A web site for the developing language teacher

Language and Culture - a thesis
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
- 7

By way of conclusion, we should reiterate the main premise of the present study: the teaching of culture should become an integral part of foreign language instruction. 'Culture should be our message to students and language our medium' (Peck, 1998). Frontiers have opened and never before have nations come closer to one another-in theory, at least. As a result, people from different cultures weave their lives into an international fabric that is beginning to fray at the edges by virtue of miscommunication and propaganda. In order to avoid this ignominious cultural and political disintegration, and foster empathy and understanding, teachers should 'present students with a true picture or representation of another culture and language' (Singhal, 1998). And this will be achieved only if cultural awareness is viewed as something more than merely a compartmentalised subject within the foreign language curriculum; that is, when culture "inhabits" the classroom and undergirds every language activity. According to Singhal (1998), language teachers ought to receive both experiential and academic training, with the aim of becoming 'mediators in culture teaching' (ibid.). At any rate, culture teaching should aim to foster 'empathy with the cultural norms of the target language community' and 'an increased awareness of one's own 'cultural logic' in relation to others' (Willems, 1992, cited in Byram, Morgan et al., 1994: 67). This cultural logic, though, is achieved through 'a recognition of 'otherness', and of the limitations of one's own cultural identity' (Killick & Poveda, 1997).

On a practical note, culture teaching should allow learners to increase their knowledge of the target culture in terms of people's way of life, values, attitudes, and beliefs, and how these manifest themselves or are couched in linguistic categories and forms. More specifically, the teaching of culture should make learners aware of speech acts, connotations, etiquette, that is, appropriate or inappropriate behaviour, as well as provide them with the opportunity to act out being a member of the target culture. Equipped with the knowledge that such notions as "superior" or "inferior" cultures are nothing but sweeping generalisations emanating from lack of knowledge and disrespect to other human beings with different worldviews, learners can delve into the target language and use it as a tool not only to communicate in the country where it is spoken but also to give a second (or third) voice to their thoughts, thus flying in the face of cultural conventions and stereotypes. To this end, language educators should 'not only work to dispel stereotypes [and] pockets of ignorance…but…contribute to learners' understanding that begins with awareness of self and leads to awareness of others' (Singhal, 1998).
There is certainly room for improvement, and things bode well for the future. Beyond current practice, there are still some areas, such as the ones identified by Lessard-Clouston (1997), that need further investigation. For example, is there such a thing as a 'natural order' in L2/FL culture acquisition? What cultural patterns do foreign language students need to learn first and at what levels? Furthermore, are these patterns best learnt by means of immersion in the target culture, or are there any techniques obviating this need? Most importantly, are these acquired patterns maintained over the long haul, or is there some kind of regression at work? Once these besetting issues are investigated, the next step is to do some research on content and materials design for cultural syllabuses (see Nostrand, 1967).

It goes without saying that foreign language teachers should be foreign culture teachers, having the ability to experience and analyse both the home and target cultures (Byram, Morgan et al., 1994: 73). The onus is on them to convey cultural meaning and introduce students to a kind of learning 'which challenges and modifies their perspective on the world and their cultural identity as members of a given social and national group' (ibid.). Unfortunately, by teaching about other cultures, foreign language educators do not necessarily nip prejudice in the bud, so to speak; cultural bias can still plague the very aspects of the target culture which teachers 'choose to indict or advocate', as Cormeraie (1997) insightfully remarks. It is hoped that the present paper has contrived to clarify most of the issues it set out to investigate, and has helped contribute to a better understanding of culture and its importance in the foreign language classroom.



Armour-Thomas, E. & Gopaul-Nicol, S. 1998. Assessing Intelligence. Applying a Bio-Cultural Model. USA: Sage Publications.
Baumgratz-Gangl, G. 1990. Personlichkeitsentwicklung und Fremdsprachenerwerb. Paderborn: Schoningh.
Benson, P. & Voller, P. 1997. Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning. London: Longman.
Bessmertnyi, A. 1994. Teaching Cultural Literacy to Foreign-Language Students. English Forum, 32:1, January-March, 1994.
Bourdieu, P. 1990. The Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice. Stanford University Press.
Brooks, N. 1960. Language and Language Learning. New York: Harcourt: Brace Jovanovich.
Brooks, N. 1968. Teaching culture in the foreign language classroom. Foreign Language Annals, 1, 204-217.
Brooks, N. 1975. The analysis of foreign and familiar cultures. In Lafayette, R. (ed.). The Culture Revolution in Foreign Language Teaching. Skokie, Illinois: National Textbook Company.
Bruner, J. 1990. Acts of Meaning. USA: Harvard University Press.
Bruner, J. 1996. The Culture of Education. USA: Harvard University Press.
Byram, M., Morgan, C. and Colleagues. 1994. Teaching and Learning Language and Culture. Great Britain: WBC.
Canale, M., & Swain, M. 1980. Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 1-47.
Candy, 1991. Self-direction for Lifelong Learning. California: Jossey-Bass.
Carter, R.A and J. McRae (eds.) 1996. Language, Literature and the Learner: Creative Language Practice. London: Longman
Corder, S. P. 1968. Film and Television in Modern Language Teaching. In Jalling, H. (ed.). Modern Language Teaching. London: Oxford University Press.
Cormeraie, S. 1997. From Theoretical Insights to Best Practice for Successful Inter-Cultural Education: The Crucial Transmission. Proceedings of the conference at Leeds Metropolitan University, 15-16 December 1997.
Cruz, G. I., Bonissone, P. R., Baff, S. J. The Teaching of Culture in Bilingual Education Programs: Moving Beyond the Basics. In New York State Association for Bilingual Education Journal (v10 p1-5), Summer 1995
Damen, L. 1987. Culture learning: The fifth dimension in the language classroom. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Desberg, D. 1961. Language as an Aspect of Cultural Behavior. In Fotitch, T. (ed.). Teaching Foreign Languages in the Modern World. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press.
Duranti, A. 1997. Linguistic anthropology. Cambridge: University Press.
Durkheim, E. 1947. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Glencoe: The Free Press.
Fairclough, N. 1989. Language and Power. London: Longman.
Fairclough, N. 1995. Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Longman.
Fotitch, T. 1961. Teaching Foreign Languages in the Modern World. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press.
Fowler, R. 1986. Linguistic Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goodenough, W. H. 1963. Cooperation in Change. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Goodenough, W. H. 1981. Culture, Language, and Society. London: The Benjamin / Cummings Publishing Company.
Green, J. R. 1968. A Gesture Inventory for the Teaching of Spanish. Philadelphia: Chilton.
Grove, C. L. 1982. Improving intercultural learning through the orientation of sojourners. Occasional Papers in Intercultural Learning. AFS International.
Hall, E. T. 1959 [1981]. The Silent Language. New York: Anchor Books.
Hammerly, H. 1982. Synthesis in language teaching. Blaine, WA: Second Language Publications.
Henle, P. 1970. Language, thought and culture. Michigan: Michigan University Press.
Henrichsen, L. E. 1998. Understanding Culture and Helping Students Understand Culture. (Web document)
Higgs, T. V. 1984. Teaching for Proficiency, the Organizing Principle. Lincolnwood, IL: National textbook.
Howell, W. R. & Vetter, J. H. 1976. Language in Behaviour. New York: Human Sciences Press.
Huebener, T. 1959. How to Teach Foreign Languages Effectively. New York: New York University Press.
Humphrey, D. 1997. Integrating Intercultural Training Material in the ELT Classroom. Proceedings of the conference at Leeds Metropolitan University, 15-16 December 1997.
Jalling, H. 1968. Modern Language Teaching. London: Oxford University Press.
Kallenbach, W. W. & Hodges, H. M. 1963. Education and Society. Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Books.
Killick, D. & Poveda, J. 1997. Perceptions of Cross-Cultural Capability: is EFL Another Language? Proceedings of the conference at Leeds Metropolitan University, 15-16 December 1997.
Kramsch, C. 1987a. Socialization and literacy in a foreign language: Learning through interaction. Theory into Practice, 26/4. Columbus: The Ohio State University.
Kramsch, C. 1987c. Foreign language textbooks' construction of foreign reality. Canadian Modern Language Review 44/1.
Kramsch, C. 1988b. The cultural discourse of foreign language textbooks. In Singerman, A. (ed.). 1988. Toward a New Integration of Language and Culture. Northeast Conference reports 1988. Middlebury, Vermont: Northeast Conference.
Kramsch, C. 1993. Context and Culture in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lado, R. 1957. Linguistics Across Cultures. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Lado, R. 1964. Language Teaching: A Scientific Approach. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lado, R. 1986. How to compare two cultures. In Valdes, J. M. (ed.). Culture Bound: Bridging the Cultural Gap in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lafayette, R. 1975. The cultural revolution in foreign languages: A guide for building the modern curriculum. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company.
La Forge, P. G. 1983. Counseling and Culture in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Lakoff, R. 1990. Talking Power. The Politics of Language. New York: Basic books.
Landar, H. 1965. Language and Culture. USA: Oxford University Press.
Leiss, W. et al. 1990. Social Communication in Advertising. Australia: Routledge.
Lessard-Clouston, M. 1997. Towards an Understanding of Culture in L2/FL Education. In Ronko, K.G. Studies in English, 25, 131-150 Japan: Kwansei Gakuin University Press.
Levinson, S. 1983. Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McLeod, B. 1976. The Relevance of Anthropology to Language Teaching. TESOL Quarterly 10(2): 211-20.
Melde, W. 1987. Zur Integration von Landeskunde und Kommunikation im Fremdsprachenunterricht. Tubingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.
Montgomery, M., and H. Reid-Thomas. 1994. Language and social Life. England: The British Council.
Nemni, M. 1992. Mefiez-vous du discours interculturel! Canadian Modern Language Review, 49 (1), 10-36.
Nostrand, H. L. 1967. A Second Culture: New Imperative for American Education. In Michel, J. Foreign Language Teaching. An Anthology. London: Collier-MacMillan.
Nostrand, H. L. 1974. Empathy for a second culture: Motivations and techniques. In Jarvis, G. A. (ed.). 1974. Responding to New Realities. ACTFL Foreign Language Education Series, vol. 5. Skokie, Illinois: National Textbook.
Ochs, E., & Schieffelin, B. 1984. Language acquisition and socialization. In R. Shweper & R. Levine (Eds.), Culture theory (pp. 277-320). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Odlin, T. 1989. Language Transfer: Cross-Linguistic Influence in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Omaggio, A. 1986. Teaching language in context: Proficiency- oriented instruction. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Peck, D. 1998. Teaching Culture: Beyond Language. Yale: New Haven Teachers Institute.
Peters, A., & Boggs, S. 1986. Interactional routines as cultural influences upon language acquisition. In B. Schieffelin & E. Ochs (Eds.), Language socialization across cultures (pp. 80-96). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Politzer, R. 1959. Developing Cultural Understanding Through Foreign Language Study. Report of the Fifth Annual Round Table Meeting on Linguistics and Language Teaching, pp. 99-105. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
Poyatos, F. 1985. Encoding-decoding processes in intercultural verbal and nonverbal interaction. In R. Brunt & W. Enninger (Eds.), Interdisciplinary perspectives at cross-cultural communication (pp. 191- 210). Aachen: Rader.
Preston, D. 1989. Sociolinguistics and Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Reynolds, J. and Skilbeck, M. 1976. Culture and the Classroom. London: Open Books.
Rivers, W. M. 1968. Teaching Foreign-Language Skills. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Rivers, W. 1981. Teaching foreign language skills (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Robinson, G. 1988. Crosscultural understanding. New York: Prentice-Hall.
Salzmann, Z. 1998. Language, Culture and Society. An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. USA: Westview Press.
Samovar, L., Porter, R. & Jain, N. 1981. Understanding intercultural communication. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Sapir, E. 1921. Language. An Introduction to the Study of Speech. London: Rupert Hart-Davis.
Savignon, S. 1972. Communicative competence: An experiment in foreign language testing. Philadelphia: Centre for Curriculum Development.
Saville-Troike, M. 1975. Teaching English as a second culture. In R. Crymes & W. Norris (Eds.), ON TESOL '74 (pp. 83-94). Washington: TESOL.
Seelye, H. 1974. Teaching culture: Strategies for foreign language educators. Skokie, IL: National Textbook Company.
Seelye, H. 1984. Teaching culture: Strategies for inter-cultural communication. Revised edition. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company.
Seelye, H. N. 1988. Teaching Culture. Lincolnwood, IL.: National Textbook Company.
Singhal, M. 1998. Teaching Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom. Thai TESOL Bulletin, Vol. 11 No. 1, February 1998
Steele, R. 1989. Teaching language and culture: Old problems and new approaches. In J.E. Alatis (Ed.), Georgetown University roundtable on languages and linguistics 1989 (pp. 153-162). Washington: Georgetown University Press.
Straub, H. 1999. Designing a Cross-Cultural Course. English Forum, vol. 37: 3, July-September, 1999.
Street, B. 1993. Culture is a verb: Anthropological aspects of language and cultural process. In D. Graddol, L. Thompson, & M. Byram (Eds.), Language and culture (pp. 23-43). Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters and BAAL.
Swaffar, J. 1992. Written texts and cultural readings. In Kramsch, C. and McConnell-Ginet, S. (eds.). 1992. Text and Context: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Language Study. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.
Tannen, D. 1979. What's in a frame? Surface evidence for underlying expectations. In Freedle, R. O. (ed.). New Directions in Discourse Processing. Vol II in the series Advances in Discourse Processes. Norwood, N. J.: Alex.
Tavares, R. & Cavalcanti, I. 1996. Developing Cultural Awareness in EFL Classrooms. English Forum, 34:3, July-September, 1996.
Tomalin, B. & Stempleski, S. 1993. Cultural Awareness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tucker, G. R., and Lambert, W. E. 1972. Sociocultural Aspects of Foreign-Language Study. Dodge, J. W. (ed.). 1972. Northeast Conference Reports. Montpellier, Vermont: The Capital City Press.
Valdes, J. M. (ed.). 1986. Culture Bound: Bridging the Cultural Gap in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wierzbicka, A. 1999. Emotions across Languages and Cultures. Diversity and Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Williams, R. 1983. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Fontana.


Dimitrios Thanasoulas studied English Literature and Linguistics at Athens University and then did an MA in Applied Linguistics at Sussex University. After that, he earned an MBA from Mooreland University and is currently finishing the second year of my PhD studies in Education at Nottingham University. His academic interests include fostering cultural awareness and learner autonomy, as well as such issues as language and ideology, Critical Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics, and the Psychology of Education.


Dimitrios can be contacted at:

To the beginning of the article

Back to the articles index

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing