Teaching Culture

Teaching Culture

A Chapter by C . R . A

Developing Second-Language Skills



In the ideal language class the teaching of culture is an integral, organized, component of the course content.

As the student being’s the course he expects to learn some degree of functional ability in the culture as well as in the language.

One of the main activities for people to become more familiar with other cultures is learning a second language. To communicate with others we must know both culture and language.


Enculturation: the process of learning one’s native language, is essentially complete for those individuals who are able to participate in the environment in which they were reared.

Acculturation: the process of learning a second culture is probably never complete for individuals who are not native to the culture.


Before students can learn about culture, they must be receptive to the concept of learning about cultures other than their own. One way to begin, teaching culture on a positive note is to emphasize similarities among peoples.


If the Students are from a Cosmopolitan society they will learn culture better and they are more ready to learn culture, while students who are from a closed society have problems in learning (why?).


If the teacher expects that all the students love the second culture as much as he does he will be disappointed again if the teacher criticizes the students own culture will be disappointed.

(What is the task of a teacher?)

The task of a teacher is to make students aware of cultural differences.

This should not be interpreted to mean that the teacher should not be enthusiastic about second cultures, but he should always be moderate.


The teacher should be sensitive to student’s feelings and be prepared to take steps to ameliorate any negative reactions. As the students grow and mature they can incorporate those behavioral patterns and values that they deem desirable into their own lives.




Culture may mean different things to different people. In the anthropological sense, culture is defined as the way people live.

Damen (1987) feels that the term biculturalism is inaccurate because most people are multicultural even in their own culture and many now have some cross-cultural experiences. Only in rare cases would one expect to find instances of monoculturalism in the modern world.

Large C culture: Is when the students study economy, history, social, politics and great politicians, heroes, writers, and artists of the country.

Small c culture: Is when the students at the end of their studies will have a functional acknowledge of the second culture just as they have of the second language system.


At the beginning of this, part writer represent’s two important questions:

1-      What should students learn about the second culture to be able to function in that culture?

2-      Around what basic topics should this information be organized?


The following list on page 304 is one possible categorization of culture themes. This list has been prepared from an anthropological point of view and from student’s point of view.

Students should me familiar with what to say in different situations. He should be prepared to respond for example: when being introduced to someone, meeting a friend, ordering in a restaurant and other important in formations.






Culture in the classroom

Increasing Culture Content

Traditionally, language teachers have listed culture as one of the five principal objectives of second language study. Attaching the same value to culture as to each of four language skills is no surprise because of its importance in the development of global awareness and international understanding.

Stern (1983) recommends a multidimensional curriculum made up of four curricula: (1) linguistic (2) cultural, (3) communication, and (4) general education.

Benevento (1986) points out that language teachers can justify the study of second language as the best approach to cultural understanding only if the material’s and the student’s experiences are authentic.

Incorporation of Culture into the Class

The basic decision facing the teacher is:

1-      Learning the language itself is a full time task. How can room be made for more material?


The answer to this question is not easy. Techniques have been developed that can be inserted unobtrusively into the class without disturbing the remainder of the lesson plan. On those days in which more time is required for lengthy activities the culture portion of the class can serve as a change of pace to the more typical language routine.

2-      How much time should be spent teaching culture?


The answer to this question depends on the teacher and the students in the class. Again the type of cultural material presented and the manner in which it is organized will influence the amount of time spent.


In the Lesson Plan:

Daily cultural topics should be short and concise. Dwelling on a particular culture item every day robs the class of time needed for the four language skills.

At Different Levels:


What should be included at different levels of instruction?


The culture objectives and materials should be so arranged; of course, that content is not repeated. Since many students study a language for only one or two years. Another problem related to teaching culture at different levels has to do with whether to teach the culture in the first or the second language. Some elementary textbook authors prefer to write culture material in the first language, while others choose the second. As soon as the students have the linguistic skills to comprehend, culture should be thought in the second language.

(Why we should teach the culture in the second language?)

Diversifying Second-Language Goals with Culture

Learning activity package (LAP): having LAPs at student disposal permits him to select those areas of the second culture in which they have the greatest interest. Work with culture material is different from that with the language skills and can serve to provide a measure of success to those students floundering with the language skills.


                                     2-out of class


1-In Class

a)    The students

Students are capable of gaining a great deal of information on their own, with guidance. For example, early in their exposure to language study students can prepare maps. Working with map will help them to locate the country as well as the important cities and regions within the country.

Jenks (1974) advocates an approach to teaching culture in which the teacher provides questions that students are to answer, but the student doesn’t know the answer and he must go to the library to search the answer, while these questions are very easy for natives.

b)    The Teacher

The primary responsibility for culture content lies with the teacher and the textual materials. The culture information of most texts is inadequate, but choosing a book that incorporates culture into its format is a helpful beginning.

c)     The culture aside

This is mainly the most widely used approach to the teaching of culture. A culture aside is an unplanned, brief culture comment. During the class, the teacher commonly takes advantage of relevant topics as they rise to give bits of cultural information. For example, if the students have the word coffee, the teacher can differentiate between the coffee drunk in their country and that of the second culture.

d)    Lecture presentation

The teacher can also present lectures in which he discusses some characteristics of the second culture.

e)     A culture assimilator

It cosmists of three parts: (1) a short passage demonstrating an intercultural exchange in which a misunderstanding occurs, (2) four possible interpretations of what transpired, (3) feedback for the students as to the correct answer.

f)      A culture capsule

It is a brief description of one aspect of the second culture followed by a discussion of the contrasts between the culture of first and second language.

Culture capsules dealing with a central theme as a culture cluster. In this approach, the teacher incorporates a small number of separate, ten minutes culture capsule into the class format. Later one thirty minute segment of the class is spent acting out the cultural concepts introduced in the capsules and reviewing the content of the previous culture capsules.

g)    Minidramas (miniskits)

To help students visualize culture content. In this approach, students incorporate the culture being learned into their actions as they perform in selected situations. Any time students are acting out dialogs or role playing, the teacher should insist o the appropriate actions to fit the word being spoken if a video tape recorder is available, the most interesting and informative skit can be preserved for use with future classes.

h)    Audio-motor unit

A technique in which student act out commands given by teacher.

i)       Critical incident

Some problem accurse in the international patterns of people from different cultures. Students consider the situation and reactions of the people involved and comment on the cultural values represented by the action of each.

j)      Micrologue

Is a technique developed by Rassias that makes culture the focuse of attention during language practice.


The teacher does not have any special culture expertise and that only a small amount of class time is required to complete the activity.

k)    Cultoon

Teachers using this idea present student with a cartoon or cartoon strip in which some cultural misunderstanding occurs. The cause of the problem is visible in the cartoons, but they are nit readily apparent to those who are unfamiliar with the culture. Students discuss the potential clues and attempts to arrive at the correct interpretation of the indicated misconceptions. This activity provides oral language practice with a specific purpose, while teaching students to look for and interpret social signals in the culture (Morain, 1979).



2-Out of Class

Learning activities focusing on culture need not be restricted to the classroom. Many possibilities for extending student familiarity with the second culture exist beyond the classroom, and the teacher can enlist the assistance of other teachers and club member to help organize and supervise these activities.

a)    Area-specific study

If the students and teacher wish to focus their attention on a certain country or cultural area, the can plan an area-specific study. After choosing the area, they decide on the topics of interest, and students begin to collect information.

b)    Case study

Language classes may undertake a cross-cultural case study. This activity requires that the students analyze the situation, identify the problems, and suggest solutions.

c)     Pen pals and tape exchange

This method gives the student an opportunity to make personal contact with someone his or her own age. Thus, they get to know a speaker of the second language from a personal point of view, and then they can ask the questions in which they have an interest.

d)    Special programs and events

Cultural touring group from abroad effort special opportunities for the students to witness some of the representatives of the language and the culture they have been studying.

e)     Community resources

Many cultural resources in the local school district can be tapped to broaden the student’s exposure to cultural information and activities. One way to make the culture come alive is to bring the students into contact with the living culture in the community. Native speakers for example, can be invented to the class to talk to the students about life in the second language community.

f)      Travelogue films

Many communities have individuals or groups who sponsor a series of travel films. These filmed glimpses into other countries and other cultures are produced by experts and are normally very well done.

g)    Summer camps

Under the guidance of native speakers, the students learn, play, and work in the second language during their stay at the camp,

h)    Student exchange and travel/study abroad

For those students who have the linguistic ability, interest, time, money, the opportunity to study in the second language community is a defined asset.

i)       Regional and state language festivals

An innovation in language education has been the holding of regional and state language festivals. Language students in area come together for a day of fun, game, programs, and activities in the second language.




1-      The first problem is how to provide the culture information needed. Many teachers, through no fault of their own, are simply not equipped to teach culture.

Language teachers need assistance in overcoming their lack of knowledge about the second culture. First, in the study of socio cultural system they help from experts who can identify for them the basic characteristics of the second culture. Second, they need help from commercial publishers who can produce materials containing much of the information they need to know. Third, they need help from the colleges and universities who can provide the training they need to overcome their lack of expertise in culture.

2-      Another major problem is how to do devise ways of presenting culture in such a manner that the students can comprehend and relate to the information. culture content must be presented at a level and in a manner to which the students can attach some relationships between the information and their own background experiences.

3-      Another problem is finding time in the class period to include culture. The first point regarding this problem is that many of the described techniques take relatively little class time. The second point is that the teacher might desire, the ends justify the means in this case.


1-      One danger on teaching culture is that language teachers may attempt to teach culture when they do not have expertise to do so.

2-      Amount of work done in the first language in many classes in which the teacher stresses culture, while few second language educators would currently recommend banning the first language from the class, work done entirely in the first language obviously does not lead to second language communication skills.

3-      The third danger is that the culture content selected for the class may concentrate on the unusual, the bizarre, and the esoteric to the exclusion of the basic characteristics of the culture. Culture activities should not turned into some sort of circus freak show. In order to avoid confusion, the teacher should describe all aspects of the situation.

CONCLUSION: Culture is one of two major areas in second language education in which the greatest need and the greatest potential for improvement exist. As the growing body of information becomes available, culture objectives will become more realizable. As the teaching of culture improves so will the image of language teaching.

© 2011 C . R . A

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