The Foreign Language Classroom: A Forum for Understanding Cultural Stereotypes


  • Paula R. Heusinkveld

    1. Clemson University
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      Paula R. Heusinkveld (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin) is Assistant Professor of Spanish and French at Clemson University, Clemson, SC


ABSTRACT All foreign language educators agree on the importance of including the study of culture in a foreign language course. However, the methodology for teaching culture lags far behind recent innovations in foreign language teaching itself. Too many culture courses emphasize only the rote memorization of cultural “facts” and fail to help students acquire the sensitivity to understand deeper cultural values.

This article proposes a series of practical classroom activities designed to increase cross-cultural sensitivity. The first exercises help sharpen students' awareness of their own (U.S.) cultural background. Subsequent activities focus on differences between U.S. culture and the target culture. Foreign photographs and advertisements are used to teach students to observe and interpret cultural differences. Students interview foreigners to gain a new perspective on U. S. culture. Use of any or all of these activities in the classroom should heighten cultural sensitivity, discourage stereotyping, and develop cross-cultural adaptation skills.