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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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2. Languages – Cultures – Globalization

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2.  Languages – Cultures – Globalization

2.1  A Conceptual Ambiguity

“Culture” vs “civilization”: quite often, we use these two terms indifferently, interchangeably, and in language teaching and learning the terms “culture” and “civilization” are often used in an undifferentiated manner as well. The term “civilization”, which in the eighteenth century is still opposed to “barbarity”, designates at once moral values and material values. The term “culture” from the nineteenth century onwards designates primitive cultures, in contrast to the civilizations of evolved societies. Today, the use of the adjective “cultural” is appropriate because it designates the ensemble of contents covered by “civilization” and “culture”. If civilization is a set of cultural goods, the loan elements from one civilization to another constitute cultural transfers (Braudel, 1993: 36).

The study of culture implies that we possess knowledge of the factual kind, originating from several sources apt to describe a country and its institutions, and characterized by a certain stability over time. Since institutions participate in the organization of the state, they are indispensable in allowing one to find one’s way around in the administrative meanders of society: each of them is presented as a set of practices and rules, established in order to satisfy collective interests. This, of course, begs the question: Should the observation of culture, such as it is inscribed in language, transposing onto the pedagogical field questions which are essentially of social, historical, economic or political nature, be accompanied and reinforced by teaching that systematically breaks...

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