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Integrating Communication

Integrating Culture

Learn 2


Curriculum Planning

Knowledge Base

Integrating Culture

Culture: Learn 2...

How is culture integrated into the teaching of world languages?

  • Pure focus on language
  • "culture" limited to upper-level coursework (through literature)
  • culture Fridays
  • separate culture class
  • holidays
  • mentioning stereotypes
  • show & tell with the exchange student/artifact
  • Recognition of importance of culture
  • Struggle to make it natural part at all levels
  • Moving toward deeper understanding of culture
  • Readings
  • Easily accessible
  • Trying to integrate it regularly
  • Subconsciously infusing culture in lessons
  • Inextricable link between culture and language visible in classrooms
  • Students gain multiple perspectives that help them challenge societal injustices
  • Natural part of everyday learning
  • Students move beyond viewing "other" cultures from the outside in, but rather the inside out.

(Adapted from Pablo Muirhead, WAFLT Summer Institute, 2005)

Compare the above chart to the one you completed in the Remember section of this module. Did you have similar examples?

Excerpt from Culture as the Core (Lange and Paige 253-255):

As we explore culture in the language classroom, Nevitt Sanford’s (1966) framework for promoting development in our students provides a useful perspective.  He suggests that the educational process involves a careful balance of support and challenge.  As the students encounter and respond to the new knowledge and skills required in the learning process, they require a balance between the challenge represented by the new stimuli and the necessary support to take risks and develop mastery.  If the challenge is excessive, the learner will resist or engage in flight, psychologically or even physically.  If the support is excessive, the learner stagnates, or sleeps blissfully through the course.

For the educator, it is possible to separate the challenge of the content of the material (grammar patterns in a foreign language, for instance) from the challenge of the process, the teaching methods used in the classroom.  Each language teacher is familiar with the topics in the course that tax the students the most; each is familiar with those lessons that are sure winners, because the content is readily absorbed, or the subject is so intriguing.  Depending on the learning styles, cognitive styles, and communications styles of the students we teach, we can also make a reasonable assessment of the methods they will find most challenging and those which are more comfortable (Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993).  In general, learners find activities that are high risk, or high disclosure, more challenging.  For instance, many adult learners find role-plays in front of a class quite challenging.  Figure 10.2 represents a model for balancing content and process challenges for the learners (J. Bennett, 1993).  What it suggests is that if we are presenting a topic that we know to be very demanding, we balance this out with a method that is user-friendly.  In other words, we support the students with the process, while challenging them with the content.  In contrast, if our topic is relatively boring, or routine, we can select extremely challenging methods for the lesson, balancing a low-challenge topic with a high-challenge process.  Students are quite comfortable with more demanding methods (such as simulations) if the topic is less threatening.  By maintaining this balance, we support the learners to take risks and develop.

High Process / High Content

  • Moving to using skills without developing knowledge first (e.g. indirectly through lit programs that assume deeper ICC without having developed it

Learner leaves

High Content / Low Process

  • Using target language to teach concept
  • Reading a story
  • Watching a movie
  • Guest speaker

Learner acquires knowledge

High Process / Low Content

  • Levels of formality
  • Learning how & when to say what to whom        
  • Greetings/gestures & incorporating them into an interpersonal communication
  • Looking at product and making connection to perspectives
  • Using knowledge of a group’s perspective to critique bias of a text

Learner develops skills

Low Process / Low Content

  • Fast-fact calendar
  • Learning about a festival (name, when celebrated) & that’s it (not expanding it to what is meant by it, the importance held by those who celebrate it)
  • Making a Day of the Dead mask and not connecting it to the perspectives associated with it
  • Culture capsules in textbooks

Learner rests

Pablo Muirhead, WAFLT Summer Institute, 2006

As intercultural educators, we can be reasonably sure that the learners in ethnocentric stages will, in general, find the discussion of the cultural differences quite challenging, perhaps even threatening to their world view.  Culture becomes a less challenging topic as the learner moves into acceptance and beyond.  Our methods can then become more complicated and we can involve the learners in higher risk activities, such as role-plays and simulations.

Lange, Dale L., and R. Michael Paige. Culture as the Core. Greenwich, CT: I nformation Age Publishing, 2003.

Next: Culture: Connect-Reflect

© 2004 Wisconsin Association For Language Teachers
Last updated: August 14, 2006