Category Archives: Cultural Exploration

Why Teach Culture?

Here is an excerpt from Romona Tang’ article, “The Place of “Culture” in the Foreign Language Classroom: A Reflection”.


“According to Pica (1994: 70), the question “how necessary to learning a language is the learner’s cultural integration?” is something which “troubles teachers, whether they work with students in classrooms far removed from the culture of the language they are learning or with students who are physically immersed in the culture but experientially and psychologically distant from it”. Numerous other researchers have tried to address issues along similar lines, including Gardner and Lambert (1972) who postulate that learners may have two basic kinds of motivation. The first is integrative motivation, which refers to the desire of language learners to acquire the language while immersing themselves into the whole culture of the language, in order to “identify themselves with and become part of that society” (Brown 1994: 154). The second is instrumental motivation, which refers to the functional need for learners to acquire the language in order to serve some utilitarian purpose, such as securing a job, or a place at a university. The argument is that such instrumentally motivated learners are neither concerned with the culture from which their target language emerged, nor interested in developing any feelings of affinity with the native speakers of that language.”

You can read the entire article HERE.


Brown, H. Douglas. 1994. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Regents.

Gardner, Robert C., and Wallace Lambert. 1972. Attitudes and Motivation in Second Language Learning. Rowley, Massachusetts: Newbury House.

Pica, Teresa. 1994. Questions from the Language Classroom: Research Perspectives. TESOL Quarterly, 28(1): 49-79.

Geography and Culture

Teaching geography is sometimes on of the more difficult concepts to convey to students. We hate to simply have students memorize a map, label cities, rivers, and borders and call that a culture lesson, but sometimes that is all that we have the time to do. Based some readings in cultural studies, many teachers are turning to the expert approach to teaching about places in a particular region.

Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 8.45.10 AMIn this type of activity, each student is responsible for becoming the expert on a particular place (city, town, neighborhood) and can present this information to others in the class. What usually happens is that students find cultural pieces of interest in what the other students have learned and will often inquire further. For younger students it is helpful to have students ask each other about their “expertise” and have questions to be answered.

For more advanced levels, students can be responsible (in the target language) for more historical aspects of a particular place and can even begin to do some research on social structures or issues. This information generally available on line in publications that are written in the target language countries. For example, illiteracy rates or public assistance may be appropriate for high school or college students, whereas important buildings and neighboring towns/cities would be a better option for elementary and middle school students.

Ultimately, the goal in teaching geography in a foreign language classroom should include awareness of the people that create and live the culture associated with it, rather than just a series of dots on a map.

Teaching about the Hispanic World

If you are looking for a way to introduce the rich and diverse world of the Hispanohablante, you can access a great unit online that was created by the Comm Tech Lab at Michigan State University.

In this unit, students use the Internet to explore Spanish-speaking countries around the world.  Students move beyond a superficial understanding of countries and cultures and engage in a deeper understanding of the people and ways of life.

You can access the full set of lesson plans and online resources HERE.