Intercultural Language Teaching and Learning (Liddicoat/Intercultural Language Teaching and Learning) || Resources for Intercultural Language Learning

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


  • Intercultural Language Teaching and Learning, First Edition. Anthony J. Liddicoat and Angela Scarino. 2013 Anthony J. Liddicoat and Angela Scarino. Published 2013 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

    Resources for Intercultural Language Learning

    Resources, in whatever form they take, provide language learners with experiences of lan-guage and culture that then become available for learning. Traditionally the main resource for input has been the textbook, and this may be supplemented by authentic texts from a range of sources: written texts, video or audio texts, music, multimedia and so on.

    Traditional models of second language teaching and learning have treated resources as instances of language that present the learner with material to develop learning. They are a way of exposing learners to different modalities of language use (spoken, written, tech-nologically mediated) and to different registers, and of broadening the input beyond the teacher. Resources may also be used as ways of promoting output, either verbal or written. Such resources form a starting point for language use and may be linguistic (e.g. oral or written texts and websites) or nonlinguistic (e.g. artifacts, games, and images), and are used to prompt discussion and description. More recently, there have been a number of new technological resources that provide opportunities for both input and output by permitting interaction: e-mail, chat, and text messaging. Such resources allow for the possibility of receiving input from another participant and require output from the learner. These will be considered in the next chapter. Resources that provide scaffolding for learning may provide models to guide learners language use. These may be exemplars of a particular spoken or written text type, or frameworks for developing a text, which provide partial structures to speaking or writing. Resources used as input can also be used for scaffolding either through modification or through different ways of using the text to focus beyond surface elements of grammar and vocabulary.

    It is important, however, to think about resources as doing more than providing linguistic input and output. Resources also represent engagements with culture through language. Resources are not just language samples they are also cultural products. They are pro-duced within a cultural context for consumption by others and are imbued with the cul-tural positionings, identities, assumptions, and worldviews of their creators and their intended audiences. As cultural products, they open new ways of engagement that use the


  • 84 Intercultural Language Teaching and Learning

    language of the text as an entry point to new cultural realities. This means it is important to consider not just what a resource provides linguistically, but also what the language of the resource affords for deeper learning. Consideration of what lies within the language of a resource builds the possibility that resources can be used to stimulate reflection. This is different from using a text simply to generate language use that may be descriptive or nar-rative, because reflective work is deeper and introspective. Such resources do not need to be different from the resources used for input. It is rather a case of using resources differ-ently by developing questions and activities around the resource to stimulate deeper thought, affective response, and analysis of feelings, conclusions, and interpretations.

    There is no neat mapping between purposes and resources. Rather, resources can be used in multiple ways. The key is to have resources that open up multiple possible uses rather than resources that are limited or constrained and which narrow the possible teaching and learn-ing opportunities available. Each resource should be used as effectively as possible and each resource should allow for flexibility and creativity in teaching and learning.

    Textbooks as Resources for Intercultural Learning

    Traditionally the starting point for resourcing language learning has been the selection of a textbook and for many teachers this is still their main resourcing task. By their nature, textbooks pose some problems for resourcing language learning as they are not adapted to the particular context and the needs, desires, and expectations of particular learners and so are not able to respond to local needs or provide locally relevant content.

    Kramsch (1988), discussing textbooks, argues that there is a fundamental complexity in the use of any resource for teaching a new language and culture to a group of learners within an educational context. Any such resource is expected to serve a fundamentally intercultural educational goal but is located within an essentially monocultural educational frame. This complexity reveals itself in a number of ways that have implications for how resources are chosen and used.

    A resource for intercultural learning needs to enable access to and insights about the language and culture that is being learned. This means not only providing access to the forms of the language but also to the logic of the performance of the language used by native speakers. That is, resources need to provide opportunities for learners to make target-language-relevant inferences about elements of language used in the resource and build target-language-relevant connections between them. Kramsch (1988) argues that it is difficult for a resource to achieve such target-language relevance if it is embedded only within the learners educational culture. Such learning requires that target-culture per-spectives and discourses also become available to the learner as part of engaging with the resource. That is, any resource needs to be addressed in multiple ways, not only develop-ing further the cultural discourses that already exist for the learner but also providing opportunities for engagement with new discourses.

    Kramsch (1988) also argues that there is complexity in what should be included within the focus of the resources that are provided to learners. This complexity emerges when there are disjunctions between the focuses of similar groups in different societies. For

  • Resources for Intercultural Language Learning 85

    example, the events, issues, and ideas that are of central concern to an analogous group in the target language community may be different from and unrelated to those that are a concern of the learners. Should the resource give learners insight into the issues that affect people like them in the target language or should it deal with issues with which learners themselves connect? For whichever focus a resource is chosen, it is important that it also capture the integration of language, culture, and learning in the target language, as this is what enables the learner to go beyond static appraisals of content and opens the resource to deeper interpretation and more complex possibilities for intercultural learning.

    A third issue that Kramsch (1988) identifies is the nature of the culture to be taught through the selection of resources provided. Even the most complete resource is necessarily a selec-tion and the process of selection limits the diversity and variability that can be found. This raises the issue of whose culture is represented in texts and how this constrains ways of engaging with the culture. The representations of the target culture tend to be highly selec-tive. For example, Elissondo (2001) demonstrates that representations of Latino cultures depict middle-class, light-skinned Europeans and that where indigenous or black groups are included, they are included as exotic color or have assimilated to the otherwise homogene-ous cultural image. She also demonstrates that the activities with which the dominating middle class group engage are those of globalized world culture or stereotypical activities associated with particular societies, with little representation of the complexities of peoples lives in Latino societies. These people engage in social relationships that are smooth, neutral, friendly and peaceful (Elissondo, 2001, p. 80). These representations have consequences for how learners are positioned in engaging with a new culture. Abdullah and Chandran (2009) have reported in Malaysia that the middle class focus found in Malaysian English textbooks meant that students in middle-class schools engaged with the text while those in lower class schools did not, as the text offered no point of connections for them.

    Many of the representations of the target culture in textbooks are those of a touristic encounter with the county or countries concerned, often depicting well-known geographic and historical material. In so doing, the texts position language learners as superficial tour-ists who travel from one country to another without any serious engagement with those cultures (Elissondo, 2001, p. 74).

    One common feature of textbooks is that they are often developed with reference to the culture of the learner rather than to that of the target community (Kramsch, 1987a). One reason for this seems to be to protect the learner from the perceived discomfort of encounter-ing different ways of living in and viewing the world. That is, textbooks are designed to provide a comfortable encounter with a language rather than a nuanced encounter with a culture. This means that the intercultural objectives of language teaching and learning become minimized in resources that are designed to promote such learning. For example, Kramsch (1987b, 1988) noted that in German language textbooks used in the United States the German and American cultures are presented as being only slightly different and the differences between the two are obscured. In some cases, local culture may dominate the language textbook, excluding the culture related to the language being learned. In these cases, the textbook is designed to promote a form of learning that is distinctly not intercul-tural, but which serves a local ideological purpose. Lui (2005) notes that English language textbooks in China are designed to project particular images of Chinese culture rather than engaging with the cultures of the English-speaking world. The textbooks impart a

  • 86 Intercultural Language Teaching and Learning

    dominantideology that embodies the interests of the government and the cultural elite and reify official interpretations of Chinese society. Similarly, in Japanese English language text-books, McKay (2004) notes that Japanese cultural norms predominate and Westerners (typi-cally Americans) and their perspectives are typically introduced in contexts where the Westerner is being introduced to some aspect of Japanese culture. That is, English is to be used to interpret Japanese culture to non-Japanese, not for engagement with other cultures (cf. Liddicoat, 2007). Adaskou, Britten, and Fahsi (1990) note that in Morocco, the inclusion of Western cultural content in language textbooks is considered problematic, as the resulting comparisons between cultures may lead to disaffection and because some Western practices are unacceptable within the local context. In this way, language is taught in a way that isolates the learner from the target culture. In Saudi Arabian textbooks, the desire to protect locals from Western culture is seen in the deliberate removal of all cultural information inconsistent with local practice (Al-Asmari, 2008).

    Where textbooks do present the culture of the target language community, they do it in a way that reduces the culture to information about aspects of context. That is, they pre-sent a static view of the culture in a body of factual knowledge about a country, and this is done uncritically and with limited engagement between the learner and the culture being presented for learning. As Elissondo (2001, p. 92) argues, students passively consume fac-tual information about natural wonders, prominent architecture, regional food and dances. Such presentations of culture can be seen in Figures6.1 and 6.2.

    Figure6.1 is taken from the cultural awareness sections of a textbook designed for early secondary level learners of Italian in Australia. It presents cultural information in English, with the occasional use of Italian words, such as il Circo Massimo, il Colosseo, il Patalino, and igladiatori. The image presented is both historical and touristic, The presentation of ancient Roman culture is linked superficially to the modern word in the final sentence of each sec-tion the Circus Maximus is used to celebrate the Italian World Cup victory, Romulus and Remus are represented in statues and on postcards, and the Colosseum is a home to feral cats. This is cultural information and does not provide opportunities for interpretation and deeper learning these images of Italy provide no connection point between cultures except to reinforce students awareness of Italy as the site of ancient Rome. An attempt to move from the cultural to the intercultural is found in the section Moving between cultures at the bottom right of the page. In the three questions contained here, it is not clear what the nature of this movement is, or which cultures the movement is between. That is, in this material, interculturality as the movement between cultures is claimed but not realized.

    Figure6.2 is from a German textbook for early secondary level learners in Australia. It is presented in the form of an e-mail explaining aspects of German life. Like the Italian exam-ple in Figure6.1, the base language of this information is English, with German used for a few lexical items and some phatic language closing the text and is also found in the written text in one of the images of the e-mail. According to the contents for the chapter, the chapters cultural focus is school in Germany, Schulelotsen, Schuletten, environmental awareness (Rogan and Hoffman, 2003, p. vi), and the specific focus is on the last two ele-ments of the list. This information is also presented as factual information about practices in Germany and embodies a static representation of the culture. Unlike the Italian text-book, there is no explicit attempt to include an intercultural as opposed to a purely cultural focus in this material. However, some implicit cultural comparisons could be made between

  • Resources for Intercultural Language Learning 87

    Germany and the learners culture through the description of the environmental practices, which implies that the German practices are newsworthy and therefore not typical of the culture of the reader.

    Both of these examples present a superficial, simplified, and essentialized image of the culture of the target-language society. The culture is represented by interesting trivia about

    Figure 6.1 Cultural awareness material from Ecco! Uno. Source: Sedunary, M., Posterino, N., Kearns, S., and Tarascio-Spiller, M. (2007) Ecco! Uno, Heinemann, Melbourne. Reproduc...


View more >