The purpose of this paper is to take a look at the role of culture in second language teaching, its importance for students and how schools are incorporating culture in the classroom. The main theoretical constrains in which this paper is supported are the chapters 1 to 9 by Patrick Moran?s book: “Introduction to teaching Culture” and “The Cultural Experience”; the text” Culture in Second Language Teaching” by Elizabeth Peterson and Bronwyn Coltrane, and all the reading which were discussed during the class.
The importance of Culture in second language teaching, teaching culture without preconceptions and Instructional strategies for teaching language and culture, are the main aspects which will be discussed and framed by Moran?s concepts and personal opinions and experiences. Culture and Education Culture can be seen since many points of view: As civilization: The great achievements of a people, in other words the big “C” and also, it is viewed as the small “c”: customs traditions or practices that people carry out.
Culture is seen also as communication (Hall, 1985) this can be seen as “sociolinguistics” (Chaika, 1994); Intercultural communication (Lusting and Koester, 1999); the dynamic construction between and among people, among others. The construction between and among people, communication and intercultural communication refer to a particular use of language, it means that language is not just a part of culture, it reflects it. It does not mean that culture can be learned in a small number of classes about costumes, folk songs, typical food of the place where the language in this case English is spoken.
In order to increase the awareness of the importance to know more about culture, the Education has taken the reins of the incorporation of the study of culture through the language classes, which helps the learners not only to learn a particular culture and language, but to develop their overall abilities as learners of culture. The importance of Culture in Language Teaching In many ways, culture is taught implicitly: “language and culture are from the start inseparably connected’ (Buttjes, 1990: 55, cited in Lessard-Clouston, 1997) that is why culture reflects all the values of the society in which language is spoken.
Be linguistically competent does not mean only to understand and express ideas, but it also involves awareness of the ways to address people, express gratitude, make requests and agree or disagree with someone. For example, in our context it does not mean that someone is linguistically competent if she/ he use the language to make requests by asking a favor politely, it means that students must know the behaviors and intonation patters in which they must ask for the determined favor.
The interdependence between language and culture, impulse to the society to find a space in which culture could be taught by showing to the community how the different cultures are. Language, therefore, is a window to the culture, so as the window of the culture language must be a tool make explicit the implicit or tacit features of culture in a topic of a discussion in which language forms are studied. For instance when you are explaining the difference of the use of Can and Could, a teacher could explain to the students that is more polite and more adequate to use Could to ask for something.
Students will master a language only when they learn both its linguistic and cultural norms . Teaching Culture without Preconceptions Teachers should present all the cultural information without making judgments. The classroom must be a neutral space that learners can use to explore, express and reflect on their own culture by using a different language. Students will be able to express their own identity: the way they identify themselves in terms of groups or communities and recognize and tolerate the cultural differences.
Presenting unfamiliar ideas to the students could be more effective in their process of language acquisition, because they add new knowledge to their background knowledge, exploring, researching and interacting, achieving a level of empathy towards the other cultural components. For instance students will take to the classroom objects which are common in their own context and that they consider not so common for the others, they will explain the object and the others will be more aware of the cultural properties of their peers.
Another important concept which teachers must to incorporate is that cultures are not monolithic ; it means that a variety of successful behaviors are possible for any type of interaction in any particular culture, by allowing students to create their own opinions about cultures, providing them spaces in which they can explore and interact and express their own voice in the second language learning community. Instructional Strategies for Teaching Language and Culture
In order to succeed in the process of integrating culture into the class, it is important to design and develop the activities in a way that they are going to truly enrich and inform the teaching content * Authentic Materials Using authentic sources from the native speech community helps to engage students in authentic cultural experiences, in order to make the cultural experience even more personal, closer to the students, it is important to design the materials or adapt them to fit the context in which students are involved and to the goals of the class.
Artifacts, as Moran called them, are individual objects created, adopted or adapted by members of the culture and we could apply this concept when we watched the videos about the Colombian Amerindian Communities, and when we developed the Language Week activity, because we created our own materials, or adapted some, in order to show our points of view; also with the visits to exhibits, because according to the center topic of the class we can ask students to go (or we go with them) to an specific exhibit related to the focus of the class.
* Role Play. When we ask students to act a situation from a different culture, we are encouraging them to situate language in specific communities or groups so we can see variations in forms, meanings, and use according to the social settings and circumstances; but it is not an explicit process in which they are actually conscious of every single thing they do; it becomes an unconscious but successful process; because students are experiencing the culture themselves, they are building their own knowledge, just as we did throughout the semester by taking the theory and relating it with our reality, with our personal experiences, with our own culture. Culture Capsules As we did in the Field Work at the Central Cemetery, we were given the key points or guidelines to develop the activity, but it was up to us to find out information about it and to present it, both written and orally. We also did it when we watched the video about Colombian Amerindian Cultures, because we had to look for more information about them and to discuss what we had found out. * Students as Cultural Resources It is very helpful, inside the classroom, to use students’ and teachers’ personal experiences and characteristics in order to make the cultural integration into the curriculum even closer to students.
Our classrooms are multicultural, so there we have the central “material” to develop our classes. The language individuals use to express their thoughts, feelings, questions, decisions, strategies, and plans reflect the cultural experience, and this is all part of Knowing Oneself which is key to the development of the class by using students as a resource, because when they are able to recognize themselves as part of a culture and by that they can recognize other cultures from the differences they find. * Ethnographic Studies
Ethnocentrism can be a problem when dealing with Culture in Second Language teaching, because our students can get trapped in judging other cultures based solely in terms of our own culture; this is why it is important to develop activities as Ethnographic studies, in which students get in direct touch with the community, the people, the culture. We developed this when we did the Field Work, we had to go to the Central Cemetery, take pictures, and talk to people in order to gain knowledge about our own culture.
The readings’ discussion was also very helpful, especially because we related them with our reality, with our personal experiences, with our own culture. * Literature Literature is a viable component of second language programs at the appropriate level and…one of [its] major functions…is to serve as a medium to transmit the culture of the people who speak the language in which it is written (Valdes, 1986: 137), through readings we can teach students about other country’s culture and allow them to explore that country with their imagination.
We read during the whole semester, and we were constantly in touch with American Culture (because the texts were in English), so we can also help our students be in touch with a different culture, by providing them with interesting readings that enrich they knowledge according to their level. * Film We experience the efficacy of this kind of activities in the classroom with the videos “Desde el Corazon del Mundo”, “Nukak Maku” and “Modern Times”, we were able to relate the whole theory we had studied with what we witnessed it the videos.
Film is often one of the more current and comprehensive ways to encapsulate the look, feel ant rhythm of a culture. Film also connects students with language and cultural issues simultaneously (Stephens, 2001); this is why videos should be an essential tool for the development of a class, although it is important to combine it with students’ interaction with the videos in order to get meaningful learning. As it was proposed by Moran with his “Learning Culture: Interpreting”, from the stages of language to learn culture, we can ask students for their interpretations of the videos, after a deep analysis of them.
Conclusions It is important to realize that every single activity developed during the semester in the Language, Society and Culture class, was focused on us being able to build knowledge about culture, not only for our growth as students, but also our growth as teachers. Our main job should be the one of making our classes “Culture Centered”, and although the knowledge of the American and English cultures is very important because we are English teachers, it is also imperative to know our own culture first.
There is a need for teachers and students to feel that we are part of the culture, that we are the culture, and that we are not isolated entities. Learning a different language and by that, a new culture, is a very enriching process, but we cannot let this take us away from our own culture, because that is what surround us, what we experience every day, our Colombian culture make us who we are.