How do you “teach” culture in a foreign language class?

Let’s begin by looking at quote from Moran:

“Culture is the evolving way of life of a group of persons, consisting of a shared set of practices associated with a shared set of products, based on a shared set of perspectives on the world, and set within specific social contexts.”

–Patrick R. Moran,  Teaching Culture: Perspectives in Practice

You can look at this approach to understanding culture through the diagrams below.  Essentially what can be seen and experienced in a culture is highly influenced by the perspectives of the culture, though the perspectives are rarely easily described nor seen.  There is also a dynamic influence of each element on all of the other elements.

How do you "teach" culture in a foreign language class? (French, Spanish) wlteachger.wordpress.comWhen students come across a “new” elements or phenomenon in a culture that is different from their own, encourage them to consider the questions below in an attempt to understand why something may happen the way that it does, rather than passing judgment based on their own cultural lens. This moves them beyond comparing the “foreign” culture to their own.  They will instead come to understand why things are the way they are based on the perspectives of the particular culture.

  • What are the products?
  • What are the practices?
  • Who are the people involved?
  • Which specific communities take part?
  • Why do the people need the product?
  • Why is practice important in a particular community?
  • What people or communities are not involved in a particular practice?
  • What people or communities do not use a particular product?

Many of these concepts are well beyond an adolescent’s comprehension. I have adapted the wording to make it more approachable and age-appropriate:

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One response to “How do you “teach” culture in a foreign language class?

  1. Pingback: Teaching Students How to Engage with Culture : Cultural Intelligence (CQ) | World Language Classroom Resources

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