teaching" to give myself some background in ESL. Yes, I've been reading a lot. The current section is on culture shock and acculturation. The section is designed to help you better prepare your students from future experiences. But it also sums up most of my fears about working abroad.


Culture shock is a phenomena ranging from mild irritability to deep panic and crisis. ...This comes from lack of commonly perceived and understood signs and symbols of social interaction. Defense mechanisms of repression, regression, isolation and rejection.
There are four stages of acculturation:

  1. excitement and euphoria
  2. culture shock
  3. recovery
  4. adaptation


During culture shock a person may seek out and rely on people of their own nationality seeking escape from the daily trauma of social interactions. Because virtually every interaction is an intense experience.

During recovery a person begins to accept the changes in thinking and feeling that surround them. They become empathetic with people of their second culture. This may also be linked with a feeling of anomie - homelessness, feeling not firmly bound to either culture. This may lead the learner to revert to situations more familiar to the native culture.

During adaptation the learner becomes confident and "at home" with their ability and their "second self".


I am both eager for and afraid of the formation of this "second self". I think the new identity is one of the fun things about learning a new language. However, I am reasonably afraid of the isolation and frustration this process will produce. But who better to teach how to deal with culture shock than someone who has dealt with it?

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