Today's readings required me to be in different frames of mind.  I first read about the evolution of the English language learning objectives, then the types of savoir, or knowledge, needed to gain intercultural competence, and finally finishing my day on Pennycook's (2001) notion on 'critical applied linguistics'.  Pennycook's works easily beat the rest in being the most interesting, for today, that is.  

Starting this PhD did not really give me a sense of definiteness to what I know.  Instead, it has coerced me into expanding my limits - which at times can be very uncomfortable.  Pennycook's first chapter in Critical Applied Linguistics: A Critical Introduction, pushed me even more, probably over the edge.  I can't imagine what the other chapters would do to me.  

Back to pushing my boundaries and making me cringe - in many of the discussions here at KMUTT, we try to be sensible by looking concepts along a continuum with two polar ends.  Hence, we have things like the big D and the small d in discourse studies (Gee), or the emic or etic perspectives in a research, to name a few.  Pennycook brought to my attention another new concept which he argues (and I believe) could be laid out along a continuum - APPLIED LINGUISTICS.  

I always thought AL is just AL, nothing more, nothing less.  To me AL was just a static, unmovable, superordinate term which reigned over all possible subordinate topics which my fall under.  Pennycook said, "No! no! no!" to me.  He says that even AL has a strong version and a weak version (based on previous works by Markee), the weak one is the "application of a parent domain of knowledge (linguistics) to different contexts (mainly language teaching)" whereas the strong one is known as "critical applied linguistics" which is defined by its "breadth of coverage, interdisciplinarity, and a degree of autonomy" (p. 3).  

I never knew.  What does it mean to be on the weak side?  What does it mean to be on the strong side?  

Cultural Lessons in the English Language Classroom?

My readings this week focused on culture and English language teaching.  It is interesting to note that though scholars (e.g. Liddicoat, Byram) have argued for the value of incorporating cultural lessons in the English classroom, successful implementation has yet to come.  This assumption, however, is made based on researches published about this topic.  This expansion of the 'content' of the English classroom to include cultural elements is an ongoing process for about two decades now.  Despite that, the concurrent teaching of language and culture still seem elusive.

Stakeholders are trying to change the ideology of language teachers and learners.  Such efforts can be seen in the European Union's framework for education, where language curricula are developed with culture in mind.  Still, though support from the top may be present, the actual implementation in the language classrooms is still questionable.    

Various studies show that though English teachers feel positive about incorporating culture into their language classes.  However, they are not practicing what they believe in.  Problems such as lack of teaching skills, lack of cultural knowledge, curriculum priorities (which lean more towards linguistic knowledge), and students' lack of interest have been reported.    

Perhaps this grim situation is linked with the relatively low interest towards this area.  The low interest could be subsequently linked to this area of research's marketability.  Many teachers and students of language are more keen to know what can improve or enhance the learning process.  Teaching and learning culture may not provide a direct improvement of language competency.  Hence, taking up culture in a language classroom may seem extra (and unnecessary) to many language teachers and learners.