Culture-sensitive Learning and Teaching in the Foreign Language Classroom

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

In the current age of globalization, migration and digital communication, developing intercultural and/or transcultural communicative competence has become a priority aim in university and school education. Over the past years and decades, ‘remarkable progress’ has been made in international research in terms of understanding culture and how it is encoded in language. However, looking back at the 6th UCCLLT conference held in San Diego in April this year once again (see my previous post), I feel that official guideline recommendations on ‘teaching culture’ in the foreign/second language classroom, issued by the American Council of Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL 1996), the Council of Europe (2001), the Modern Language Association (2007), and over here in Germany (KMK 2003; the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs) are partially unknown to interested researchers, teachers, and students depending on where they live, work, or study.

Inspired by Claire Kramsch’s brilliant keynote speech delivered a few weeks ago in San Diego, I would like to draw your attention to the important publications mentioned above (linked to this blog on the sidebar to make them more easily accessible). Since culture and language integrated learning in FL/SL classrooms is of interest to reseachers, frontline educators, and univerity students world-wide, I would very much get to know more about the current state of discussion on teaching language and culture in integrated ways in other countries and what teachers actually do to promote culture-sensitive learning in everyday practice around the globe.


3 responses to “Culture-sensitive Learning and Teaching in the Foreign Language Classroom

  1. Anna Schmitter

    Since you asked: I remember a young French teacher in New Orleans had a fixed spot for cultural education/aspects on Fridays right after the student’s had done thier weekly quiz/test. While I visited her class, on one Friday she introduced Braille and its inventor who was French. Since the school was a charter school with a high frequency of African-American students, the topic was often also chosen in order to let students identify with someone in a bad situation who did something to make it better – in this case a blind person who invented a writing system. Although the focus was on French culture, at the same time the aim was to raise students’ motivation to achieve more and to believe that they can become someone with a good job.
    I believe it is a good idea to push students that come from worse social backgrounds, but I am not sure that intercultural communication competences were really taught in that class. The students mostly only learned something about someone or something, but that was it.

  2. Its becoming more of a requirement in schools to become more cultured, understanding other countries and the way other nationalities operate. It is even a requirement to learn at least one other language to be accepted into most universities. I think that we could do a little better with it though, because although there are lessons, we still dont have full understandings of language and culture, of our own, let alone others. Great article!!!

  3. I think that people who are drawn to teaching foreign languages are often interested in other cultures, so they’re open to the idea of teaching them. Also, most foreign-language textbooks contain at least *some* cultural component The challenge, in my mind, is to teach students something meaningful about other cultures without outright stereotyping. On the one hand, you want to pass along common cultural trends. On the other hand, you don’t want to downplay the fact that people are individuals, and while some people may follow a practice or trend, other people may eschew it.

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