As language educators, we take pride in integrating culture and language. We understand the importance of being understood in terms of the words we use in light of the products, practices, and perspectives of the target culture. Too often, culture is seen as an aside in the classroom and not integrated into every aspect of what we teach, but our profession is changing that.
The NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements clarify and support the Cultures standards of the World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. The statements support learners’ in developing Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) or “the ability to interact effectively and appropriately with people from other language and cultural backgrounds. ICC develops as the result of intentional goal-setting and self-reflection around language and culture, and involves attitudinal changes toward one’s own and other cultures (ACTFL).”
These learning targets focus in on two areas:
As we move from identifying products and practices to making comparisons in our own culture and in those of the Spanish-speaking world, we focus on building communication skills so learners can interact appropriately both in their language choices and their behaviors.
The primary focus of language education is to develop language proficiency. However, deep reflection normally occurs in one’s native language. For this reason, reflective activities should be designed with maximum use of the target language during instructional time and an option for use of English or learners’ home language for deeper reflection. The Intercultural Can-Do Statements include a framework for reflective activities that involves:
To go deeper in self-reflection requires Novice and Intermediate learners to process cultural perspectives in their first language, but we can integrate the development of target language proficiency with in-class tasks and deeper, self-reflection at home in learners’ home language. Let’s take a look at three specific examples.
Learners will focus on what it means to be an “American” through the message and tone transmitted through the lyrics of a song by the popular musical group, Los Tigres del Norte. They will also see this concept reflected in a comparison of maps from the Spanish- and English-speaking world.
In the reflection phase, learners will reflect on what they think the song and the map say about who Spanish-speakers from the Americas are and what they believe by having them address the following questions:
Have learners post their responses in a journal or digital format. [Note that in some digital formats, learners have the ability to interact with each other by posting questions and responses about what they write or post orally.
Learners will compare the infrastructure of their school with that of a school in an Andean Spanish-speaking country. They will identify elements they would include in the design of an ideal, bilingual school.
In the reflection phase, learners will reflect on how their school compares with the Andean school by addressing the following questions in a journal or online in a digital format:
In this Intercultural activity, learners will explore eco-gardens in two Spanish-speaking countries and note the benefits. Based on what they learn, they will make recommendations for how to make home or community gardens more eco-friendly and sustainable.
Reflections (at home, in English, the home language, or the target language)