Towards a Cultura Franca

Contemporary American Civil and Human Rights Drama in the Foreign Language Classroom

by Jeannette U. Böttcher (Author)
©2017 Thesis 168 Pages


This book is mapping the fields of modern output-oriented teaching, intercultural learning, and drama methods in the foreign language class. It explains that drama-based language learning transcends the usual learning scopes in its practical relevance and its far-reaching contextual implications. By including (inter-)cultural aspects, as well as human and civil rights issues, modern teaching can provide students with new frames of references and shifts their attention from an individualistic worldview towards a more tolerant perception of «the other.» The term of «cultura franca» hints at a liberation of cultural restraints and this is exactly what is indispensable in order to educate students to become the interculturally adept speakers our modern time needs.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Setting the Stage: Culture and its Derivatives in Modern Society
  • 1.1. We are Many Cultures: Who is the I in We?
  • 1.2. Culture and Identity
  • 1.3. Ethnicity, Cultural Belonging, and the Idea of Multiculturalism
  • 1.4. Culture in the Educational Context
  • 1.5. The Identity Factor in Intercultural Communicative Competence
  • 1.6. The Myth of Teaching ICC
  • 1.7. Language, Identity, and ICC
  • 1.8. From Lingua Franca to Cultura Franca
  • 1.9. Educating Interculturally
  • Part II: Staging Drama or the Art of Didactics
  • 2.0. Drama as a Method
  • 2.1. Drama Methods and the Concept of a Cultura Franca
  • 2.2. Tasks and Responsibilities of Textbooks
  • 2.3. Test Case: Dreaming American, the Civil Rights Movement and the Modern Foreign Language Class
  • 2.4. Goals in Modern Foreign Language Learning and Teaching: Competence Orientation versus Drama Pedagogy
  • 2.5. Drafting Learning Outcomes and Assessing the Validity of Learning Contents
  • 2.6. (Re-) Constructing Foreignness
  • 2.7. The Drama of the Civil Rights Movement
  • 2.8. Introducing Night Blooms: Preliminary Considerations about the Contexts, Expectations, and Objectives
  • 2.9. Night Blooms as Historical and Modern Narrative
  • 2.10. Other Relevant Topics to talk about in Connection with Night Blooms
  • 2.11. Wrapping up and Moving on
  • Part III: The Stage is Set
  • 3.0. Night Blooms: from Word to Movement
  • 3.1. Three Routes that lead to one Goal
  • 3.2. Spotlight 1: Learning from History: The March on Selma
  • 3.3. Spotlight 2: The Southern Way of Life
  • 3.4. Spotlight 3: The Black Housemaid in the South
  • Part IV: Curtain Call
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Series index

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“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” (The New York Times) Senator Barack Obama says to his supporters after the nominee contests in Illinois, United States of America in 2008. This quote from Senator Barack Obama’s speech succinctly points to one of man’s distinct characteristics: rather than getting proactive ourselves, we prefer to wait for someone else to make the first move. The current worldwide situation with its growing potential for conflict between different ethnic, national, and religious groups needs and calls for change, and for people willing to take on this task. The stakes are high, the challenges manifold, and not at all easy to solve, but waiting will not change anything for the better. Over the last decades, and especially over the last few years, waves of refugees and immigrants have come from all parts of the world to Germany. Germany has not only become an immigration country; it has become a multicultural and a multi-religious country. And whereas in earlier times most minority groups led an almost invisible life within the dominant society, the demographic change has become very visible lately and also a source of great concern. Simultaneously with the new arrivals, a wave of discrimination seems to overrun us. Terms like nationalism, patriotism, and ‘Germanness’ that once had a bitter aftertaste receive new recognition and have become part of the daily media coverage. The fear that Germany and Europe will be inundated with a flood of unwelcome strangers has made its entrance into almost every nook of our everyday life. Most people are content with complaining and lamenting about the current status quo, but there are also more militant members of society, who – fueled by supposedly ethnic considerations – feel it is their responsibility to stop this ‘foreign infiltration’ at almost any cost. Public demonstrations against the newcomers, attacks on homes for refugees, hate campaigns in the media – or scrawled on walls – have become a familiar sight. But while the increasing influx and mix of different ethnicities, cultures, and languages is felt by some as a disadvantage or even a threat, thankfully there are also those people who realize the potential and the opportunities this blend of cultures has.

This is not, of course, what Senator Obama referred to when he talked about change. He was talking to Americans about American affairs. Yet the statement fits nicely with our present situation. Like the U.S., Germany is faced with the problems of feeding, housing, and integrating the new arrivals. The state and its institutions are assumed to find ways to accommodate all members irrespective ← 11 | 12 → of their ethnicity; their task is to take care of physical needs and to provide the necessary education and training to make the people fit for the job market.

One institution that is mandated to provide and foster equal opportunities for everyone is school. Living in a rapidly changing world faced with the challenge to prepare students from diverse backgrounds, educators worldwide see themselves confronted with a task almost too great to accomplish, and yet society relies heavily on the educational system as its backbone. The tasks of school are numerous: to teach relevant knowledge and skills, foster development of independent and critical thinking and acting, promote creativity, teach students to treat others with respect, impart a peaceful ethos and tolerance towards other religions, cultures, and ethnicities, prepare students for ife in a democratic society with all the accompanying rights and obligations, and last but not least, prepare them adequately for the workforce. In order to work effectively with the heterogeneous student body in our schools, teachers must adjust to the altered cultural and academic settings. Difference between students raises questions of how to address different dress codes, ways of worship and interaction, and different approaches to school in general. Even students from the same cultural group may be different, and these differences extend far beyond cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Multicultural education seems the only appropriate way to ensure effective classroom instruction and prepare students for their lives as adults. Understanding the implications of these developments requires a closer look at what is the status quo in teaching and where it needs to go. The new (inter)cultural teaching formats that have been designed in order to promote and expand the concepts of culture, diversity, equality, justice, and democracy are beginning to take these changes into account. As Julia Hammer explains in her 2012 work on Die Auswirkungen der Globalisierung auf den modernen Fremdsprachenunterricht “whether it is combating climate change, global poverty, or global governance in economy and finance – we are called upon in our role as world citizens”1 (ibid. 195, translation mine).

The terminology of intercultural education centers on words such as disadvantage, tolerance, equal rights, acceptance of different cultures, empathy, and discourse; yet how to deal with and teach those complex paradigms has not been determined. ← 12 | 13 →

The first part of this study, called “Setting the Stage,” will, therefore, concentrate on culture-relevant topics such as identity formation, school as facilitator of cultural values, and intercultural competence in the educational system. Additionally, the theory of a cultura franca – modelled after the lingua franca concept – will be introduced and examined. The first chapters also look at the connection between language and identity/culture, and in this context the concepts of multiculturalism, resp. transculturalism as opposed to nationalism are commented on. It will be argued that the current trend towards emphasizing one’s own culture has become an identity marker, indicating that cultural background nowadays focuses more on individual differences than on similarities and thereby making labels such as “ethnicity” or “minority” synonyms for the foreign, the strange, ‘the other.’ This differentiation between the self and the other(s) has to be seen in the light of a progressively individualized world, which finds its expression not infrequently in more and increasingly violent outbursts of hostility towards foreigners. Accordingly, the question of what exactly the purpose of culture is needs to be re-conceptualized and re-evaluated. This question is even more important in the educational context, as it is here that society transmits its norms, values, and beliefs to the young. What these implications actually mean for school as one of the identity-forming institutions, and which cultural and societal values school teaches, as well as how school approaches the topic of diversity, will be examined in a larger contextual framework. This is especially exigent as diversity in school still seems to be regarded as a problem rather than an asset. Students’ diversity is not normally commented on during classroom discourse and neither is diversity as a cultural phenomenon discussed in the textbooks for English as a foreign language.

These pivotal questions lead to the realization that only changing the way we educate will ultimately change the way people think and behave. In order to prevent the gap between the‘we’ and the ‘others’ constantly widening, new didactics and new teaching materials are needed. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ attitude that has been the rule in education needs to be adjusted to the changed circumstances. Consequently, a broad conceptual basis will be developed that incorporates drama-based language learning methods for the modern classroom. The first section of this project closes with a deliberation of why didactics need to be artistic.

Like any other subject taught within the German school setting, foreign language learning has an explicit societal mission, which the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR) puts down as follows: ← 13 | 14 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (September)
Foreign Language Drama Methods Teaching Inculturality Human Rights American South Sivil Rights Movement
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 168 pp., 1 coloured ill., 7 tables

Biographical notes

Jeannette U. Böttcher (Author)

Jeannette U. Böttcher studied English and German in Düsseldorf, Bonn, and Berlin. She taught within the regular school system in Germany and England, as well as at Kennesaw State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, where she joined a research project on intercultural competence. She holds a PhD and teaches at Paderborn University, Germany.


Title: Towards a Cultura Franca