The criteria of culture : an evaluation of criteria used in the selection of foreign language texts for C2 research and instruction



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This report discusses the history of culture instruction in the language classroom and the increasing attraction to teaching culture as a process, as championed by Byram's (1997) discussion of objectives for intercultural communicative competence (ICC), rather than as the static facts reflected in traditional “culture capsule” lessons.

Although according to Burwitz-Melzer (2001) such objectives left “teachers at a loss as to what to expect from their learners, how to structure their lessons and how to structure their lessons,” (p.31), using the recent outpouring of literature on ICC and its subfield, transcultural literacy, in this report Byram's original goals are adapted into an instructional timeline to guide teachers in encouraging the development of ICC, with evidence contradicting Byram's claims that such a process cannot be represented linearly or generalized to all language learning contexts. These goals are followed by resulting criteria for the selection of texts and supplementary tasks acting as the focal point of integrated language and culture lessons.

These criteria are then translated into a rubric to assist instructors in identifying the aspects of a text that naturally encourage ICC development and which aspects require additional support in order to be beneficial for this purpose. Finally, this rubric is used to assess three lesson plans published in peer-reviewed journals for the contexts of English, Spanish, and German as foreign languages at the university level, as well as a text for a secondary EFL classroom with an example lesson plan of efficient language and culture integration, leading to a discussion of the need for future research on the interaction of text and task in cultural instruction.