Teaching Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom


  • Nelson Brooks

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      Nelson Brooks (Ph.D., Yale University) is Associate Professor of French at Yale, Director of Summer Programs, and Director of the Summer Language Institute. He has taught French at school and college levels for the past forty years. Since 1957 he has been conducting courses in the Yale Graduate School for future teachers of foreign languages. He is the author of several language tests, of the book Language and Language Learning, and of numerous articles on pedagogical subjects. Since 1958 he has served from time to time as consultant to the language program of the U.S. Office of Education. From 1960 to 1964 he served as a member of the Board of Education in New Haven, Connecticut. He was director of the project that produced the MLA Cooperative Foreign Language Tests. In 1966 he published a brochure on teaching culture in the language class. Perhaps the most important philosopher on foreign language teaching of the present generation, he created the term audiolingual and pioneered many of the related concepts.


ABSTRACT: There is general agreement that culture should be taught in a language course, but just what this means is unclear. The scientists propose a concept of totality quite unlike the idea of perfection entertained by humanistic scholars. Attempts to accommodate the two points of view have so far met with limited success. To rough out a definition of culture that will be immediately useful to language teachers, statements are made as to what culture is not, viz.: geography, history, folklore, sociology, literature, civilization. Five meanings of culture are identified: growth, refinement, fine arts, patterns of living, and a total way of life. The fourth meaning refers to the role of the individual in life situations of every kind and his conformity to the rules and models for attitude and conduct in them. This meaning is seen as the most immediately useful in instruction. The third and fifth meanings gain in importance as language competence develops. A dual interpretation of culture is recommended, both scientific and humanistic, and an outline for each is suggested. A number of ways of applying these recommendations in classroom procedure are set forth. A list of proposals invites discussion and development of these ideas leading to wide professional acceptance.