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A description of the focus of culture orientation to second language methods. David W. Gurney, Ph.D.

August 1995 CONCEPTUALIZATION: Tying language development to students' images. I have taken an integrative approach to culture in that my orientation is that culture is the basis of language, it's what language derives from, and it will be the changes in culture that influence changes in language. Since language and culture are not separable, there is no sense of "bringing culture into language instruction" as the recommendation states. Rather, we should teach culture, and derive language use from it. For example, imagine looking around a Spanish classroom. Picture some pyramids on a table that a student made out of sugar cubes for a culture project. One is larger than the other, and the teacher uses them to teach the comparative degree of adjectives in Spanish. At one time, these cultural examples might be an example of "integrating@ culture into language teaching. Today, I would elaborate on the pyramids as an essential element of the Aztec culture for about two to three minutes. In doing so, students would already have perceived that one was larger than the other. But, I would not, then, teach comparisons! "Why not??", you say. "It's a great visual!" Yes, I'll say, but it subordinates the cultural information, valid in and of itself, to the language curriculum. In a professional workshop setting, I would ask a teacher to think, instead, of something being taught any single day in the Spanish curriculum. I submit that *anything* can be connected to the image that one will have helped students create in their minds. Therefore, you can go from the images in their minds, not the concrete pyramids, to bring in any pattern of Spanish that you want. To continue the example, suppose that I want to have students describe events in terms of the days of the week when the events took place. Therefore, I can introduce one day by stating that, on a trip to Mexico, I climbed the large pyramid on *name of day.* Do not go, immediately, to another day! (This is the usual procedure.) I would keep using other familiar Spanish words or structures to elaborate on the event. All the while, the event, itself, would be building images in their minds: AI climbed the large pyramid on *day* (show it on the calendar) in Mexico; ... with a friend; ...very fast; ... in the morning; ... twice, etc. Each item should be consistent with the event (don't say twice and three times as you might in a drill. If, in your imaginary story, you did climb the pyramid twice, you could add: A I climbed the pyramid twice ...in the afternoon; alone; with John; slowly, etc.). Note that each time you repeat, "I climbed the large pyramid on *day*...", you are making a statement, not just repeating Spanish patterns to be learned and mastered for more repetition and drill testing later! (Again, the usual pattern of foreign language exercises in textbooks.) The same items can be used in a substitution drill and, then, a question and answer drill in order to give students proficiency in the statement of the event! "When," you ask, "do I get the other days of the week in here?" Well, keep in mind that we are dealing with enhancing the students' image of the event, not worrying about "covering" the days of the week! But, do you think that a single student has failed to perceive that the day of the week is part of seven, and you have only used one!!

Also, what role does the smaller pyramid play in all this! Well, folks, the smaller pyramid uses the same images that have been developed with the language used to describe the event of the one day, and the one pyramid!! No need to create anything new! Just go on with your climbing expedition: Tuesday, I climbed the smaller pyramid (same substitutions, choose from the items as above.) Wednesday, I climbed both, Thursday, I rested. Whew!! The exercise described above may be a close approximation of things that effective teachers do anyway. The main emphasis for me is that a real-like event was described, and the exercise has consistency which those on grammar analysis seldom do. The other, quintessential, point is that it uses images in students' minds, not images that the teacher brings into the classroom to show as examples of the words or patterns that are to be learned. Students' images are their own, unique, developments. If we can tie language proficiency to these images, we can, almost, guarantee real communicative competence, and in a shorter time than the ACTFL guidelines would have us believe!

Response to a former Spanish I student My first year of teaching at Virginia Beach High School 1964