Teaching Culture:
         Problems & Solutions

The Fourth problem teachers are facing is: Lack of Adequate Training.

Teachers may not have been adequately trained in the teaching of culture and, therefore, do not have strategies and clear goals that help them to create a viable framework for organizing instruction around cultural themes. The development of such a framework depends in part on the definition of culture, which has been the source of much of the difficulty in designing quality instruction.


Letís start with the Definition that can help clarify things. "Culture" is a broad concept that embraces all aspects of human life. Of its several meanings, two are of major importance to teachers: Culture as everything in human life (Hearthstone or "little-c" culture, also called culture BBV: Beliefs, Behavior, and Values) in addition to Culture as the best in human life restricted to the elitists (Olympian or "big-C" culture also called culture MLA: great Music, Literature, and Art of the country). We should realize that knowing the language, as well as the patterns of everyday life, is a prerequisite to appreciating the fine arts and literature, therefore we need a balanced perspective of culture when designing curricula (e.g. presenting popular culture to the exclusion of "high" culture can shortchange students intellectually).

As for the main Themes of the culture, they might be: symbolism, value, authority, order, ceremony, love, honor, humor, beauty, and spirit, in addition to intellectuality, individualism, the art of living, realism, common sense, friendship, family, justice, liberty, patriotism, religion, education, conflict, ecology Ö "Theme" in teaching culture is not just any "topic"; rather it is an "emotionally charged concern, which motivates or strongly influences the culture bearerís conduct in a wide variety of situations."

To teach culture for understanding, teachers should achieve the following Goals: (Seelye, 1984)

Goal 1 = The student should demonstrate an understanding that people generally act the way they do because they are using options society allows for satisfying basic physical and psychological needs.

Goal 2 = The student should demonstrate an understanding that social variables such as age, sex, social class, and place of residence affect the way people speak and behave.

Goal 3 = The student should indicate an understanding of the role convention plays in shaping behavior by demonstrating how people in the target culture act in common mundane and crisis situations.

Goal 4 = The students should indicate an awareness that culturally conditioned images are associated with even the most common target words and phrases.

Goal 5 = The students should demonstrate the ability to make, evaluate, and refine the generalities concerning the target culture.

Goal 6 = The students should show that they developed the skills needed to locate and organize information about the target culture from the library, the mass media, people, and personal observation.

Goal 7 = The students should demonstrate intellectual curiosity about the target culture and empathy toward its people.

In order to translate these goals into classroom practice, we need to follow specific Strategies and Techniques: