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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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6. Alterity and Imagination


6  Alterity and Imagination

6.1  Representations

A multitude of information, images and values are inherited and shared by social groups. The notion of representation can be understood as practical collective knowledge (opinion, image, attitude, prejudice, belief) generated in interaction contexts (Seca, 2010: 13–14).

Representations are indispensable to social communication and integrated in the verbal resources of a community. They allow for the understanding and justification of group behaviors and practices. They call on “shared frames of reference” that they basically use as “reading grids” so as to lend meaning to the world, and to position oneself within it. Largely propagated and often bearers of prescriptive norms structuring the world that the speaker belong to, they open a field of knowledge, a horizon of expectations and a space of experiences and action (Moore & Py, 2011: 264–265). Membership to a culture imposes a representation of the world that legislates community daily life which is not constructed on reasoned choices (Zarate, 1986: 12). All phenomena, whether physical (a cuisine), interpersonal (friendship), imaginary (the Loch Ness Monster) or sociopolitical (democracy) can become the object of social representations (Marková, 2007: 209).

Representations can be made or unmade in the social place to which they lend visibility; they concern the places, objects, famous individuals, institutions, seasons, experience, concepts; they are an ensemble of community and conventional referents accompanying the most varied of language terms. Every country has its eating habits, with its nutrition days and...

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