Language learning and language culture in a changing world


Seattle University, USA


To  communicate  effectively,  learners  have  to  become  proficient  in  both  the  language  and  the
culture of the target language.  Being aware of socio-cultural frameworks does not mean that as
an outcome of instruction learners have to become "native-like," but an awareness of L2 cultural
norms can allow learners to make their own informed choices of how to become competent and
astute language users.  This paper provides an overview of practical approaches and techniques
to  teaching  culture  in  the  classroom  in  conjunction  with  instruction  in  the  essential  language
skills.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that this brief review of strategies and tactics for
cross-cultural  teaching  and  learning  is  minimalist,  and  a  number  of  additional  sources  of
pedagogical techniques are currently available. 


Main Subjects

A  dramatic  change  in  the  real  world  and  in
language teaching has taken place in the past
couple  of  decades.    The  increasing  pace  of
globalization,  electronic  communication,
popular  media,  the  Internet,  and  social
networks  has  affected  all  of  us  to  varying
degrees, and definitely all young people and
language students in profound ways.  Today,
it is an unavoidable conclusion that the new
generations  will  work,  communicate,  and
socialize  with  people  who  are  speakers  of
diverse  languages  and  members  of  different
cultures.    For  this  reason  alone,  today's
language learners will be required to interact
and  communicate  effectively  across  various
types  of  boundaries  and  in  a  range  of
contexts.    To  communicate  effectively,
learners,  as  members  of  society,  have  to
become  proficient  in  both  the  language  and
the  culture  of  its  speakers  (McKay  &
Bokhorst-Heng, 2008).   
While some language learners study English
as a Foreign Language (EFL) to pass exams
and tests, it is important for their teachers to
remember  that  today's  young  or  youngish
learners  are  likely  to  be  in  the  employment
world  and  function  within  various  social
groups  for  many  decades.    Reasonable  18-
or  19-  year-olds  are  probably  not  very
concerned  with  their  educational,
professional, or vocational opportunities that
await  them  when  they  are  25,  but  their
teachers  must  consider  the  potential  and
future options of their students.  To this end,
being  proficient  in  the  culture  of  language
speakers  may  provide  economic  and  social
opportunities  that,  today,  to  many  might
seem somewhat unbelievable.  For example,

most  EFL  teachers  could  probably  name  a
student  or  two  or  three  among  the  students
in  their  classes  who  have  obtained
employment  with  a  multinational  company
or a government position that requires these
learners  to  interact  with  speakers  of  other
languages  --  in  English  --  in  the  course  of
their  daily  functioning.    A  lack  of  cultural
proficiency,  in  addition  to  linguistic
proficiency,  may  make  or  break  such
opportunities  in  a  way  that  today's  students,
sitting in the classrooms, can't even imagine.   
An instrumental objective of teaching social
and  interactional  norms,  in  addition  to  the
linguistic  properties  of  a  foreign  language
(FL),  should  focus  on  cultural  pragmatic
systems.    These  represent  key  variables  in
students' abilities to negotiate their roles and
their  ability  to  participate  in  --  or  be
marginalized  or  even  excluded  from  --
various  social,  academic,  or  employment-related groups or interactions.   
The  original  goals  of  teaching  culture  in
second  or  foreign  language  (L2/FL)
classrooms  were  proposed  by  Ned  Seelye
(1988).    Since  that  time,  these  basic
objectives  have  been  modified  and
examined  by  various  researchers,  but
fundamentally  these  have  remained  the  foci
of much pedagogy in language, culture,  and
cross-cultural  communication.    These  goals
specify  that  the  key  accomplishments  of
culture teaching are to help learners develop
the following new perspectives and abilities:
  An  understanding  that,  in  all
societies,  people  exhibit
culturally-conditioned behaviors
  A  realization  that,  in  all
languages,  social  variables  such
as age, sex, social role, and social
status  determine  the  ways  in
which people speak and interact
  An awareness that, in all societies,
people  display  conventionalized
language  uses  and  behavior  in
common (or typical) situations
  An  awareness  of  the  cultural
connotations  assigned  to  words
and phrases in L2/FL
  An  ability  to  evaluate  and  refine
generalizations  (and  stereotypes)
about the L2/FL culture, based on
real-life evidence and experience
  Skills  for  researching  another
culture,  i.e.  how  to  locate,
organize,  and  evaluate  new
information about another culture
  Intellectual  curiosity  about  L2/FL
culture, as well as insight, respect,
and  other  positive  attitudes
toward members of other cultures
In  later  years,  some  methodologists  noted
that  Seelye’s  model  was  not  sufficiently
specific  for  classroom  teaching  and  that  it
provided few techniques for achieving these
pedagogical  objectives.    In  the  contexts  of
FL teaching, for example, some teachers are
not  native  speakers  of  the  language  they
teach  and  thus  themselves  may  not  have  a
great  deal  of  experience  in  another  culture.  
Other  criticisms  contended  that  Seelye's
theoretical  model  did  not  provide  extensive
details  about  how  to  integrate  the
development of learners' cross-cultural skills
into  language-centered  curricula  which
traditionally  cover  grammar  teaching  and
learning.  Despite these practical issues with
Seelye's outlined tenets, his model has stood
the  test  of  time  and  served  as  a  valuable
foundation  for  further  elaboration,  research,
and  publications  that  have  been  a  mainstay
of  culture  teaching  for  the  past  several
decades.    The  remainder  of  this  paper
provides  an  overview  of  practical
approaches  and  techniques  to  teaching
culture in the classroom in conjunction with

instruction  in  the  essential  language  skills.  
It  goes  without  saying,  however,  that  this
brief  review  of  strategies  and  tactics  for
cross-cultural  teaching  and  learning  is
minimalist,  and  a  number  of  additional
sources  of  pedagogical  techniques  are
currently available.   
Teaching Culture as L2/FL Pragmatics
Being  aware  of  socio-cultural  frameworks
does  not  mean  that  as  an  outcome  of
instruction learners have to become "native-like," but an awareness of L2 cultural norms
can  allow  learners  to  make  their  own
informed  choices  of  how  to  become
competent  and  astute  language  users
(Hinkel,  1995).    Generally  speaking,  the
teacher's task is to provide learners the tools
that  they  need  to  recognize  that  they  are
indeed  making  choices  when  they  employ
particular  language  features  and  that  these
choices will have an impact on the effect of
the  communication  (see  Seeley's  goals  for
culture learning noted earlier).  
Culture  may  find  its  manifestations  in  body
language,  gestures,  concepts  of  time,
hospitality customs, and even expressions of
friendliness.    While  it  is  essential  for
learners  to  attain  language  proficiency  and
to  be  linguistically  competent,  in  many
cases,  this  is  not  sufficient.    To  become
proficient  and  effective  communicators,
learners  need  to  attain  L2/FL  socio-cultural
competence.    Knowing  the  grammatical
form of apologies, such as, for example:
excuse me    
I'm sorry
  My apologies
I regret (that … / noun)
does not automatically confer the knowledge
of  when,  to  whom,  and  under  what
circumstances  to  use  these  expressions.    In
various  circumstances,  an  inappropriate  use
of  an  apology  can  be  disruptive,  somewhat
offensive,  or  discourteous,  even  though
many  learners  typically  believe  that  an
expressed apology is always (always) polite.
Quite  reasonably,  learners  first  apply  the
standards that exist in the first language (L1)
communities  where  they  were  socialized.  
People  who  interact  with  language  learners,
as  well  as  L2  researchers,  have  commented
repeatedly  (see  the  numerous  publications
on L2 speech acts, including apologies) that
misused  expressions  of  politeness  or  even
unintended  rudeness  are  ubiquitous  in  L2
interactions.    Not  understanding  the  socio-cultural  norms  of  a  community  can  impact
non-native  speakers'  (NNSs')  ability  to
function in a L2 community.   
According to Hymes (1996), the learning of
culture  is  an  integral  part  of  any  and  all
language  learning  and  education  because  it
crucially  influences  an  individual's  view  of
his or her place in the society, the success of
everyday interactions, the norms of speaking
and  behaving,  and  the  socio-cultural
expectations  of  an  individual's  roles.    He
further  notes  that  those  who  do  not  follow
the  norms  of  appropriateness  accepted  in  a
community  are  often  placed  in  a  position
that  exacerbates  social  disparities  and
Today,  when  the  numbers  of  EFL  students
have  grown  dramatically,  it  is  becoming
increasingly  clear  that  the  learning  of  a
second  culture  does  not  take  care  of  itself.  
Thus,  L2  learners  cannot  always  make  the
best  of  their  professional,  social,  and
interactional opportunities until they become
familiar  with  fundamental  L2  cultural
concepts  and  constructs.    Most  importantly,
an ability to recognize and employ culturally
appropriate  ways  of  communicating  in
speech  or  writing  allows  learners  to  make

choices  with  regard  to  their  linguistic,
pragmatic,  and  other  behaviors.    Without
instruction  in  and  an  understanding  of  L2
cultural and socio-pragmatic norms, learners
by  definition  do  not  have  and  cannot  make
the essential choices that necessarily have to
be made to their own advantage.
Although  traditionally  courses  and  texts  for
language  teachers  concentrate  on  teaching
L2  linguistic  skills,  it  may  be  difficult  to
separate  the  teaching  and  learning  of  any
FL,  from  the  culture  of  its  speakers.    For
example,  what  represents  polite  ways  of
speaking and appropriate ways of writing an
essay  may  depend  on  culturally-dependent
concepts  that  are  closely  bound  up  with  the
linguistic  skills  needed  to  speak  or  write
well in the L2.  Realistically speaking, many
teachers and learners often overlook the fact
that  the  "knowledge  of  the  grammatical
system  of  a  language"  must  be
complemented by understanding the culture-specific meanings in communication (Byram
and Morgan, 1994, p. 4).
To  be  useful  and  practical,  the  fundamental
teaching  of  L2/FL  culture  needs  to  address
how  individuals  can  obtain  and  manage
cultural  knowledge  in  various  contexts,
under a diverse range of circumstances,  and
in  different  places,  communities,  and
interactions  (Arens,  2010).    It  goes  without
saying that the basics of language have to be
taught, but they can be taught in conjunction
with  appropriate  uses  of  grammar  and
vocabulary,  for  example,  when  it  comes  to
considerations  of  register  or  contextually
suitable  pragmatic  behaviors  that  reflect
socio-cultural norms and systems.  Teaching
culture as L2/FL pragmatics needs to rely on
language  learning  from  a  cross-cultural
perspective,  rather  than  studying  grammar
and  vocabulary  patterns.    Attaining
linguistic  proficiency  is  undoubtedly  very
important,  but  in  many  cases  it  is  not
sufficient  for  successful  cross-cultural
communication.    At  the  present  time,  the
ultimate  goal  of  all  cultural  and  cross-cultural  education  is  to  enable  learners  to
become  effective  in  a  global  economy,  an
international  community,  and  across
national boundaries.   
Teaching L2/FL practical cultural skills
The very purpose of teaching L2/FL cultural
and  pragmatic  interactional  norms  is  to
enable  learners  to  communicate  effectively.  
In  consequence,  the  teaching  of  practical
language  competencies  has  to  develop
learners'  cross-cultural  awareness,  at  the
very least.  In addition, however, instruction
in  functional  pragmatic  skills  needs  to
extend  beyond  cultural  appreciation  of,  for
example,  literature  and  the  arts  to  building
realistic  and  usable  intercultural  abilities
(Scarino,  2010).    It  is  hard  to  imagine  that
the  effective  teaching  of  incremental
language  skills,  such  as  speaking  or
listening,  intended  for  functional
communication  can  take  place  in  isolation
from  instruction  in  L2/FL  culture.    A  good
analogy  in  this  case  may  be  learning  basic
math  skills:    knowing  math  rules  would  not
be helpful at all if a learner cannot compute
such  small  daily  necessities  as  car  fuel
efficiency  per  liter,  currency  conversions  in
shops  in  another  country,  or  the  taxi  fare
required  to  reach  a  particular  destination.  
The  knowledge  about  specific  cultural
attributes  of  a  community  does  not
necessarily  enable  to  learners'  to
communicate  effectively  in  social,
educational,  and  professional  interactions
where  both  linguistic  and  pragmatic  skills
have to be deployed (Hinkel, 2001).   
In  the  teaching  of  language  and  culture,  a
significant  challenge  for  FL  teachers  lies  in
specifically  what  elements  of  pragmatics

and culture to teach and how to teach them.  
Much research carried out in pragmatics and
sociolinguistics  over  the  past  several
decades  has  focused  on  the  socio-cultural
norms  of  politeness  and  appropriateness  in
performing various types of speech acts and
in  writing.    In  the  case  of  speech  acts,  such
as  requests,  clarifications,  apologies,  and
small  talk,  for  example,  the  linguistic  and
pragmatic  features  of  such  specific  speech
acts can be taught in the classroom to focus
on  repeated  and  frequently  routinized  uses
of  language,  together  with  the  important
differences  according  to  the  social  status  of
the  speaker  and  the  hearer,  and  other
situational factors.  Speech acts can be direct
or  indirect,  and  thus  vary  in  the  degree  of
their  politeness  or  even  comprehensibility.  
For  example,  You  attended  the  class
yesterday, right? is an indirect speech act in
English,  and  it  can  mean  that  the  speaker
would  like  to  borrow  class  notes  and  is  not
merely  inquiring  about  the  hearer's  class
attendance.  However, if the hearer does not
fully  grasp  the  pragmatic  function  of  this
speech  act,  then  the  speaker's
communicative  goal  may  not  be  achieved.  
In this case, the pragmatic context  is crucial
for the speaker's meaning to be understood. 

Many  L2/FL  researchers  have  found  that
violations  of  cultural  norms  of
appropriateness  in  spoken  or  written
interactions  between  native  and  nonnative
speakers  or  between  speakers  of  different
languages  often  lead  to  sociopragmatic
failure,  uncomfortable  breakdowns  in
communication,  and  stereotyping  (see  the
work  of  Michael  Byram  or  Ron  Scollon  &
Suzanne  Scollon  on  cultural
misinterpretations,  miscommunications,  and
communication  failures).    In  many
situations,  when  FL  learners  display
inappropriate  pragmatic  and  language
behaviors, they are often not even aware that
they  do.    The  teaching  of  ways  of  speaking
and writing in L2/FL has to strive to develop
learners'  skills  in  the  socio-cultural  features
of  language  so  as  to  provide  them
appropriate  choices.    Without  such
instruction, language learners and users may
simply have very few options.   
The  need  to  teach  second  or  foreign
The central and complex meaning of culture
refers  to  socio-cultural  norms,  worldviews,
beliefs, assumptions, and value systems that
find  their  way  into  practically  all  facets  of
language  use,  including  the  classroom,  and
language  teaching  and  learning.    Most
people  are  not  even  aware  of  socio-cultural
beliefs  and  assumption,  and    thus  cannot
examine  them  intellectually.    Scollon  and
Scollon  (2001)  state  that  the  cultural
concepts  of  what  is  acceptable,  appropriate,
and expected in one's behavior is acquired in
the  process  of  socialization  and,  hence,
becomes  inseparable  from  an  individual's
identity.  For example, in the classroom, the
roles  of  the  student  and  the  teacher  are
defined  by  the  socio-cultural  values  of  the
larger  community  and  the  society.    If
teachers  believe  that  they  are  required  to
lead  and  dominate  conversations,  introduce
topics,  and  provide  linguistic  models,  FL
students'  culturally-determined  views  on
how  participatory  learning  is  to  be
accomplished in the classroom may do little
to  bridge  the  cultural  gap.    Most  teachers,
even  those  with  minimal  classroom
experience  or  exposure,  know  how  difficult
it can be to convince some students to adopt
a  different  model  of  learning.    On  the  other
hand, an explicit discussion of the roles and
tasks of teachers and students in the learning
process  can  lead  to  a  more  productive
classroom atmosphere.   
The  complexity  of  teaching  culture  lies  in
the  fact  that,  unlike  incremental  language
skills,  such  as  listening,  reading,  speaking,
or  writing,  culture  does  not  represent  a
separate  area  of  L2/FL  instruction.    In
language  learning  and  teaching,  the  crucial
socio-cultural  principles  that  determine  the
norms  of  appropriate  and  polite  behavior
and  language  use  within  the  frameworks  of
the  society  represent  the  manifestations  of
culture  (Hinkel,  2001,  2006).    To  members
of a particular community and culture, these
assumptions  appear  to  be  self-evident  and
axiomatic.    On  the  other  hand,  they  are  not
always shared by members of other cultures
whose  values  are  similarly  based  on
unquestioned  and  unquestionable
fundamental assumptions and concepts.  It is
also  important  to  note  that  ways  of  using
language  (e.g.  speaking,  listening,  reading,
and  writing)  and  socio-cultural  frameworks
in  different  communities  may  conflict  to
varying  extents,  as  in  the  above  example
(Hinkel, 1999).

Teaching  culture  in  language  classrooms:
The  pragmatic  function  and  a  linguistic
In  the  teaching  of  L2/FL  pragmatics  in  the
context  of  listening,  speaking,  reading,  or
writing,  two  overarching  instructional  goals
lie  at  the  focus  of  instruction.    The
pragmatic  function  (i.e.,  the  socio-cultural
purpose/goal)  of  speech  acts,  such  as
requests  or  apologies,  or  in  writing,  say,
email  messages  or  academic  papers,  can  be
found  in  practically  every  curriculum  for
teaching speaking or writing.  The linguistic
form  of,  for  example,  speech  acts  or
conversational  routines  is  one  of  the  most
easily  accessible  and  familiar  areas  of
teaching  L2/FL  listening  or  speaking,  e.g.  I
can't come to your party (direct refusal) vs. I
am  very  sorry,  but  I'll  be  out  of  town  that
entire  week  (an  apology  followed  by  an
indirect refusal).  The pragmatic function of
these expressions is the same --a refusal, but
the  speaker's  choice  of  form  may  cause
different reactions from the hearer.   
For  example,  to  increase  learners'  linguistic
repertoire,  the  majority  of  FL  textbooks  for
teaching  speaking  devote  a  great  deal  of
attention  to  the  form  of  polite  and  casual
expressions,  idioms,  and  short  dialogues,
and even their appropriate pronunciation and
intonation  because,  for  instance,  transfer  of
intonation  from  L1  to  L2  can  have  very
subtle negative consequences for interaction.  
For  instance,  in  textbooks  for  learners  of
English,  formal  and  informal  expressions,
e.g.  greetings,  partings,  or  invitations,  are
frequently  distinguished  for  the  benefit  of
the learner.  However, few texts indicate the
appropriate  contexts  or  status,  age,  and
familiarity  distinctions  that  crucially  affect
when such expressions can be used or when
they  cannot.    Nor  is  the  highly  formal  style
typically found in books, or in presentations
by  news  anchors,  or  in  speeches  in  front  of

groups,  as  opposed  to  those  that  are  needed
in  daily  conversations  among  real  people,
such  as  bosses  or  teachers.    Highly  formal
and  bookish  expressions,  for  example,  can
convey  an  erroneous  impression  that  the
speaker  is  being  "uppity"  and  is  not
particularly  interested  in  getting  along  with
the hearer.  (As a side note, I've heard many
learners  of  English  express  confusion  in
regard  to  when,  where,  and  with  whom  to
use  informal,  formal,  and  highly  formal
styles.)   The distinctions between pragmatic
forms of many politeness and conversational
expressions  in  listening  and  speaking,  or
easily  identifiable  discourse  markers  in
reading  and  writing  are  relatively  easy  to
teach  in  classroom  instruction  in  practically
any of the fundamental language skills.   
Teaching  culture  in  listening  and
What  makes  a  particular  expression  or
speech act situationally appropriate is not so
much the linguistic form or the range of the
linguistic  repertoire,  but  the  socio-cultural
variables,  which  are  rarely  addressed  in
classroom  instruction  (see  Seeley's  goals
above).    Partly  for  this  reason,  it  is  not
uncommon  to  hear  learners  use  informal
greetings  with  peers  or  professors  alike
simply  because  these  are  very  common  in
daily interactions.   
Such  socio-culturally  inappropriate
greetings  and  conversational  closures,  as
well as other speech acts, are likely to cause
a  bit  of  a  surprise.    However,  as  has  been
mentioned,  for  obvious  reasons,  their
impropriety has little chance of being openly
discussed  in  real-life  interactions.    The
socio-cultural  variables  that  can  make  a
perfectly acceptable expression unacceptable
in  different  interactions  or  settings  reflect
the  numerous  aspects  of  L1  or  L2  culture
that  do  not  easily  lend  themselves  to
textbook  exercises  or  lists  of  expressions.  
Nonetheless, it is the socio-cultural features,
such  as  gender,  age,  the  degree  of
familiarity,  and  the  social  status  of  the
participants  in  the  interaction  that  can  lead
to  uncomfortable  breakdowns  and
Few  of  these  conversational  devices,
however,  distinguish  between  those  that  are
appropriate  in  peer-level  and  casual
interactions and those that should be used in
conversational  exchanges  with  hearers  who
are  strangers,  or  those  who  have  a  different
socio-cultural  status  or  are  of  different  age
and gender.  Furthermore, in such examples,
the situational variables are rarely taken into
account  in  classroom  listening  selections.  
While it can be very appropriate to strike up
a conversation with a stranger, say,  at a bus
stop or in a waiting room, in many European
or North American countries, such behavior
would  not  be  considered  appropriate  in
many  other  countries.    Yet,  few,  if  any,
textbooks  even  mention  that  in  various
languages  polite  greetings  can  be  used  only
when  people  know  each  other  or  are
introduced by a mutual acquaintance.   
Teaching culture in reading and writing
In  the  teaching  of  FL  writing,  teachers  may
draw  on  many  examples  from  speaking  and
establish  parallels  to  help  learners  develop
cultural  awareness  in  language  use.    One  of
the  well-known  problems  in  the  teaching  of
FL  or  L2  writing  in  non-English-speaking
contexts  is  that  FL  learners  often  do  not
provide  a  sufficient  amount  of  politeness
and  recipient-oriented  discourse  in  their
communications.    Writing  professional  or
business correspondence can be an excellent
vehicle  for  teaching  written  discourse.  
Similar  to the  high  degree  of  politeness  and
formality  that  is  expected  in  Farsi,  for
example,  spoken  interactions  with  one's

social superiors, such as bosses, teachers, or
those  who  are  older,  written
communications also need to display a great
deal of recipient-focused strategies.  Written
discourse  also  needs  to  show  interest  and
sympathy toward the reader, and include, for
example,  formal  uses  of  titles  and  forms  of
address,  hedged  and  softened  inquiries  and
requests.    To  help  learners  take  a  different
view  of  the  necessary  politeness  in  writing,
teachers  may  need  to  provide  explicit
instruction on reader expectations in another
culture,  the  value  of  overt  reader-oriented
politeness  and  interest,  and  how  to  achieve
these in writing.  It is important for learners
to  know  that  the  uses  of  formalities  and
politeness  strategies  are  requisite  in  written
communications  with  speakers  of  English,
regardless  of  whether  the  actual  prose  is
written in English or in another language.  In
the  case  of  Anglo-American  professional  or
business  correspondence,  it  is  perfectly
acceptable  for  a  communication  to  be
author-focused, as in I'd like to …, I'd prefer
that …, or I am interested in ….  Unless they
are  instructed  otherwise,  this  can  also  the
approach that many English speakers would
take  in  writing  in  a  interactions  with
speakers of other languages.   
Materials  and  activities  for  culture
learning in the classroom
The  learners'  actual  goals  in  attaining  FL
linguistic  proficiency  may  serve  as  guides
for  determining  their  needs  in  learning
culture.    For  example,  if  learners  intend  to
obtain employment in local or multinational
companies,  their  need  of  L2  cultural
competencies  may  be  different  from  those
who  are  concerned  with  passing  language
tests  or  who  are  enrolled  in  weekend
conversation  classes.    In  many  settings,
however,  instruction  highlighting  the
influence  of  culture  on  second  or  foreign
language  use  can  be  made  effective  and
productive  when  working  on  particular  L2
In light of the fact that manifestations of the
influence of culture on language use are very
common,  materials  for  teaching  cultural
concepts and their outcomes are usually easy
to create.  The tasks associated with training
learners to become careful and sharp people-watchers  and  observers  of  culturally-appropriate  and  common  interactional
routines and expressions can serve as a basis
for  very  productive  and  effective  projects
that  are  interesting  and  enjoyable  for
learners.    For  intermediate  learners,  for
example,  a  teacher  may  choose  to  make  a
basic  checklist  of  linguistic  and  social
features of speech events and interactions to
encourage  students  to  carry  out  their  "field
research"  when  watching  TV  shows  and
movies,  or  surfing  the  web,  as  well  as  in
restaurants, stores, and offices.  
The primary goal of this activity and people-watching  is  to  make  learners  aware  of  the
linguistic  and  social  factors  that  play  a
crucial  role  in  interactions  in  any  language
or  culture.    The  next  step  would  be  to
compare  the  politeness  and  conversational
routines in the learners' L1 to those found in
a  range  of  language  materials  (e.g.  movie
clips,  recorded  audio  and  video  interviews
plentiful  on  the  Internet  and  countless
websites,  taped  dialogues  that  accompany
many student texts and software, or perhaps
even  materials  for  test  preparation).      In
addition,  advanced  students  can  participate
in  role-plays,  short  skits,  or  mini-plays,  for
which  they  write  scripts  to  center  on
linguistic  features  of  particular  speech  acts
or types of FL conversational exchanges.
A couple of additional activities for teaching
culture in listening, speaking, and writing in
FL  classrooms  are  suggested  below.    They

are designed with the curricular objective of
teaching  a  range  of  L2  or  FL  socio-cultural
concepts  and  their  outcomes  in  real-life
language  use.    All  these  have  been  popular
for  years  with  many  different  groups  of
learners  at  various  levels  of  proficiency.  
Extensive  culture-teaching  projects  and
activities,  as  they  are  presented  below,  are
intended  to  continue  for  two  or  three  weeks
and certainly do not need to be implemented
exactly  as they are described.  Teachers can
choose  to  use  only  portions  of  them,  as
  Beginning  learners  are  usually
curious  about  a  foreign  culture,  and
they  often  need  to  experience  small
bits  of  it.    With  beginners,  an
emphasis  should  probably  be  placed
on a tangible cultural experience that
can  be  discussed,  explained,  and
exemplified -- and less so on culture
learning  (Byram  &  Morgan,  1994).  
Traditional foods, souvenirs, pictures
of  landscapes  and  cityscapes,  maps,
books,  and  other  real-life  artifacts
from  English-speaking  countries  can
become  ready  examples  of  objects
from the local culture.   
  Inviting  guest  speakers,  who  are
experienced FL learners and who can
give  a  talk  about  what  they  saw  and
did at the beginning of their sojourn,
is probably one of the most effective
activities  for  investigating  another
culture.    These  talks  represent  real-life  testimonials  and  evidence  that
comes  from  real  people  (instead  of
teachers  or  textbooks).    The  greatest
advantage  of  inviting  guest  speakers
is  that  they  can  allow  beginning
learners  an  access  to  second-hand
experiences,  and  several  productive
assignments  can  be  derived  from
them.    Following  the  talk,  the
information  can  be  used  for  a  short
presentation  to  small  groups  of
students or to an entire class.   
  Learners  can  construct  short
questionnaires that focus on noticing
and  analyzing  the  manifestations  of
culture  in  language  use  and  raising
awareness  of  politeness  norms  and
expressions,  socio-cultural  variables,
such  as  age,  gender,  and  social
status,  pragmatic  functions  of
various  routinized  expressions,  and
linguistic  forms  of  speech  acts  (e.g.
the  types  of  common  and  prevalent
"softening"  devices  and  the  specific
contexts  of  their  use).    The
questionnaires  can  be  administered
in  the  learners'  L1  to  gather
information  that  can  be  later  used  in
L2/FL  presentations  or  short  written
descriptions.    The  tasks  can  be
simplified  for  intermediate  level
learners  or  be  made  more  complex
for advanced L2 speakers, depending
on their language proficiency.   
Although  native  speakers  of  any
language  may  not  be  aware  of
reasons for their own behaviors, they
are  usually  aware  of  linguistic  and
behavioral "prescriptions" in abstract
terms.  That is, most native speakers
would  be  able  to  tell  the  difference
between  what  is  considered  to  be
polite  or  even  acceptable  in  a
particular  situation  and,  if  asked,
some  may  even  be  able  say  why
some expression, phrase, or behavior
would  be  perceived  as  more  polite
than another.  
  Home  videos,  movie  clips,  and
videotaped  excerpts  from  newscasts
and  TV  programs  of  all  sorts  (e.g.

TV  commercials,  TV  shows  or
movies  for  younger  learners,  or
biographies of the important political
figures, pop stars, movie stars, sports
figures,  musicians)  can  provide  a
practically inexhaustible resource for
examining  the  influence  of  culture
on  language  (e.g.  routinized
expressions,  questions,  requests,
clarifications,  etc.),  interactional
practices,  body  language,  turn
taking,  and  the  length  of  pauses  to
signal  the  end  of  a  turn.    The
information  on  socio-cultural  and
politeness  norms  of  the  community
obtained  from  such  materials  can  be
used  in  subsequent  mini  role-plays,
skits,  plays  that  learners  can  script
and  present,  as  well  as  short  formal
presentations  and  written
assignments, such letters or emails.  
  the aspects of FL speech acts
and  behaviors  that  learners
found strange or surprising
  the descriptions of polite and
routinized  expressions  that
they noted
  culturally-determined
conventions  in  speech  and
These  projects  can  be  worked  on  from  one
to  two  weeks,  depending  on  the  amount  of
the material used in the video-lesson.   
In  EFL  settings,  learners'  first  language  and
natal  culture  invariably  provide  the  sole
available  point  of  reference  for
understanding how the world and the society
work,  and  how  meanings  are  conveyed  by
means  of  language.    When  students  begin
learning  another  language,  they  often
discover  that  speakers  of  a  different
language  do  not  see  social  constructs  and
organizations in similar ways.  In more cases
than  not,  an  individual's  immediate  reaction
is  to  dismiss  these  new  and  foreign
worldviews  and  ways  of  doing  things  as
irrelevant,  slightly  ridiculous,  impractical,
and  not  very  intelligent.    As  Stewart  (1972,
p.  16)  stated  so  insightfully,  "[t]he  typical
person has a strong sense of what the world
is  really  like,  so  that  it  is  with  surprise  that
he  discovers  that  'reality'  is  built  up  out  of
certain  assumptions  commonly  shared
among  members  of  the  same  culture.  
Cultural  assumptions  may  be  defined  as
abstract,  organized,  and  general  concepts
which  pervade  a  person's  outlook  and
Advanced  students  who  are  well-versed  in
the ways of communicating and doing things
in  another  culture  have  a  world  of
opportunity  open  to  them.    These  learners
can  move  between  their  L1  world  and  the
world  of  the  other  language.    They  are
keenly  aware  that,  in  the  process  of
communication,  they  understand  and
interpret people, their language uses, and the
world through the framework of reference in
their  own  language  and  culture.    These
individuals  know  from  experience  that
different  cultural  ways  of  doing  and
speaking  are  simply  undergird  by  different
socio-cultural  norms,  assumptions,  and
value  systems,  all  of  which  have  distinct
pragmatic  manifestations  in  language  and
behavior.    In  language  teaching  and
learning,  teaching  and  learning  another
culture  is  intertwined  with  learning  how  to
communicate  effectively  in  another
language  and  learning  how  to  correctly  and
appropriately understand and interpret social
and  linguistic  behavior  inextricably  bound
up  in  all  human  communication.    Without
linguistic  and  cross-cultural  competencies

combined,  effective  communication  may  be
virtually impossible.  Although many L2/FL
teachers  typically  believe  that  teaching  and
learning  about  another  culture  in  the
classroom  is  very  difficult,  without  such
teaching  and  learning  it  has  no  chance  of
taking  place.    "A  journey  of  a  thousand
miles  begins  with  a  footstep"  (Lao  Tzu,
section 64, translated by R.L. Wing, 1986).


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