“Culture is an abstraction; it cannot actually be seen or touched…. We see people acting in agreed-upon ways in the face of similar situations…we notice people moving their bodies in certain ways – making choices in their lives about where to live, what to eat, how to learn, how to work and love – in response to similar events and experiences, and say: “oh, these people belong to the same culture”. (H. Ned Seeyle)
Our recent #langchat inspired me to blog about something which I am truly passionate, using authentic texts in the world language classroom. We discussed the definition of culture and how to teach it. Because culture is fluid and amorphous, it is difficult to define. The website http://coerll.utexas.edu/methods/modules/culture/ expands upon culture as a skill.
I like the term “cultural literacy” which includes:
- The ability to perceive and recognize cultural differences.
- The ability to accept cultural differences.
- The ability to appreciate and value cultural differences.
In my experience, the most effective way to teach culture is through the use of authentic texts. They can teach cultural literacy because they contain authentic cultural information and give students exposure to real language. Ned Seelye writes: “Learning a language in isolation of its cultural roots prevents one from becoming socialized into its contextual use. Knowledge of linguistic structure alone does not carry with it any special insight into the political, social, religious, or economic system.”
What is an authentic text?
A “text” isn’t limited to something written down. A text can be a film, an artifact, anything in a language and culture that conveys meaning. Authentic texts are print, audio, and visual documents created and used by native speakers. Examples include books, web sites, articles, artwork, films, folktales, music, advertisements, videos, posters, news, songs, food, commercials. Think of any experience you go through during a normal day in a foreign country. Read the rest of this entry