Surfing to Cross-Cultural Awareness: Using Internet-Mediated Projects to Explore Cultural Stereotypes


Assistant Professor of German and Director of the Basic Language Program in German at the University of Texas – Austin.


Abstract: The Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century stress that learning about culure is an integral part of learning a foreign language (L2); such exploration is a necessary bridge to gaining valuable insights about one's own culture as well as the culture(s) of the target language. Long-term projects, for example, extended interviews with native speakers, enable learners to develop an understanding of another culture from an “emic” point of view (Barro et al., 1993; Robinson-Stuart & Nocon, 1996; Wright, 2000). For many U.S. students, however, neither native speaker informants in U.S. cities nor study abroad programs are available or accessible. This study explores Internet-based culture portfolios that bring insider's views of other cultures into the 12. classroom. In this study, learners enrolled in third-semester German language courses conducted semester-long culture projects, in which they explored their stereotypical views of the cultures of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Learners investigated the extent to which these stereotypes might apply, using media from these countries and from their own cultural contexts, library, Internet resources, and online interviews with members of the cultures in Germany. The results of this study indicate that the Internet-based culture project promoted learners' acquisition of new cultures from an emic perspective.