Communication and Cultures
Communication and Cultures is part of a five-part video series: Learning Languages Other Than English: A Texas Adventure, that was produced in response to teachers' requests for examples of what TEKS for LOTE implementation actually looks like. The videos are centered around scenes from LOTE classrooms across Texas and include interviews with students, teachers, parents, and administrators. This video focuses on the interrelationship of the Program Goal of Communication and one of the other goals: Cultures.
The Communication and Cultures video study guide offers suggestions for how to use the videos in a variety of professional development contexts. It contains background information on the changes brought about in LOTE instruction as the TEKS for LOTE are implemented and individual workshop units focusing on the program goals highlighted in each video. Resources include worksheet masters, suggested activities, workshop facilitation tips, and supplemental reading lists for participants.
Part 1 of 2
Part 2 of 2
Transcript of this video
Whenever I have a lesson that I'm giving, I make sure that lesson has more than just learning, because language is the portrayal of culture. That means just by teaching language is not enough, if they are not aware of the culture.
For any student, one of the most integral parts of learning a language is the study of, and experience with, the culture or cultures associated with that language. As we continue the adventure of learning a language other than English, you'll see students exploring the three main components of culture: products, practices, and perspectives, and you'll see how some of the most successful language teachers in Texas bring the components of culture alive in their classrooms and how they incorporate the program goal of cultures into their daily lesson plans. Any examination of how languages taught in Texas begins with a mention of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Languages Other Than English. The TEKS for LOTE are the standards which describe what all students should know and be able to do at various stages within the LOTE discipline. These standards are organized around five program goals, often referred to by educators as the five Cs. First and foremost is communication. In LOTE classrooms, students are striving to use a second language and communication is the vehicle language learners use to become proficient. The other four goals stem from the use of the target language in the classroom. Students learn about the cultures associated with their second language and gain valuable insight into perspectives of the people of that country or region. Learning a second language, students make connections with other subject areas and connect to access information in the target language. Students who make the comparisons between their second language and culture and their first language and culture developed insight into the nature of all languages and cultures. Finally, students are encouraged to take their second language out into the community--to use it with neighbors here at home or in communities abroad. It is the acceptance of and implementation of these five program goals into daily lesson plans that Texas educators believe is a key to obtaining advanced proficiency for all language learners.
[Students speaking Spanish]
Clearly, communication skills are the primary focus of language study. Through the communication goal, students develop the skills necessary to master the content of the other four program goals. These skills include: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as viewing and showing. Communicative proficiency derives from control of three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational. Students need practice in all three types of communication in order to satisfy their most commonly expressed reason for taking any language class: to learn to communicate.
Ricci Hatten, Teacher
The first thing that I do when I do my lesson plans is think about the communication that's going to take place between the students. At this level, interpersonal communication is the most important--that they be able to give the information that they want to give, and more importantly, they receive the information that they want to receive. So, that's where I start. From that point, I want to bring in culture. I want to bring in new vocabulary. I want to bring in a connection with students that they don't have already--that being the students who don't speak the target language--in this case, Spanish. So, everything revolves around that interpersonal communication. If at some point then we can get to other kinds of communication: interpretive communication, communication of presentation type. That's good, too, but at this point, it's the interpersonal communication that is most important. It's what they want to do. They want to learn how to speak Spanish.
The primary mode of communication is the interpersonal mode, where there is a direct exchange of communication between individuals, either listeners and speakers or readers and writers.
[Student speaking a foreign language]
At Churchill High School in San Antonio, these students are involved in a mock job fair. They're demonstrating proficiency in the interpersonal mode of communication: speaking and listening. This mode of communication requires active negotiation of meaning between the individuals and calls for a natural pattern of adjustment and clarification in order to be successful. Another form of interpersonal communication occurs between writers and readers when both writer and reader have access to one another. In Heidi Kirby's German II class at Cinco Ranch High School near Houston, her students are e-mailing students in Germany. The two groups of students are thousands of miles apart but utilizing the technology available in today's language classroom, they are able to be e-pals in their target language. Using their computers the students are communicating in the interpersonal mode. They're developing the skills of reading at the same time developing the skills of writing.
Another mode of communication is the interpretive mode. In this form of communication the communicative source, the speaker or writer, is not present. The listeners or readers must determine for themselves the meaning of what is being communicated, using the skills of listening and reading.
At Cambridge Elementary in the Alamo Heights School District, these first-grade immersion students receive a full dose of all three modes of communication in the target language, right from the first day. The interpretive mode occurs not only as students listen to their teacher, but also during reading time. For these youngsters, full comprehension of what they're reading is still a ways down the road, but their interpretive skills are already being enhanced, and they're developing viewing skills using pictures to help interpret what they see and read.
In today's LOTE classroom, more advanced students can take their interpretive skills to the Internet. In Vince McGee's Latin I class at Lake Highlands High School in the Richardson Independent School District, students research a project in their target language on the computer. The teacher is available to help students navigate the Internet, but the students themselves must apply what they've already learned, in order to interpret the messages provided by the Internet author.
The third mode of communication to be mastered by language learners is the presentational mode, which calls for the creation of formal messages, public speaking, or and editorial, for example, to be interpreted by listeners or readers where there is no opportunity for active negotiation of meaning between listeners and speakers or readers and writers. At Rayburn High School in Pasadena these French III, pre-AP students are making presentations to their classmates that compare cultural similarities between young people in the U.S. and France.
[Student speaking French]
Current fashion trends for teenagers is a popular theme, and the presenters use the skills of speaking and showing. In this example, as is often the case, more than one mode of communication is occurring in the LOTE classroom. Here, as presenters communicate in the presentational mode, the rest of the class, or audience, uses the interpretive mode to view and listen to the presentation.
Ricci Hatten, Teacher
I want the kids to be able to go to a foreign country, check into a hotel, ask for a clean towel, get tickets to the opera--maybe not the opera but get tickets to something that they are interested in--to be able to use the language, and I think that's where the TEKs have driven us, to make it useful to them.
Understanding the perspective of another culture or how the people view things is key to appreciating their products--the tangible and intangible things the people of the culture create and their practices--what the people of that culture do and how they behave. In Helen Nakamoto's Japanese class at Taylor High School in Katy, students learn how a simple product in our culture is perceived quite differently in Japan.
Helen Nakamoto, Teacher
Business card, which is what we call "Meishi" and on the card, we have the name, not only the name, but titles, address, and telephone numbers, and the company's name and so forth, and when you exchange business card you have to show the respect to the person who is giving you their business card, as if this card is a person himself or herself, and you don't put the business card in your pocket right away. You have to study it carefully.
In his Hindi language class at Bel Air High School in Houston, teacher Arun Precash makes sure his students understand an important practice or pattern of social interaction specific to the culture of India.
Arun Precash, Teacher
For example, if they want to go to India, and they want to greet a lady, they should not extend their hard to shake. That is prohibited. You don't touch a lady in the India social system. So, we have "Namaste ji." So, if I have "namaste ji," and I'm adding that into my lesson, then I make sure that I do tell why it is "namaste ji," and why it is to yourself--why it is not extending. So, I explain that at the same time, so they know, "Oh, wow, this is the way?"
At Cambridge Elementary, our first-grade immersion students are still at it, just trying to handle a few simple phrases, but they're also already learning about and experiencing the culture of their target language.
Dan Bolen, Assistant Principal, Alamo Heights ISD
The fact that they are learning another culture and another language and another perspective on things I think will help them in many ways to understand other people in our country, especially given the fact that we are a country that is changing demographically, I think it will help them in that respect. And I also think it will help them to understand their own language and their own culture better if they know a second one quite well.
Another important way students and teachers can learn about the cultural products practices and perspectives associated with the native speakers of their target language is through study and travel abroad.
Rose Potter, Programs Abroad Travel Alternatives
As a teacher, I realized immediately that no matter what you can do in the classroom, you can take a very short experience in a foreign country and the kids have such a multi-faceted experience. When parents ask why they should send their students to study abroad, one of the first things I say is, "You may think that you're sending a child abroad to learn another language, but the reality is the experience is so much greater, the perspective that a student achieves in even a very short experience, is, it overwhelms for the rest of their life. It changes everything.
Still another way students gain cultural perspective about the people who speak the target language is through the use of the technology available in today's LOTE classroom.
I think one of the neat things that has really given us a better idea of prospectus is the use of the Internet and e-mail. We have pen-pals in Midland, and they do a lot of things over the e-mail, and it gives a student an opportunity to truly learn what another student goes through in their lifetime and through their growing up experiences.
For an example of how one teacher exposes her students to the cultural practices and perspectives of some of the native speakers of their target language, we visited Rosalon Moorhhead's French III classroom at Belair High School in Houston. Her classroom is designed to resemble a Parisian cafe which serves to introduce students to an important aspect of French life.
Rosalon Moorhhead, Teacher
I stole the idea, as it turns out, from a teacher in Copperas Cove, which is close to Austin and San Antonio. And those teachers had set up their room just like this and presented a workshop at a conference, and when I came back, I asked Mr. Lawson, as our principal here, if he would support my putting twentyfour desks out in the hall and waiting waiting for them to be picked up, and he said, "Absolutely, go fot it."
As part of today's lesson, her students act out roles from a story in their video text. The cafe setting is a natural.
[Students speaking French]
They take on the roles of people they have become familiar with, and situations that may be different from those in the United States--we didn't get to that the folks who were doing the cafe scenes, but when they do that, they would ostensibly show how the cafes in France are more a portion of the life of the the people, how they, the role that they play, and the importance in their lives, and how things are different and how they are the same.
Along with culture, teacher Moorhead stresses communication in her classroom. She believes strongly that the best way to learn a second language is to get plenty of practice speaking that second language.
[Students speaking French]
If they see me in the halls, they speak French to me. You know, I mean, that is the relationship that we've got with each other has been en francais from day one, and it's good. One of the problems with the room setup like this is that even when you don't want conversation, some times you've got it, but you know, for the most part, well that's exactly what we want. If you're in the French class, you want to learn to speak French, and they do.
Teacher Moorhead says surrounding your students with a little culture and ambiance, en francais, has made it easier for her students to remain grounded in the content language.
Rosalon Moorhhead, Teacher And I tell the kids right off the bat that we're all learning, and the only way to speak it is to speak it, and the only way to learn to write it is to write it, and just practice and you're going to get better. So, I think if the example is set by the teacher, than the kids are going to follow it, and that's what's happened with this group. If they wanted to ask me a question, I would not answer it until it was given to me in French, and they're OK with that now. I mean you know there was a lot of moaning and groaning the first week of school. "I just hate her, don't you?" But, no one has tried to do me in in the last couple of weeks, so I guess it's going alright.
Like adults, some high school students share an interest in politics. In Houston, Yvette Heno's French students followed the U.S. election process on the Internet, but from the european perspective.
For French, the students, because we have two computers in the class and there are also various computer labs throughout the school, the students researched the candidates in the American election, but they did it in French. They went to the French sites, and they saw what they had to say about George and Laura Bush, about Al Gore and Tipper Gore, and about Hillary Clinton, because she too is running for office, and what they did is they gathered the information and we had a talk show. In my class, we have a lot of talk shows. They have to be able to ask and answer questions. The students prepare questions but the always like to invent their own on the day of the talk show.
Teacher Hino also teaches Arabic to Houston area students, and she mixes in a heavy dose of Arabic culture in every lesson plan.
For Arabic, technology is a natural because there is something called computer-assisted language learning. For Arabic, the students not only have to learn about the language, but they also have to learn about the culture. A lot of people don't understand the culture. They don't understand anything about the people who speak the language. So, it's very important that they learned the culture along with the language. That is why it's a culture and language class. If we are going to go to strictly Arabic culture from the very beginning, then the most important country is going to be Egypt. They have to learn about Egypt and its influence. Egypt has been around for thousands of years. It's one of the oldest countries in the world, and Arabic hasn't been around for that long but Egypt has been around, so they would have to learn about Egypt. They would have to learn about places like Syria. They would have to learn about Israel, which was formerly called Palestine. It was Israel and Palestine for, depending at the point of the view of the person you are talking to, they have to understand that the cradle of civilization was in Iraq. And people don't understand.
[Teacher talking with students]
"What does the word Egypt bring to your mind?" Pyraminds. The pyramids. Yes, the pyramids. Moses. Have you ever heard their music, maybe? Some of the Arabic music. Do you know anything about their habits? Their values, their customs maybe?
At Bellaire High School, a magnet school for languages in the Houston Independent School District, several classes comparing different cultures associated with the languages offered are required of all students. In Fadwa Sager's comparitive cultures class, students who have yet to begin learning to speak the language are already learning about practices and perspectives common to the arab world.
It's important for the students to know about, like in particularly the Arabic culture, I found so many stereotype concepts, and people here get a chance to understand what they know and enhance the correct concepts, and of course the misconception about certain aspects or stereotypical you know ideas about people like when they come here first and I tell them, sometimes I asked them what do you know about Arabic culture. The first thing that comes to mind is camels.
Teacher Sage believes when teaching culture, it's important to help students look beyond their own or another society's preconceived notions.
It has the most Muslims in the world, so that doesn't mean necessarily that every Muslim is an Arab. Is that rue? Does that mean that you will not find Christians in the Arab world? Of course, you will find Muslims and Jews in the Arab world. So, we came up with what they know, and of course, we put those subtopics on the board. And we will elaborate on those during the course. We will be talking basically about geography, history, resources, economy, politics somehow, the language, the culture. How do people perceive things? And how do they practice things, and how do they go through everyday products, like their food, their music, their arts, and entertainment.
In addition to what the people of the particular culture do, language students in the LOTE classroom learn about the products of that culture or what people make or create.
[teacher speaking Spanish with students]
In Communications Arts High School in San Antonio, Aurora Hansis and her Spanish II students are celebrating, and at the same time learning about, the Mexican holiday el Día de los Muertos, the day of the dead. Students are asked to write and then present their version of the calaveritas, the sometimes irreverent poems associated with this holiday, that are a product of the Mexican culture.
[Students speaking Spanish]
What we saw was a process that we started with alearning scenario for the Día de los Muertos and we started learning about Día de los Muertos, what it means and some of the different art and some of the literature that accompanies this, and we chose to go with the literature to represent part of the Día de los Muertos. They have calaveritas, and those are poems. They write. It's humoristic poems, satirical poems that are good-natured about political figures--about prominent people.
[Students speaking Spanish]
In the process of writing the calaveritas, first we had read calaveritas, or these poems, written by famous writers. Also some people from San Antonio, because San Antonio having such a strong influence from Spanish.
Aurora believe studying the cultural event like the day of the dead enhances language learning for all her students.
[Students speaking Spanish]
Culture is a main element of the whole process, because this is a cultural event, and it is very important to strengthen that and make them aware of it. Some of them are of Hispanic origin, so to be aware of their origin to have pride in what they celebrate.
[Students speaking Spanish]
And they like to do that, the students that have Hispanic heritage want to do more. The others are a little bit afraid, but it helps them, and it increases their awareness of accepting other cultures and not making fun or laughing, because it is different.
Just across the hall at Communications Arts High School, these students in Theresa Tattersall's class are presenting skits with calaveras, or skeletons, puppets that are another product associated with the cultural observance of el Día de los Muertos.
What I was trying to do was have the students involved in and exposed to the idea of calaveras and how skeletons have various meanings, especially with the day of the dead and the fact that at the same time that it's something scary, it's also meant to be something humorous, and so, what I had the students do was make skeleton puppets and create a humorous dialogue behind it.
I say look this is Halloween, which is a very European, you know, holiday that came to the United States, and this Día de los Muertos. We do graphic organizer so we can see what is real different and what they have in common, and they don't all necessarily accept it, but they understand it, and they respect it, I think at the end, and that's how I assess it at the end. Do they know what happens on this day, did they understand why the people do it, and then, you know, do you respect it without judging it.
As we've seen, communicating involves more than just knowing the words to say and how to pronounce them. For any language to be fully understood good and for a student to become truly proficient in its use, the products, practices, and perspectives of the culture associated with that language must be recognized and appreciated. Thank you for watching Learning Languages Other Than English, A Texas Adventure, Communication and Cultures. For more information about any of the topics discussed or to contact any of the individuals who helped in the production of this video, please contact the Languages Other than English Center for Educator Development at their website at www.sedl.org/loteced. Or contact LOTE CED director Lillian King Meidlinger at 1-800-476-6861 or contact the world unit at the Texas Education Agency at 1-512-936-2444.