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Second Culture Teaching and Learning

An Introduction

Thomas Szende

This monograph offers an incisive analysis of how the second language learner can achieve cultural proficiency, which is more than a set of rules and facts to be memorized by rote. How can the cultural dimension be taken into account, among the many choices of instructional material and language assessment tools? Is it possible to distinguish levels of cultural competence? How can the degree of cultural proximity between the source language and the target language influence the acquisition process? What strategies should be implemented in order to decode any cultural pitfalls? This handy guide addresses these and many other frequently asked questions underpinning language teaching methodology.
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.
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1. Introduction


1.   Introduction

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...

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