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«Available online at WSN 42 (2016) 293-305 EISSN 2392-2192 Semiotics and language teaching (teaching English to Kurd ...»

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WSN 42 (2016) 293-305 EISSN 2392-2192

Semiotics and language teaching (teaching English

to Kurd students)

Sirvan Zamani

Department of Linguistic, Sanandaj Branch, Islamic Azad University, Sanandaj, Iran

E-mail address: Sirvan.zamani1@gmail.com


The world today calls a common language as a code to ease communication among different

language speakers and almost this language is English which is being taught in four corners of world.For teaching languages there are many barriers of which the most important ones come to the structural and inherent differences, for several years teaching English to Kurd students it has been substantiated that in many cases the Kurd speaker encounters severe problems to understand what differences structural differences among languages exert. Some while these differences block the process of message transfer. Relying on semiotic iconic fragments many of these troublesome obstacles appear to be eliminated thoroughly it seems that there are shortages in quantity of structures to convey a message from a mind to one another: in order to understand what exactly the role of structures are I am going to illustrate the tense FUTURE which splits into (simple, progressive, perfect and perfect continuous in English) which are shown in one form in Kurdish thus a Kurd speaker would confront severe problems to think by those structures and consequently his or her perception of an English speaker using those structures might be challenged. Hence throughout this article it has been substantiated to get the significance of structure acquaintance known and likewise to imply how this trend could fruitfully push the Kurd learners to overwhelm the English structures grabbed and eventually will have them completely interact and interchange messages in English: knowing the structures and senses they have will dramatically enhance Kurd’s perception and uttering quality in English Keywords: Semiotics; language teaching; context; sign; symbol World Scientific News 42 (2016) 293-305

1. INTRODUCTION Semiotic is the science that mostly rummages the signs and the influence they have over interchanging idea of course it mainly deals with signs to form and using those signs to facilitate the interactions.it should even be said that there would be no language if signs were removed from that. Overall the nature of language is based on signs and with signs it could be taught and learned better and faster. The use of signs and symbols as aids could enhance the procedure of language teaching. Needless to say that the language has a semiotic nature which seems so tough and complex. we all know that students initially would like to transfer their concept and exchange what goes in their mind with whom they speak to.in any situation like this student or totally whoever trying to use the language would be using a form of semiotic, because naturally language uses a combination of signs and symbols to communicate. The same time both teacher and student use series of signs which some are iconic and some are symbolic.likely semiotic could be enumerated as a basic way to teach languages.one more efficient use of semiotic is for teaching visually. As we know cultural elements in semiotic and for vocabulary and structure teaching,signs and symbols are used therefore language teachers are expected to acquaint semiotic professionally to fulfil better.one of the contributions of linguistics to language teaching is in the field semiotics according to Jacobson (1974: 32) the role of semiotics in linguistics is to provide the communication of any message whatever or the exchange of any message whatever and the system of signs which underlie them.(Seboek, 1985: 1) also Ferdinand de Saussure (1983: 15-6) says that a language is a social institution. A language is a system of signs expressing ideas and hence comparable to writing.in short using the semiotic signs including both iconic and symbolic ones would help teachers to do better.as it is clear utilizing this method it could be seen avoiding the cross cultural barriers.

The semiotic nature of language teaching is a complicated and an essential concept to study. In the language classroom, the primary role of the language learner is to transfer and exchange correct information with his/her audience. While doing this, the language learner makes use of the semiotic signs. Most of these signs are used unconsciously by the students and the teachers. Since semiotics is the combination of signs and symbols to communicate the information, the students and the teachers make use of a number of signs, some of which are iconic and some are symbolic. Thus, it can be said that, semiotics is a fundamental issue to be considered in language teaching pedagogy, because it helps the individual to develop his cognitive facilities at all levels of perception. Moreover, semiotics not only offers different models of teaching but also broadens the scope of language teaching by offering tools to consider for visual communication in a given context. To illustrate, non-verbal and visual communication, cultural elements in semiotics and for vocabulary teaching, signs and symbols are used actively in the language classrooms.

The language teachers should study many semiotic signs in the teaching process. To illustrate, while teaching a language, the teacher refers to his/her linguistic knowledge.

"Linguistics then works in the borderland where the elements of sound and thought combine;

their combination produces a form, not a substance." (Hodge and Kress, 1988: 24) In the lines above, Hodge and Kress state that linguistics, which is the study of language, has a careful role to perform in humanities related sciences. According to them, linguistics works at the borderland, because linguistics should provide every background and philosophical information to language teachers and learners to help them overcome their problems in

-294World Scientific News 42 (2016) 293-305 learning a foreign language. One of the contributions of linguistics to language teaching is in the field semiotics. According to Jacobson, (1974:32) the role of semiotics in linguistics is to provide "the communication of any messages whatever" or "the exchange of any messages whatever and the system of signs which underlie them." (Sebeok, 1985).

In this case, Jacobson and Sebeok's concerns include considerations of how messages are successively generated, encoded, transmitted and decoded in certain contexts. About the importance of semiotics in language, French Semiolog (He used the term semiology instead of semiotics) Ferdinand de Saussure (1983: 15-6) states that, "A language is a social institution. But it is in various respects distinct from political, judicial and other institutions. Is special nature emerges when we bring into consideration a different order of facts. A language is a system of signs expressing ideas, and hence comparable to writing, the deaf-and-dumb alphabet, symbolic rites, forms and politeness, military signals, and so on. It is simply the most important of such systems. It is therefore possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as a part of social life. It would form part of a social psychology, and hence of general psychology.

We shall call 74 it semiology. (From the Greek semeion 'sign.'" In the lines above, Saussure puts forward the importance and the necessity of the existing semiotic signs and symbols in the language system. Thus, in language teaching, the teachers should make use of these semiotic signs (both iconic and symbolic) in the language teaching process to provide a better understanding in the target language, to gain acceleration and perhaps the most important, to avoid cross-cultural failure in the classroom while teaching a foreign language.

As Hodge and Kress (1988: 26) claim, "Students of cross cultural communication know how often misunderstanding arises because of different assumptions in different cultural groups.

Undoubtedly, it creates heavy demands to extend semiotics in this way, to include the description and analysis of the stock of cultural knowledge in a given society." Therefore, it can be said that semiotics not only helps learners to get the right message through semiotic signs to avoid cross-cultural failure, but also encourages the language teachers to play a critical role in the classroom.


There can be no doubt that language teaching methods provide the language teacher the opportunity to cope with four skills more easily. People have approached language learning in many ways over the years. The self-directed language learner or the language teacher have always asked the same question: "What approach should I use?" However, the hot debates of the last fifty years showed that there is no ideal language teaching method which would meet all the needs of the language learner. Thus, in order to be successful in target language teaching, the teachers have to make some critical decisions about the course material, activities, content, etc, but these may not be enough. 75 There are semiotic signs which are actively used by the students and the teachers. Semiotic signs in language teaching help learners in a many respects.

They not only present visual feedback for the students but also accelerates the learning process as well. Most of the language learning methods have semiotic elements. These elements are presented through activities in many methods especially in direct method, audiolingual method and in communicative method. 2.1. Situational Language Teaching Situational

-295World Scientific News 42 (2016) 293-305 language teaching is a term not commonly used today, but it is an approach developed by British applied linguists in the 1930s to the 1960s, which had an impact on language courses which survive in some still being used today. The theory of learning underlying the situational language teaching is behaviorism. It gives more importance to the process rather than the conditions of learning. According to Richards and Rodgers (1990:37) "Situational language teaching employs a situational approach to presenting new sentence patterns and a drill based manner of practicing them." For Richards and Rodgers, the situation refers to the manner of presenting and practicing the information (the structure of language) in the language classroom. "The situation will be controlled carefully to teach the new language material....

in such a way that there can be no doubt in the learner's mind of the meaning of what he hears.... almost all of the vocabulary and structures taught in the first four or five years and even later can be placed in situations in which the meaning is quite clear." (Pittman, 1964:155-6) Pittman used the term situation to refer to objects, pictures, and regalia, together with gestures to demonstrate the meanings of new language items. These objects and pictures are always used as semiotic signs to provide a better understanding in the target language.

The situational language teaching includes the following principles in general. • Language learning is a habit formation. • Students should avoid making mistakes. Teacher's immediate guidance is needed if they make mistakes. • Language skills are better and more effectively learned if they are presented orally first, then in written mode. • Analogy is better than analysis. • The meanings of the words can be learned more easily in a linguistic and cultural context. 76 • Accuracy in pronunciation and grammar is always appreciated. • Students' ability to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations is always welcome. • Students and teachers should have the auto-control over the structure of language use. • A situational presentation of new sentence patterns is a must. • Procedures move from controlled to freer practice of structures • Procedures move from oral use of sentence patterns to their automatic use in speech, reading and writing.


In the early decades of the 20th century, vocabulary teaching and research were respectable. The Grammar Translation Method and the Reading Approach were the leading language teaching methodologies at that time. Both of these approaches involved a great deal of direct vocabulary teaching and learning (Murcia 1991:296). The Grammar Translation Method aimed to provide the student with a detailed literary vocabulary which is learned through long lists of translated items and a bilingual dictionary and practiced through sentence translation with little opportunity to try out pronunciation (Rivers 1981: 28-30). The Reading Approach attached more importance to vocabulary than grammatical skills. The vocabulary of the early readings was strictly controlled. Since the acquisition of vocabulary was regarded more prominent than the mastery of grammatical skills, expanding vocabulary as fast as possible was of great importance (Celce-Murcia and Prator 1979: 3). The Reform Movement, which was set up as a reaction to the Grammar Translation Method, stressed the primacy of spoken language and the presentation of the written word only after the spoken form had been provided. It was emphasized that new vocabulary should only be met in sentences and meaningful contexts (Richards and Rodgers 2001: 10). The Direct Method, which grew out of the Reform Movement, made emphasis on interaction for language acquisition and acquiring

-296World Scientific News 42 (2016) 293-305 an acceptable pronunciation from the beginning. It introduced vocabulary through classroom objects, mime, drawings and explanations (Rivers 1981: 32-33), or even texts supplemented by pictures (Robin and Bergeaud, 1941).

The Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching were British structuralist approaches to language teaching developed between the 1930’s and the 1960’s (Richards and Rodgers 2001: 39). In the Oral Approach, grammar and vocabulary was carefully chosen and graded. This ultimately led to the Vocabulary Control Movement and West’s ‘A General Service List of English Words’ 1953, which had a permanent effect on the grading of vocabulary (Schmitt 2000: 15, Zimmerman 1997: 9). In Situational Language Teaching, the meaning of words was not to be given via explanation in either the mother tongue or the target language but was to be induced from the way the form was used in a situation. The learner was expected to deduce the meaning of a particular vocabulary item from the situation in which it was presented. The meaning of new words was not conveyed through translation. It

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