Reflecting on the scarcity of research in the teaching of culture, we are compelled to wonder whether or not studies in this area are even worth the time. Many seem to believe that it is worth our time, with official bodies recognizing the value of cultural awareness for successful communication (e.g. ASEAN 2015, ACTFL, and the Common European Framework for Languages). Aside from its perceived worth, many also believe that cultural awareness should be taught alongside language (Liddicoat, 2011; Kramsch, 1996), as it is during the process of inter-cultural interaction that cultural knowledge is put to use. With this in mind, the language learning and teaching industry has seen the publication of materials developed with an intercultural communication competence twist in mind. Books are now claiming that they not only offer language knowledge, but cultural knowledge as well.
But is it the job of language teachers to teach students to be culturally aware? In the introductory chapter of Dervin and Liddicoat's (2013) Intercultural Education, they mention that the teaching of culture has been by and large a concern in the broad field of education. Godwin-Jones (2013) echoes this belief, indicating that the teaching of culture should not be confined only to certain courses, such as language classes, but to all courses in general.
To further explicate this issue, Sercu (2005, 2007) and Luk (2012) indicated that language teachers are not comfortable teaching their students cultural lessons, even though they may feel positive about teaching it. One reason could be that these teachers were never trained to do so. This may stem from the very ethnocentric nature of many language teacher programs (Liu, 1998).
Why then, do language teachers bear the brunt of teaching cultural knowledge? Why is it that only language teaching/learning materials are developed based on cultural frameworks idealized by nation-states? I am not sure myself, but I think it lies within the philosophy of language and its relationship with culture.
Byram, M., et al. (1991). Cultural studies and language learning: a research report. Great Britain: Multilingual Matters.
Dervin, F. & Liddicoat, A. (2013). Linguistics for intercultural education. The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Godwin-Jones, R. (2013). Integrating intercultural competence into language learning through technology. Language Learning & Technology, 17(2), 1–11. Retrieved from http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2013/emerging.pdf
Kramsch, C. (1996). The cultural component of language teaching. Zeitschrift fur interkulturellen fremdsprachenunterricht, 1(2). Retrieved from http://www.spz.tu-darmstadt.de/projekt_ejournal/jg_01_2/beitrag/kramsch2.htm
Liddicoat, A. J. (2011). Language learning and teaching from an intercultural perspective. In Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning (Vol. 2). E. Hinkel (Ed.). New York: Routledge.
Liu, D. (1998). Ethnocentrism in TESOL: Teacher education and the neglected needs of international TESOL students. ELT Journal, 52(1), pp. 3-10.
Luk, J. (2012). Teachers’ ambivalence in integrating culture with EFL teaching in Hong Kong. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 25(3), pp. 249-264.
Sercu, L. (2005). Foreign language teachers and the implementation of intercultural education: a comparative investigation of the professional self‐concepts and teaching practices of Belgian teachers of English, French and German. European Journal of Teacher Education, 28(1), pp. 87-105.
Sercu, L., et al. (2007). Foreign language teachers and intercultural competence: an international investigation. Great Britain: Multilingual Matters.