It’s a long time since I last wrote a post to the blog. This doesn’t mean I’m not reflecting on my teaching anymore (is that possible, in any case?), but time flies and my new duties as Deputy Director are keeping me busier than I expected. I’m coming back to discuss about the role of Culture in CLIL.
When you start implementing CLIL in your classroom, the first three Cs are ok. Content… is clear. Communication… is obvious. Cognition… is a must! But what happens with Culture? When asked about this, some teachers claim that their subjects cannot deal with this; others state that they do it, but in an implicit way; and a third group keeps on wondering: Culture, which culture?
As far as I know, it seems that Culture was divided into two different concepts by Seelye (1984). These concepts are known as ‘Big C’ and ‘Small C’. The ‘Big C’ includes literature, music, film and symbols (Clandfield, 2008: p. 4); whereas the ‘Small c’ is focused on typical food, clothing, values, activities, manners and practices of a group (Seyle, 1984: 19). It is also possible to find “K culture” which is referring to behaviours or customs which may seem unusual or curious, mostly based on stereotype (Clandfield, 2008: p.4).
Even if we now know which C or K we would like to use in our classes, we need to choose the ‘culture’ or ‘cultures’ of reference. When I was a child, I was instructed about how to ask for a white tea in English (among other apparently ‘British’ customs), but right now English has become a ‘lingua franca’. Clandfield makes an essential point about this when asserting that English may be viewed as ‘devoided’ of cultural content, if we consider that we’re using a “’supranational’ variety of English” (p.5). He proposes to make our EFL/ESL teaching rely on what Byram (1997) termed as “intercultural competence”, understood as “the ability to communicate and operate effectively with people from another culture” (p.5).
In the same line, Chlopek (2009) indicates that for students to develop successful intercultural communication, “a through and systematic intercultural training” is needed. This training shouldn’t just encompass the English-speaking countries, in her opinion. Moreover, the starting point for this training should be to analyse students’ native culture, and compare them to other cultures. This initial step is also indicated b y Clandsfield (2008).
Some authors suggest practical ideas to take intercultural competence into our classrooms. Clandsfield considers that students can benefit from role-playing, and the analysis of cultural-biased elements in textbooks, for example. Chlopek offers a didactic proposal in three stages which invites students to reflect on the notion of Culture and its meaning for them (individually, and as a group). She also considers relevant to encourage student exchange or email exchange, organizing tasks as to share information with the rest of the class. Also, Chlopek mentions project work, as an opportunity to engage students in meaningful communication.
No matter what C/c/K we are teaching with, training on “intercultural competence” seems essential to help our students become global citizens. Are we making what is needed to develop it in our classes?What’s your view about CcKulture in your classroom? Are you supporting any of these views? Are you finding it difficult to integrate this C into your teaching? Have you carried out a successful project focus on the development of intercultural competence? I’d love to read your contributions.
Byram, M. (1997) Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Chlopek, Z. (2008). “The Intercultural Approach to EFL Teaching and Learning”. English Teaching Forum, 4: 10-27. Retrieved from: http://americanenglish.state.gov/files/ae/resource_files/08-46-4-c.pdf
Clandfield, L. (2008) “Culture in ELT: Which C? Whose C?” Teachers of English as a Second Language of Ontario, 34/3: 1-8. Retrieved from: http://www.teslontario.net/uploads/publications/contact/ContactSummer2008.pdf
Seelye, H. N. (1984) Teaching Culture. Chicago IL: National Textbook Company.