FC Culture: Lesson 2

Culture: Lesson 2


How is language acquired? Does language acquisition proceed linearly or cumulatively? There was a time when language acquisition was thought to progress in a linear manner. Level of proficiency was based on the number of years devoted to the study. In more recent decades, there came a shift to understand that language acquisition proceeds cumulatively, and should be based on one’s functional ability and not the number of years of study. ACTFL supports this understanding. So if language acquisition is, indeed, a culmination of learning, how can we best measure it?


How does language acquisition proceed?
Duration: 04:55

Using your own students as a model, try to establish among them a singular measure of ability in their common language of study after one year of instruction. What can they ALL do? What can SOME do? What can NONE do? Is there a singular measure of accomplishment among the members of this group?
Inverted Pyramid of Proficiency
ACTFL’s iconic inverted pyramid is a handy device for illustrating the cumulative process of language acquisition. It is an even better device for conveying to students how complex advanced mastery of a language really is.


Considering language acquisition as cumulative.
Duration: 04:29

Take a look at the ACTFL Generic Guidelines for Speaking and try to self-assess your own level on the ACTFL Proficiency Pyramid.

ACTFL Generic Guidelines for Speaking

Contact Time in the Target Language
ACTFL guidelines prescribe the number of hours required to reach each stage in the inverted pyramid of proficiency. The reality is that those number far exceed the classroom hours available to students. So how can we increase our students’ exposure to the language?


How to increase exposure and interaction with the target language.
Duration: 05:40

Cultural Literacy

In this section, we will explore examples of how cultural literacy, or the lack thereof, can affect how learners comprehend a foreign text.
Before you watch the video segment, read the opening paragraph from Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City.

Excerpt from Bright Lights, Big City

Discussion of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City.
Duration: 02:59

Russian Film Example

Now watch a short clip from a very popular Russian film from the Soviet era (1975). This film is still shown on New Year’s Eve throughout Russia today. In this segment, our hero, Zhenya, is about to be married on New Year’s day. His friends want to celebrate his nuptials with a trip to the Russian banya, a kind of sauna that’s very popular among all Russians. As you watch, take note of the cultural similarities and differences between this piece and Bright Lights, Big City. At what point(s) in either piece would comprehension be impeded by cultural differences?


Scene from “The Irony of Fate, or Have a Nice Steambath!”
Duration: 01:11

Now, take a guess at what happens right after the clip ends. What’s in the briefcase?

Discussion of video example.
Duration: 02:48


We can all agree that there is an amount of cultural background required to “get” what is going on in each of these excerpts, as well as in everyday interaction. The question we should ask ourselves is how we can help our language learners to acquire that knowledge that comes naturally to native speakers.

Types of “Texts”

A “text” isn’t limited to something written down. A text can be a film, an artifact, anything in a language and culture that conveys meaning. Think about the texts that you use in your language classroom: What’s in the textbook? What do you give you students to read in class? At home? Think about the origin and content of these various bits of writing that you use every day in class. How would you describe the language used in most of these texts in terms of their usefulness to our students?


Texts as authentic and not.
Duration: 01:38

For our purposes, texts can be categorized into the following groups:
• Created texts: Texts authored by non-native speakers for non-native speakers to achieve pre-determined curricular goals.
• Semi-authentic texts: Texts created by native and/or non-native speaker, based on original language materials, but adapted to fit curricular needs.
• Authentic texts: Texts created by native speakers for native speakers for consumption in a native environment.
Created texts have long dominated the materials used in language classrooms. But increasingly, educators are coming to understand the need to bring more authentic texts into the learning environment.
Choose a text that you recently used in one of your own classes. First determine whether it’s an authentic, semi-authentic, or created text. Then, ask a native speaker to read it and comment on how typical the text would be to someone living in country.



[Module Instructor Thomas Jesús Garza]. 2010. [Culture]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu

The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.

How ever a no obligation  exam is available at the end of this module.