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Kaplan's - IELTS Reading Passage

Updated on 12 February, 2024

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team


Kaplan's theory, a groundbreaking concept in the field of linguistics and cultural communication, is not just a topic of academic interest but a practical tool in our increasingly globalized world. Understanding this theory is vital for effective communication across cultures, making it an essential subject for IELTS aspirants.

Passage: The Essence of Kaplan's Theory

In the realm of linguistics and cross-cultural communication, few theories have sparked as much interest and debate as Robert Kaplan's theory on the influence of culture on writing styles. Developed in the 1960s, Kaplan's theory delves into the intricate relationship between linguistic structures and cultural backgrounds, offering a lens through which to understand the varying approaches to written communication across different languages. This theory has not only academic significance but also immense practical value in our interconnected world.

Kaplan's theory emerged from his observations of the writing patterns of non-native English speakers. He noted that individuals from different linguistic backgrounds often struggle with English composition, not merely due to a lack of vocabulary or grammar skills, but because their native language's structure and cultural context influenced their writing style. According to Kaplan, each language and culture imparts a unique set of rules and patterns in communication, deeply ingrained in its speakers. These patterns, when applied to a second language, can lead to writing that native speakers might find unconventional or challenging to comprehend.

A core aspect of Kaplan's theory is the classification of writing styles into various patterns influenced by cultural backgrounds. English, for example, is often described as having a linear writing style. This style is direct, follows a straight line of thought, and is characterized by a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. This pattern is a reflection of Western culture's emphasis on logic, clarity, and directness. However, when speakers of other languages write in English, they may unconsciously apply the writing patterns of their native languages, leading to compositions that deviate from the expected English structure.

In contrast to the linear pattern of English, Kaplan identified several other patterns. Semitic languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew, often employ a more complex and parallel writing style. This style can appear digressive to those accustomed to linear narratives. Rather than following a straight line, the text may weave in and out of the main argument, exploring related points simultaneously. This pattern reflects the rich oral traditions and storytelling aspects of Semitic cultures.

Similarly, Romance languages, like Spanish and French, exhibit a more elaborate and ornate style, often incorporating lengthy sentences and a flair for detailed descriptions. This style mirrors the cultural value placed on artistry and elegance in communication. Asian languages, such as Chinese and Japanese, present yet another contrast. Kaplan described their writing style as circular, where ideas are presented in a spiral manner, leading to the conclusion in an indirect way. This style can be traced back to the philosophical and holistic perspectives prevalent in many Asian cultures.

Kaplan’s theory extends beyond mere academic analysis; it has practical implications in education and communication in our globalized society. In the field of English language teaching, particularly for non-native speakers, understanding Kaplan's theory helps educators tailor their instruction to better address the specific challenges faced by learners from different linguistic backgrounds. Recognizing the influence of native language structures on English writing can lead to more effective teaching strategies and a greater appreciation of diverse writing styles.

Moreover, in the realm of international business and diplomacy, where clear and effective communication is paramount, Kaplan's theory serves as a crucial tool. It enables professionals to better understand the underlying cultural nuances in written communication, fostering more effective and respectful cross-cultural interactions. In a world where global collaboration is increasingly the norm, being cognizant of these linguistic and cultural differences is essential.

However, Kaplan's theory is not without its critics. Some argue that it oversimplifies the complexities of language and culture, potentially leading to stereotyping. Others believe that the theory underestimates the adaptability and flexibility of non-native speakers in mastering different writing styles. Despite these criticisms, Kaplan's theory remains a foundational concept in the study of linguistics and cross-cultural communication.

Questions and Answers

Q1. What is the primary focus of Kaplan's theory?

a) The impact of linguistics on culture

b) Influence of culture on writing styles

c) Differences in spoken languages

d) Development of communication technology

A1: The correct answer is b) Influence of culture on writing styles. Kaplan's theory primarily discusses how different cultures shape distinct writing patterns in their native speakers.

Q2. According to Kaplan, how does English writing typically progress?

a) In a circular pattern

b) Linearly

c) Through complex parallels

d) In a spiral manner

A2: The correct answer is b) Linearly. Kaplan noted that English writing typically follows a straightforward, linear progression.

Q3. True or False: Kaplan's theory is only applicable to academic research and has no practical use in everyday communication.

a) True

b) False

A3: The correct answer is b) False. Kaplan's theory is highly practical for effective communication in our globalized world, not just in academic contexts.

Q4. Fill in the blank: Kaplan illustrated that Semitic languages, like Arabic, often use a ____________ writing style.

a) Linear

b) Circular

c) Complex and parallel

d) Simple and direct

A4: The correct answer is c) Complex and parallel. This style is often perceived as digressive by those accustomed to linear thinking.

Q5. What can be inferred about Asian languages from Kaplan's theory?

a) They are less effective in communication

b) They use a direct approach in writing

c) They follow a circular approach in writing

d) They are similar to English in structuring ideas

A5: The correct answer is c) They follow a circular approach in writing, reaching conclusions through a spiral of ideas.

Q6. Which of the following best describes the purpose of Kaplan's theory?

a) To critique different writing styles

b) To provide a new grammar structure

c) To understand cultural influences on writing

d) To standardize English writing globally

A6: The correct answer is c) To understand cultural influences on writing. Kaplan’s theory aims to elucidate how different cultural backgrounds influence distinct writing styles.

Q7. Fill in the blank: Kaplan's work in the 1960s was considered ____________ in the field of linguistics.

a) controversial

b) insignificant

c) groundbreaking

d) outdated

A7: The correct answer is c) groundbreaking. Kaplan's theory was pioneering and brought a new perspective to the field of linguistics.

Q8. True or False: According to Kaplan, all languages follow a similar pattern in writing style.

a) True

b) False

A8: The correct answer is b) False. Kaplan argued that different languages have distinct writing styles influenced by their cultural and linguistic structures.

Q9. In Kaplan's theory, which writing style is associated with Semitic languages like Arabic?

a) Linear and straightforward

b) Circular and indirect

c) Complex and parallel

d) Simplistic and concise

A9: The correct answer is c) Complex and parallel. This style is characteristic of Semitic languages according to Kaplan's observations.

Q10. What is a key takeaway from Kaplan's theory for effective cross-cultural communication?

a) Prioritizing English writing styles

b) Recognizing and adapting to different writing styles

c) Focusing solely on grammatical accuracy

d) Avoiding non-linear writing styles

A10: The correct answer is b) Recognizing and adapting to different writing styles. Kaplan’s theory highlights the importance of understanding and adapting to the diverse writing patterns of different cultures for effective communication.


Kaplan's theory of cultural patterns in writing styles offers insightful perspectives into the diverse ways in which our cultural backgrounds shape our communication. It highlights the importance of understanding and respecting these differences, especially in a world where interactions across linguistic and cultural boundaries are commonplace. For students, educators, professionals, and anyone engaged in cross-cultural communication, Kaplan's theory is a valuable guide in navigating the intricate labyrinth of global linguistic diversity.

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upGrad Abroad Team

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