Illustrated with a broad range of classroom-based examples, this book presents language as inextricably intertwined with social relations. The variety of languages involved (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Hungarian, French and English) makes the volume especially attractive for language educators seeking effective teaching strategies in specific local contexts around the globe.
1.1 Learning a Modern Culture
1.1.1 It Goes Without Saying
Speaking a language implies that one is in a position to call upon the elements that are necessary for communication, and that one has mastered the references that populate the cultural and discursive memory of a social group. All languages are a vision and interpretation of the world, and constitute a major identity component, which blends in with daily existence. Language fluency is often confused with oral fluidity: “Do you speak French?” (Krashen, 1982: 74). Language that allows the conveying of thoughts or of meanings from one brain to another is also a system that organizes information (Hall, 1976: 57). More than a powerful and subtle tool for expression and communication, more than a marketable technical skill of the job market, a foreign language should be looked upon as a social practice, allowing access to a foreign culture.
We are well familiar with the banner brandished by language methods and schools in the name of modernity: “spontaneous oral/written communication, with native teachers, on ordinary subjects.” Displaying (and, more especially, targeting) such an ensemble of objectives constitutes perhaps one of the most ambitious undertakings in language teaching (Szende, 2012a): comprehending, producing and interacting in a foreign language necessitate conformity to the norms of the target community; they imply that we share in its world with its truths; and they suppose complicity between its members, who acquired the target language naturally and...