In the light of Communicative Language Teaching, language is taught for but communication. In other words, to teach language is to provide learners with communicative competence, by which Richards et al. (1992:65) means “the ability not only to apply grammatically correct sentences but also know when and where to use the sentences and to whom”. Sharing the same point of view, Saville-Troike (1982) believes that linguistic knowledge, interactional skills, and cultural knowledge are all essential components of communication that must ultimately be accounted for in order to communicate appropriately. However, the teaching and learning of English in Vietnam are more or less under the influence of the traditional ways of teaching and learning language, which mainly focused on the development of linguistic competence – lexis, grammatical rules, vocabulary, and pronunciation. Meanwhile, little attention has been paid to oral skills and even less to cultural aspects. This leads to a fact that Vietnamese learners of English, though they have fairly good knowledge of linguistic competence, usually find themselves unable to communicate in a natural way or face up with communication breakdown in the target language, especially with native speakers of English. Moreover, it is the lack of the target language culture and cultural differences that lead Vietnamese learners of English experience culture shock in every aspect of cross-cultural communication. Therefore, learners must have mutual understandings and awareness of cultural differences to be successful cross-cultural communicators. Of the universal human speech acts, criticism is a subtle one, a high face-threatening act in communication, especially in intercultural communication. In addition, criticisms are socially complex even for for native speakers. Furthermore, many studies regarding the speech act of criticizing have been carried out in different languages and in interlanguage of English learners of different language backgrounds such as House and Kasper (1981), Tracy, Van Dusen, and Robison (1987), Tracy and Eisenberg (1990), Wajnryb (1993, 1995) and Toplak and Katz (2000) and others, but not in Vietnamese. The problems posed for Vietnamese learners of English concerning criticism have not yet been adequately investigated. Therefore, a study on the similarities and differences in giving criticism in English and Vietnamese cultures through verbal cues is believed to be of great importance and significance. The findings from the research would partly help teachers and learners of English, especially Vietnamese learners of English, avoid miscommunication, hence cultural shock and communication breakdown.
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