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Key idea 2: Intercultural and conceptual learning

There is a fundamental relationship between language, culture and learning. An intercultural orientation to language education places this at the centre of learning. By focusing on conceptual rather than descriptive learning, teachers support students to engage with the relationship between language and culture, and gain insights into different ways of thinking about and relating to the world. In doing so they critically reflect on their own cultural standpoints. The ultimate goal of language learning is not necessarily to become like target language speakers, but to investigate the different ways we make meaning and understand ourselves and the world we live in.


More discussions can be found on the key idea 2 forum.


Why an intercultural orientation? 

Video transcript of why an intercultural orientation?

Angela: [00:00:02] Another shift that is crucial for our way of working with languages now is a shift from the cultural to the intercultural. What the shift there is, with this paradigm shift that we're trying to render is, that we are not just dealing with culture as observers. So we can observe the artefacts that come from Japan. We can observe a film about the tea ceremony of Japan, but rather, we invite students to be participants in that culture. And as participants, there is then the question of, 'Who can I be in that culture? Can I be myself? Do I have to try to be someone else and think back to the notion of native speaker? Do I somehow have to try to be a native speaker?' Well, you can't. And so the reality is that again we are moving between the culture that I know and the culture that I'm stepping in to through learning a new and additional language. [00:01:26][84.2]

Angela: [00:01:27] It's through reflection, actually, and it's at the point of reflection that the real intercultural understanding actually emerges because it's through reflection that people come to understand, 'Why did I react to that?' You know, 'Why is it that I feel uncomfortable eating noodles for breakfast when I'm used to my toast and Vegemite?'. [00:01:53][25.6]

Angela: [00:01:54] Now, I say that as a basic example a terra terra [grassroots] example. But, pull out from that to any other phenomenon that's part of our interaction with the world and you see that it becomes really important to understand ... it's crucial to understanding the other. [00:02:19][24.8]

Michelle: [00:02:20] So Angela, do we need to actually shift how we understand culture in that? [00:02:25][5.0]

Angela: [00:02:25] We do. [00:02:26][0.2]

Michelle: [00:02:26] Because it sounds like it's not the idea of the target language culture that we're working with anymore when we say intercultural, it sounds like it's much more the culture of the person and then what sits behind that person. [00:02:38][11.7]

Angela: [00:02:38] I think that Halliday had it absolutely right. And, Michael Halliday as our most eminent linguist in Australia, described the context of situation and the context of culture. So in an interaction, we've become very good at recognising that the variables in that interaction give us ... force us, force us, to engage in a particular way. So, if I'm in a church my behaviour is going to be very different from if I'm in a marketplace. The conversation that I will have in the marketplace is different from the conversation in church. And so we understand the situational variables. [00:03:23][45.4]

Angela: [00:03:26] It is the case that those situations are at the same time, if we take the lens slightly further out, those situations are also within a culture and the larger cultural envelope is missed. And it has been missed because we have taken a cultural view not an intercultural view. So, when I was teaching French monolingually, and I was, when I was doing that I was so intent on teaching about the French culture in as rich a way as I could, but it was about, it was not understanding that every act of communication involves the context of the particular situation, the participants and their cultures, as you were asking Michelle. And, on top of that, the wider cultural envelope in which those situations play out. And, for some reason, it seems to me that everybody has understood communication in the context of situation, but because we've tended to stay inside a language the context of culture has been put to one side. And this is what we're trying to teach students in communication and the interpretative really is a crucial dimension of everything that we're saying here; that there isn't one way, that our interpretations do come from somewhere, and that we need to understand better and better where that somewhere is. [00:05:24][118.1]

Michelle: [00:05:25] It's an iterative process ... [00:05:27][1.5]

Angela: [00:05:28] Yes, it's an iterative ... [00:05:28][0.2]

Michelle: [00:05:28] ... of continuing reflection. And sometimes it surprises you because I had an exchange with a potential student from Indonesia who was looking to study in Australia and he'd contacted me and addressed me initially as 'Pak', which is 'Mr'. You know, 'Dear Pak Michelle', which he may have interpreted 'Michelle' as 'Michael', which can happen sometimes. However, he went on with his request and signed off. And so I responded and in brackets I thought I would indicate that I was 'Bu', 'Miss/Mrs' female and I assumed that that would actually go in and that he would then modify his response. And the next one came back addressing me again as 'Pak' and I surprised myself because I was actually quite annoyed by this. [00:06:23][55.0]

Angela: [00:06:23] Yes, the reaction. [00:06:24][0.7]

Michelle: [00:06:25] Even though, normally, I wouldn't consider gender to be much of an issue for me. It's not something I think about terribly much, but it really made me think about how I was being viewed and the assumptions I think that he was probably making that being an academic, maybe I should be male. I don't know. I don't know what the assumptions were, but it really made me question it ... [00:06:48][22.9]

Angela: [00:06:48] Yes. [00:06:48][0.0]

Michelle: [00:06:49] ... question my response and then I politely replied back again, 'Bu' again ... [00:06:55][6.2]

Angela: [00:06:57] Yes, it's important. [00:06:57][0.3]

Michelle: [00:06:57] ... to highlight it. And yet I hadn't realised that that would be of concern to me. [00:07:02][4.5]

Angela: [00:07:02] That's right. What's really interesting there is that you became aware yourself of your own reactions ... [00:07:11][8.6]

Michelle: [00:07:11] And how I was being viewed from the outside. [00:07:14][2.9]

Angela: [00:07:15] Yes, from the outside. And I think that, again, in language teaching and learning we haven't paused enough to consider the reactions and so on. And, in a class it might take two extra seconds to say, "How did that make you feel?" And then we open up that discussion. [00:07:38][23.0]

Angela: [00:07:39] Now, that takes us, of course, to another issue that many teachers raise about this idea of reflection and the lack of comfort that teachers have because of a feeling that it will be done predominantly in English. And this takes me to the notion that if we separate English and the target language, and we're concerned that there might be too much in English, the whole of the working in this intercultural way is very much integrated. It is not as though we separate the reflection completely from the work in hand. And we've got a lovely example here from Marnie Foster working in Chinese in an all girls school. [00:08:35][55.8]

Angela: [00:08:36] She did a fabulous unit of work on translation. And she asked her students to really look at a whole host of different texts in translation and, of course, the texts included Chinglish. And so there were mistranslations and really clumsy English. [00:09:02][25.4]

Michelle: [00:09:03] What sort of texts were these? [00:09:04][1.1]

Angela: [00:09:04] They were signs in the linguistic landscape, there were signs at hotels where in China they had tried to present the Chinese and the English, so bilingual signage. And, of course, there are some clangers there. Go and have a look. [00:09:23][18.6]

Michelle: [00:09:23] They're quite hilarious. [00:09:24][0.1]

Angela: [00:09:24] It is and you can imagine that for the students, actually seeing these, the jubilation and interest at how one could get English so wrong. But Marnie was wanting them also to understand what goes on in translation. That meaning is lost but meaning is also gained in translation. She was trying to get them to reflect on what makes a good translation and ultimately that translation is not just about words, but it is about cultural meanings. That's what she was trying to do. So, she asked them to keep and maintain a journal throughout the process. That journal was in English, but you see it was a unit of work on translation, so the two languages needed to be there integrally. And what she did was she gave them another Chinese text and two English translations and asked them to consider which was the more effective at the end. [00:10:30][66.4]

Angela: [00:10:31] The reflection was not on, 'What do you make of translation?, and things like that, which would have been quite legitimate and, 'Why do some translations work better than others?' They would have been legitimate reflections, but what I liked about what Marnie did is that she broke that, and she said simply, 'Would you choose to stay in that hotel, the hotel with the mistranslated signs?' And that takes us precisely to the students being placed in a situation where they see mangled English. How would they react to that? Would that inspire confidence in them staying in that hotel, or would they want to run a mile away? [00:11:28][57.3]

Angela: [00:11:29] So, we have very clever ways of doing the reflective work. It's not just, 'Okay, well what happens in translation because this is a unit on translation', but actually using that material in a really integrated way. And, for my money, if some of that is in English, so be it, because I would rather have the deep understanding of language and communication and what it means to communicate successfully, appropriately, richly across languages and cultures than to have the superficial chit chat which a lot of language teaching and learning had become as we were buying train tickets and transacting to go to the cinema and so on. [00:12:24][54.9]

Michelle: [00:12:30] So this is a lovely quote: "Languages are in crisis. This may be a good thing. What does it mean to be a student, a learner or teacher of modern languages? ... In economics, for instance, one studies structures and functions and relations that combine to make up an economic system; the same is true of sociology and history. Yet when we come to modern languages we dropped the whole idea of interrelationships and we ... extract language from social encounters and literature from life. [00:13:00][29.6]

Michelle: [00:13:01] Compelled by functionalist arguments of serving literary study or of serving goals of employment, everything that relates to life and relation ends up being nothing more than a social accoutrement or a fabricated fetish. The heart of languages, which is intercultural being is lost. [00:13:19][18.1]

Michelle: [00:13:21] This is the crisis. Why is the functionalist argument so able to overwhelm us? ... Unless we actually centre languages at the heart of life, at the heart of intercultural learning, grounding a fresh curriculum in common experience, then the marginalisation will continue and our curiosities for other worlds and other ways of being will continue to be eroded." [00:13:45][24.1]

Michelle: [00:13:47] I think this captures a lot of the discussion that we had yesterday. We heard a lot about heart, about curiosity, about the magic and mystery of language learning and so from the floor we were hearing these kinds of messages. And, what I think this is saying is that we need to return to some of that heart in what we're doing, to actually bring back the emotional connection, bring back the aesthetic dimension of what we're doing and really place languages at the heart of the human experience. [00:14:18][31.4]

Angela: [00:14:20] If we just see language as words, our practice is going to reflect a great deal of attention to words, which of course is important, but not sufficient. And so the story is that we'd like you to stop and pause and reflect on your own sense of what language is and your own sense of what culture/cultures is/are and to try and see what messages about those big ideas you're actually conveying in your classrooms. [00:14:55][35.5]

Angela: [00:14:58] So, can we hear your reflections on language first and we'll take a few tables. Any volunteers? [00:15:08][10.1]

Melissa: [00:15:10] We were talking about drawing attention to the culture within the language. So, not just teaching them separately, but through that language. For example, the word for 'mum' when you're talking about your own is different to the word for 'mum' when you're talking about someone else's, it's more respectful. [00:15:29][19.0]

Angela: [00:15:30] Yes, yes, yes. Lovely example there of how language and culture come together in the very word, that it's a word concept that we're working with. Yes, more ideas? [00:15:40][10.3]

George: [00:15:43] How do the Chinese write the character one? Horizontal. Same as the Japanese. Ok, it's horizontal. What does a horizontal line represent? The Chinese think of the world in a horizontal plane. So, basically in the simple learning of a very basic elemental numbers, you get a whole cultural iceberg of stuff to discuss, which is philosophic, it's visual, it's existential, it's everything. [00:16:30][47.8]

[00:16:32] I want you to think about it as a sense that we are expanding and need to perhaps expand our own understandings of what this thing called language actually is. What we have to realise is that what's actually going on is an exchange of meaning between/among people. And, therefore, what's going on is that I need to interpret your meaning Eric, for example, I need to interpret Eric's meaning while Eric is actually interpreting mine. And one of the fascinations for me about language is that another person may not receive my meaning in the same way as I intend. [00:17:24][51.6]

Angela: [00:17:25] And that can happen within a culture and language when I'm speaking English people, you know, if I check out with you guys here you might have 20 different interpretations of what I'm saying at this very minute. And the fascination for me was, 'Gosh, how do we deal with that?' And the additional layer in language learning is: how do we learn to do that across languages and cultures? [00:17:51][25.9]

Angela: [00:17:52] Everything that we interpret, the way we see the world, the way we understand things, is through the cultural lenses that we bring. And, as we are learning to work in another additional language, we are actually moving between different understandings, different conceptions of the world. We're thinking about how we may see it in our own language, but we are travelling towards another language. And, as we do that, we are mindful of George's notion that if I'm speaking to someone with a Chinese background, that exchange has to take into account that they will see the world in a horizontal and not a vertical way, which might be my particular way. [00:18:51][59.6]

Angela: [00:18:53] And that example is an emblem for how we have different language ... linguistic and cultural understandings that we are trying to navigate, okay? It's well beyond the, "Hello. How are you? Good morning. Yes, I'm fine. Let's go to the beach today." It's much more than that, important though that is. It is also how they learn about how meanings travel across languages and cultures. That's the kind of expansion we're interested in, how it is that each one of us actually understands this thing called language and this idea of culture. [00:18:53][0.0]

End of transcript.

What is an intercultural orientation? 

Video transcript of what is an intercultural orientation

Michelle: [00:00:00] We had some lovely comments at the break and they said to me, "We'd really like to see how this all works in practice. You know, a little bit closer to the classroom." So that's precisely what we're going to do over the next session between now and lunch. The first activity that we're going to set you doing is a common one across languages. We have used some texts that are in English. Obviously, for the purposes of your classroom, you would be using your own target language texts. But, just so that we can work through the thinking and through the process of beginning to tease out what the intercultural might look like in practice, we've selected a number of texts for discussion. So, what we'll do is ask you to look at your handout two. In that, you'll see there are three texts. Now, these were just selected from the Internet. They're just regular texts made in the local language and culture. But, if you could spend 5 to 10 minutes reading through the text and then beginning to analyze it, deconstruct it, look at it more closely for the sorts of language and culture meanings that are in it. If you go to the end of the handout, there is a table with a series of questions. You might not need to fill in all of the boxes. I know we like to fill boxes sometimes, but it's really more the process and the thinking through of looking at these texts and considering the aspects of the ideas in them and then, more closely, how those ideas are being realized through the language and cultural references in the texts. Okay? So, I'll leave you to read a little and then begin some discussion at your tables. [00:01:54][113.7]

Corbin: [00:01:57] For the first one, it highlights the Australian icon of a barbecue. We had a great discussion when we were deconstructing: what does it mean, and how does it reflect culture? Because, again, with the photographs, it highlights the stereotypical culture and has this stereotypical assumption that barbecues are masculine orientated. And this is also demonstrated through the abbreviations of the language, 'barbies', 'you've'. And then, the one thing that we really, really ... [00:02:22][25.8]

Michelle: [00:02:23] So you think it's speaking directly to ... [00:02:24][0.4]

Corbin: [00:02:25] ... more so to ... [00:02:25][0.8]

Michelle: [00:02:27] ... men? [00:02:27][0.1]

Corbin: [00:02:27] ... males. Yes. And we had the question come up, and it's a great question, actually. We asked ourselves: what if the roles were reversed? Sorry, if the roles were reversed, would the language used be different in regards to the abbreviations the imagery portrayed? [00:02:42][15.2]

Michelle: [00:02:44] Lovely. So, the idea of whose perspective ... [00:02:47][2.8]

Corbin: [00:02:47] Whose perspective. Yeah, of course. [00:02:48][0.6]

Michelle: [00:02:49] ... is embedded in this? And, if you flip the perspective, or see it from ... [00:02:51][1.9]

Corbin: [00:02:51] Yeah. [00:02:51][0.0]

Michelle: [00:02:51] ... a different perspective, how would that impact language? Lovely. I mean, you know, what a fantastic question to ask students. [00:02:56][5.4]

Corbin: [00:02:57] And this goes back to, of course, what Angela was saying before: how we internalize the language, and we have just done this through imagery, not just through verbalisation. So, this is a great topic of discussion. [00:03:09][11.8]

Michelle: [00:03:10] Absolutely. So, yes, of course, we're interested in the words, the meaning through the words and through the form of the words, but also the broader semiotic, the broader meaning system of the images and the representations and so on and, you know, aspects like gender and so on. [00:03:26][16.0]

Kate: [00:03:26] We talked a lot about how the marketing teams clearly looked at all of these Australian stereotypes and tried to get as many of them on the page as they could. We've got the beach, we've got surfing, we've got a girl in summer wear looking like she's more at a music festival than a barbecue. We thought that maybe they, the marketing team, looked at the first draft, whether the man barbecuing was in full focus and thought, "Oh no! We can't have that. Let's blur him out and put the girl front and centre there." And, we have the idea that we're clever like that, we're true blue geniuses, but we're Aussie, so we're gonna be a bit understated and say naturally, "We're pretty good at it. We're not awesome. We're not American. We're pretty good." So there's, you know, there seems to be that real Aussie stereotype stuff and then, "Oh, hang on a minute. We better tone that down." [00:04:16][49.7]

Michelle: [00:04:17] Yes, lovely. Yes, so, again, you're seeing that connection of the sort of the messages that we're telling ourselves about what kind of identity we have, what kind of character we have, national character, whether this is true or not, of course, but this is what's being depicted here. And, it comes through the language about understatement, which is a classic kind of Australian tendency. [00:04:44][27.6]

Liam: [00:04:46] We had some interesting discussions about that. Still dealing with the, I suppose, the content of the language. So, I said like, you know, if we changed it to Europe like, you know, what would happen? Like, you know ... [00:04:56][9.6]

Michelle: [00:04:55] Yes. [00:04:55][0.0]

Liam: [00:04:56] And then ... [00:04:57][0.2]

Michelle: [00:04:57] Lovely. Again, flipping the perspective. [00:04:59][1.2]

Liam: [00:04:59] And then we'd have a look at the perspective from Europe. And, like, that would just be a given, you know, in Italy. Most people want to move to ... [00:05:05][5.4]

Michelle: [00:05:05] You wouldn't have an article probably. [00:05:06][0.9]

Liam: [00:05:07] No. [00:05:07][0.0]

Michelle: [00:05:08] That's right. [00:05:08][0.3]

Liam: [00:05:09] Yes. It's like, that's what you do. You want to move to the city, you want to get close to jobs, you know. And, like, kind of, it's talking about, I suppose, that change of paradigm. [00:05:16][7.1]

[00:05:17] There are, looking at the language ... So, looking at 'takeaway chicken joint'. [00:05:21][4.0]

[00:05:22] Yes. [00:05:22][0.0]

[00:05:23] 'Small bar scene', the 'veritable conga line'. So, a metaphor there ... [00:05:27][4.0]

[00:05:28] Yes. [00:05:28][0.0]

[00:05:28] ... 'of coffee shops'. So we thought that was interesting in that article. So, it was an article to inform about the shift in the housing, about the shift of the Australian dream, really. And that the shift ... that the dream has actually changed. [00:05:45][17.0]

[00:05:48] In the 'Night Owls', the third one, the flyer, we, as part of the purpose of that, the flyer was to attract people to join the Adelaide Bowling Club. And, part of the attraction was the free sausage sizzle, which is a very Aussie thing to do, that you will see if you go to Bunnings, you see a sausage sizzle. So ... [00:06:10][22.4]

[00:06:11] Hey, we've had whole prime minister, you know, prime ministerships, you know ... [00:06:13][2.1]

[00:06:14] That's right. [00:06:14][0.3]

[00:06:15] ... resting on the sausage sizzle. [00:06:15][-0.0]

[00:06:16] So, it seems to be what we do here. And, we also picked up that there's a young lady there on the cover. And normally, we don't associate bowling with young people. So, they're targeting a particular demographic here of young people. And the heading there, the 'Night Owls', which is a particularly Aussie expression. So, I don't think that expression is used in other parts. But, you know, again ... [00:06:48][32.3]

[00:06:48] And what does night owl sort of conjure? [00:06:50][1.3]

[00:06:50] So, what does it mean? [00:06:51][0.6]

[00:06:51] What does it suggest? [00:06:51][0.3]

[00:06:52] What is a 'night owl'? [00:06:53][0.8]

[00:06:53] Staying up late, partying, probably drinking ... [00:06:57][3.5]

[00:07:00] Yes. [00:07:00][0.0]

[00:07:01] ... nocturnal. Yes. So, you know ... [00:07:00][-0.3]

[00:07:02] Having fun. [00:07:02][0.3]

Michelle: [00:07:03] Having fun. So, you know, the whole idea of the contrast with what we normally expect of lawn bowls. [00:07:09][6.0]

[00:07:10] That's right. Yes. That's right. It's making it more exciting for that demographic. [00:07:13][2.6]

Michelle: [00:07:14] Yep. [00:07:14][0.0]

[00:07:15] Yes. [00:07:15][0.0]

Michelle: [00:07:15] Okay. Lovely. [00:07:16][1.3]

Joe: [00:07:17] I just want to say, one of the ways to work with these, with texts that aren't absolutely explicit, is to have a division between sense and reference. If you're familiar with the linguistics of Michael Halliday, he would use the terms denotation, what it denotes, what it's telling you explicitly in the world, and connotation. That is, the emotional, ideological overlay. So, you know, it's useful to kind of have that as a method for attacking what's behind these texts. So, what is the reference that it's making? I can see it in this one, the bowling one. There's a whole lot of factual information there. There'll be two rounds, the first round will be the 20 ... All of this boring, but important, factual information. And then it tells you the emotive thing. 'Come and have a laugh.' Right? It's actually an invitation to enjoyment, to pleasure. So, that's the sense of it, or the connotation of it, which is an emotive appeal. And, all of them have this binary element and they gravitate between them. And what makes these really distinctively Australian and therefore interesting from an intercultural point of view is that they're shot through with informality and defying expectations. And the best version of that one is in this one, I think, the text number two in the second paragraph where it's basically creating expectations and then defying them. It says, 'The move wasn't precipitated by' ... What? 'Wanting to be closer to a better school'. That would be a good thing, wouldn't it? You would admire someone who did that for their child. So, you see what they're doing? They're creating, or the author and the people who said it, they're creating this thing that's saying, "That would be a noble thing to do. It would be a noble thing to go to an aging grandparent." Right? If you move closer? No one could challenge you on that. You're looking after your granny. "Or for financial or work reasons." Both of these are practical things. But the killer that follows next. It wasn't for any of these virtuous reasons. It was actually just to have a better time, drive less - all these selfish reasons. And they're connoting that, which is normally a negative thing, in a positive way. So, I think, sense and reference or denotation and ... are a useful kind of dichotomy to get into the analysis. Are they creating expectations and then defying them? What is the specific reference in the world, and what sense are they giving it? [00:09:55][157.8]

Michelle: [00:09:56] Lovely. Thank you, Joe. Thank you, Joe. That gives us a nice little framing. I mean, I often think about that in terms of, 'what's at the surface?' And, 'what's the embedded or the deeper, you know, below the surface kind of meanings and references?' But, you've given us another way of thinking about that. [00:10:12][16.1]

Angela: [00:10:12] As you can see, we've been talking about interpretation. Yes. And I hope that you've had a sense of the variation, in terms of what a bunch of teachers can come up with, in terms of looking at these texts, and that's really another dimension that we can cultivate in teaching and learning because, as I'm trying to do now, I'm asking you to consider the range of meanings that people have drawn from the very same three texts, and the different things that different people have chosen to foreground or to bring forward in our shared discussion. And how important it is for us in our own pedagogy to actually invite the students to be attentive to the different responses that different people actually give in the classroom and, to then, actually get them to engage. So, we've just heard Angela's comment and I could flick to Livia and say, "Now, Livia, what did you just make of Angela's comment? Do you agree? Do you think it's far fetched, it's stretched? And that's, then, how we weave the conversation in the classroom and actually get more out of the students inviting them to reflect, not only on their own view, not only on the text, but on each other's. All of which is happening in diversity. And it is always this return to a message about the way in which we, as individuals, understand things, understand the world. That is also part of the intercultural work that we're trying to do. [00:10:12][0.0]

End of transcript.

Reflecting on an intercultural orientation 

Video transcript of reflecting on an intercultural orientation

Michelle: [00:00:02] We'd like to just hear back about comments about the process itself. We were having a talk at table one about, you know, these texts wouldn't necessarily be suitable for Auslan, for example. And I said, "Oh, look, I probably should have caveated when I set up the task just to say that obviously these particular texts, they're in English so that can be common, but also the pitch of them, you know, it's more for us to have this kind of discussion." Some languages would be able to do this at different levels and we've talked about that. You know, perhaps differentiating it in certain ways, maybe starting with a heading or a caption and then building up and so on. So there's different ways you can treat the texts, but it's really more the process of the kinds of engagement with the text that we're wanting to reflect on. So, where can we start? [00:00:55][53.7]

Helen: [00:00:57] I think that what the discussion was here, when we talked about the process, was how we actually engage with the text. So it's always at different levels. One is the personal. That could be me as a female. Could be me female, married, but it's also about how we engage with it culturally. So, do I really see myself in the true blue kind of Beefeater, in terms of Australian? You're actually engaging on all these different levels, and it's the kids that have to do that - put themselves in and out. You could actually have, once you've done this level of analysis, the potential to take an icon, for example from Italy, the coffee machine and, you know, have a go at an ad that would reflect that culture/picture. [00:01:44][46.9]

Angela: [00:01:45] And I've noticed, I have to say, around this activity, a real buzz. I am absolutely persuaded that if we've got these kinds of texts that play with different perspectives, different positionings, different ways of seeing with reference to the culture that we might come from - these are all Aussie ones - but, you know, as we work with the languages and cultures that we work in, I think that if we make those texts, those selections really carefully, those texts will do a lot of intercultural work for us. And so really consider deeply the kinds of texts and the kinds of multiplicity of perspectives and ways of thinking and ways of working with them that are going to show the students that every single text is situated in its particular cultural context. And that's what we are trying to unravel. [00:02:57][71.8]

Michelle: [00:02:58] Okay, other comments, observations about the task itself, the nature of what we're asking students to engage in here? Obviously analysing, interpreting, personalising ... [00:03:09][11.2]

Meagan: [00:03:11] On my table, I guess Angela kind of stole the words out of my mouth in terms of, a lot of the process had to do with interacting with others and I had my own perceptions and my own understanding of how I would interpret this text. But then, with talking with others, I had a viewpoint from Minori, who is Japanese, as well as Fiona, who is Singaporean. So, it just all comes down ... I was able to see it from a different perspective by talking to others. [00:03:40][28.9]

Michelle: [00:03:42] The Japanese teenagers would like to show us a clip, a YouTube clip, if we can have that ready, Sam? Thanks. We're just going to play a little bit and then we'd like ... [Laughter] I can see the recognition already. We, then we'll invite the Japanese table at the back, twenty three, to provide some comment around it. So see what you make of it first and then we'll get their comment. [00:04:04][22.8]

[00:04:06] [Song] [00:04:06][0.0]

[00:04:48] It's so deeply intercultural that it's hard not to, well, you can't watch it without thinking about the intercultural. So, the premise is it's a ... it's called 'Tokyo Bon'. It is a bon odori dance, which is a very deeply traditional dance that Japanese people do in August. Ancestral spirits come back and then they're farewelled in this dance. So, the movement, the song that you hear, is based on that song and the movements that they do are also based on that dance. But it also, obviously, picks out all of those words in Japanese that the Japanese have adopted. So they're English words supposedly translated, but they've taken on a life of their own. So, it illustrates that the words don't make sense necessarily as English words, they're very much Japanese words. [00:06:03][75.4]

[00:06:04] Also that the school girl is wearing that sailor uniform, that's also a subculture, sort of manga effect, as well. It's exaggerating for ... acting. I think this would really appeal to the junior student. [00:06:23][18.9]

[00:06:24] Yeah. [00:06:24][0.0]

Joseph: [00:06:24] I just, I just want to say that that's a perfect text for a discussion of cultural hybridity because it's clearly Japanese, but it's clearly massively marked by commercial American culture. And, all around the world, societies are marked by American commercial culture. And, a lot of this, the substrate communicative medium is American English. And then, in this one, they play with it really nicely. I mean, anyone who's been to Japan finds that a source of great amusement, the kind of nonsense words that announce cafes and things like that that wouldn't mean anything in standard English, but they obviously mean something in that transitional space between Japaneseness and its encounter with the U.S. Now, this is actually quite a common thing, and it's a source of controversy in many countries. You know, there's always campaigns for purism and for removing English influence and stuff. So, it's a great source of discussion with children, with young people because they can identify this in ads and signs in their own environment, they can see the dynamic nature of culture, but they can also gravitate away from it if you want to mark purer, more traditional meanings, or towards it if you are pushing for a transnational interpretation of culture. But mostly, this takes us beyond the culture-specific that is learning about Japan or Italy or Norway or whatever context you're talking about in its traditional uninfluenced way, although, there's no uninfluenced cultures in history, of course, but, in its more stable, enduring form, to the current highly dynamic one, which worries a lot of people, of course. And, it's a source of discussion around what culture is for. What do we do with culture? Who who creates these mediums? [00:08:14][109.4]

Michelle: [00:08:15] I guess we really just wanted to reiterate this point around reflection and, I mean, it's something that we see deeply embedded in the Australian Curriculum. This is a part of how we're thinking about language learning in contemporary times and the critical role that reflection has taken. I mean, if you just think about the experience that we've just been through in terms of we did the tasks, but then we stood back and thought about what we were going through, how we were understanding it, what we were bringing to it and so on. And that's the kind of de-centreing that we'd like students to do. There is highly likely a place for English in that. We will probably be using that as the language of higher reflection. If you can do it in target language, all the better - and I think we should be planting the seeds and developing that meta language in target language, if possible, where possible. But, there is most likely a place for English in doing this kind of reflecting, doing the meta level of understanding of what students are experiencing, what they're going through and these bigger understandings of, not just language-and-culture-specific, but at the same time, at another level of extra abstraction, language and culture per se; the idea of language and culture in general and how that plays out. [00:09:36][80.9]

Angela: [00:09:37] The real linguistic and cultural work that we're doing is a reflection on the way that language itself and culture mediate, or come in to play in the exchange of meaning. And, I am convinced, and I'm trying to convince you, that if we take the adventure into these kinds of discussions, and, I don't buy the notion of, "oh, it takes so much longer." It actually doesn't. It's one more piece of the conversation - five minutes - but at several turns to just remind people of the play of language and culture in exchanging meaning; how how language and culture come into play and influence those meanings that we exchange. I am convinced that that, in and of itself, is just so fascinating that the students will be responsive to it because it's opening up some conversations that they just haven't thought about language doing that. They haven't thought about their own culture. We've got students, even at universities, saying, "But Australians don't have culture." Well, we've looked at those texts together and, you know, that is Australian culture, an aspect of it writ large. So, you know, for kids to come to understand that, that's some of the expansion that we're seeing, that we're wanting and that we're pushing for. Yes, let's use the language. Let's really be active in participating in exchange as much as we possibly can. And let us, with that, have these conversations that actually explain to, and get kids to, understand how it is that meanings are exchanged. What comes into play in the exchange of meaning across languages and cultures, given that every single act of language learning is an act of working across more than one linguistic and cultural world? [00:11:48][130.9]

[00:11:50] I think it's fascinating. I hope you do too. [00:11:50][0.0]

End of transcript.

Why concepts? 

Video transcript of why concepts

Angela: [00:00:02] If you look at the work that goes on ... in most language teaching what we find is that there is an awful lot of topics ... and those topics are generally fairly small. You know what they are: pets, family, transport, food, all of those sorts of things. And so we've had very much an orientation where we've exposed students to facts and information. There's nothing much to say really except to describe. I have a house. It has six rooms. Yes, I have a laundry, but in France we don't have actually have laundries as such or whatever. And that's the level that we get to in discussion. I ask myself about that and would ask you to ask yourselves about that. How connected would you be to that kind of way of seeing ... of seeing things. The reason why we're inviting a shift towards concepts is that it lifts the discussion to a different level. Let me give an example, and it's one that you've probably heard from me before, but if we take the house, we can, for example, look at the house. The house, we can describe it, yes. It has a roof. It's got windows. It's got so many rooms. This is the layout - we can draw it. We can name them, label them. That's when we're dealing with the vocab and so on of the house. There's nothing intercultural about that if we stay at the level of description. It's only if we move to the level of concept and rather than talking just about the house and its rooms and its physical features, but we get on to the concept of home: what does it mean to be at home in the Chinese way? If we move to the level of concept, it's at that point that intercultural comparisons actually become meaningful and valuable. If not you're saying, well, my house has got six rooms and yours ... yours has got two and there we go. That's it. Big deal. It's a big shift. We're going to illustrate it to some extent. It would need quite a lot of discussion. I hope that we can pick up the discussion online if not in person today because I really do see it as a shift that's worth considering ... taking the ideas to a higher level in order to engage the learners. And in order to make these cult ... intercultural comparisons, which we see as so valuable. [00:03:09][186.9]

Angela: [00:03:10] And I think that concepts enable us to open up language teaching. It does require imagination. In the primary sector, they are really, really useful because they enable a clearer connection often with the learning that's happening in the mainstream. We have a lovely unit, a module in the Chinese curriculum that we've been developing, which is a module on harmony and one of the lines of development is a unit on gardens and looking at particular gardens, but not just as the plants and the flowers and the vegetables and so on, but what gardens actually mean to people and being in harmony with yourself and nature through the garden is the ultimate message. Why do we need to do it? We have to do it because it is only at that level of thinking conceptually and discussing the concept of things that we actually can begin to look at ideas interculturally. If not, we will never move out of the every day of simply describing. [00:04:42][91.9]

Michelle: [00:04:42] And then we end up in similarities and differences. [00:04:45][3.0]

Angela: [00:04:45] ... and then of course the usual trope and that's become just an absolutely routine trope. If we're talking about anything, any comparison about cultures a) it tends to be about cultures and b) it is just staying at observation of similarities and differences. Where does that get us? [00:05:14][28.4]

Angela: [00:05:15] But it doesn't actually lead to understanding what makes people in situated in that particular cultural context be as they are. Why is it that in the Indonesian way we have got that object-focus construction linguistically to actually represent the way in which an Indonesian person presents himself or herself to another? Why is it that in the Japanese way we have got the whole system of honorifics that actually marks the different ... marks the hierarchy in society? We may not like, it but it's part and parcel of Japaneseness. We will learn very little apart from the surface, surface features of other languages and cultures unless we go to the level of concept. I just can't emphasize that enough. [00:06:29][73.9]

Michelle: [00:06:29] And I think for me going to the level of concept also means that the learner can see themselves in it because if we stay with the description and the similarities differences then it becomes us this, them that. Why should I care? But if you go to the level of concept, you know, the concept of home that we often talk about, students can bring their understanding, their interpretation, their experiences to the table. [00:06:58][28.9]

Angela: [00:06:58] And the comparison is not about this culture and that culture, but the comparison is okay. So, that's what it's like in Michelle's home. Angela's home is different again. Tony's home is different again. And students are not there comparing but they're saying, "Oh, I've never thought about home in that way. I had never made that particular connection." And it's in that way then, that their own way of thinking about themselves is expanded. [00:07:44][45.8]

Michelle: [00:07:44] And about the idea itself. [00:07:46][1.3]

Angela: [00:07:46] And about the idea itself. [00:07:47][1.3]

Michelle: [00:07:48] And that's really what I think languages can provide, is that expansion into other ways of knowing and seeing the world. [00:07:55][7.2]

Angela: [00:07:55] Yes, because if ... because if we wanted to stay with one way, we would stay in one language. We wouldn't bother with languages at all. Languages is an opening to other ways of seeing and being in the world. [00:07:55][0.0]

End of transcript.

Concepts in specific languages 

Video transcript of concepts in specific languages

Michelle: [00:00:02] I'd just like to set you up for our next discussion at tables. I've been collecting concepts over the last couple of years. So, these are just a few. I've got a much bigger collection that I could share with people, but this illustrates the point. There are concepts that are deeply embedded in the culture, the language and culture itself and I've been trying to yield them to try and see how is it that these concepts play out in the kind of mindset? Because, if we're doing what Joe said, in terms of trying to enter into somebody else's shoes or somebody else's way of seeing the world, knowing the world, then we need some hooks to do that. Now, I'm conscious that these don't fall into the category of stereotypes or that we don't say, you know, all Indonesians think this way, or all Germans do such and such. These are just a sense of ways that these distinctive languages and cultures might frame the world, or some of the hooks that they hang meaning on in interpreting the world. So, these are some examples. What I try and ask my students to consider is: what else is there? What else have you encountered, particularly if you've learnt that language as a second language learner? But, even as first language learners of these languages, what is it that you try and teach students that is distinctive about the mindset, about the ideas, the way these languages frame the world so that you can actually start to get students entering into that way of seeing as well? So, we have a regular bunch of concepts: space, time. If we go back to that original slide there's a whole bunch of general concepts that we could draw on the entire rest of the curriculum for concepts, but we, in languages, we also want these distinctive concepts that rest within our particular languages and cultures. [00:02:06][123.9]

Angela: [00:02:12] For example, in Italian, I would say, "la bella figura". And, you know, doing, operating, in a way that we do do 'bella figura'. In other words, I'm almost at a loss of words to say how to say that in English, but that you kind of have to present yourself in an appropriate way. It's not by chance that you're going to a city like Milan and you see everybody's so eminently well-dressed, the afternoon walk, and all of that entails because it is all part of this 'bella figura'. And so ... [00:02:54][42.2]

Michelle: [00:02:54] What does 'bella figura' mean literally, even if you can't translate the full meaning? [00:02:58][4.1]

Angela: [00:02:59] 'Bella' is beautiful. 'Figura' is figure or shape. But it means, it has a meaning about how you are going to be, taken together, it has a meaning of making a good impression. You know, in other words, that the other is going to have a good sense about you. You have to look the part. [00:03:21][21.9]

Michelle: [00:03:22] Appearances. [00:03:22][0.0]

Angela: [00:03:22] You have to look to the best. [00:03:23][0.7]

Michelle: [00:03:24] But not just in the physical sense. [00:03:24][0.4]

Angela: [00:03:24] That's right. That's right. You have to do, you know, you have to, if it's giving a gift, you want to give a gift and do 'bella figura'. In other words, it's not going to be a mean or, you know, shabby kind of gift. It's one that is represent ... Presents you in the best light. That's right. It's always this sense of presenting in the best light. Can you see how that concept, from the Italian way, I could do a whole module on 'la bella figura' is absolutely crucial to the Italian way? And can you see how many phrases I've had to find just to try and render what that concept is? [00:04:05][40.9]

Joseph: [00:04:11] There are some things that it's just completely inappropriate to ask people in some places, like how much is your salary? [Laughter] You laugh because you would find that rude, but, actually in some societies, they ask you that. It's about the second thing people ask you sometimes. Or, what blood group are you? [Laughter] In some societies, if they ask you what blood group you are, they've probably got designs on you. They're thinking of compatibility. [Laughter] This one has got them going, hasn't it? And political opinion. In some societies, it's extremely inappropriate for young people to have opinions. Certainly political opinions. In other societies, and this is true, I know a group of French people in which you sit at their dining table in Paris and the kids are telling everyone who the parents should be voting for and this is regarded as the autonomous individual expressing him or herself and becoming a full citizen. In other societies, this is really really inappropriate. What could they possibly know? [00:05:19][68.6]

Joseph: [00:05:20] This varies individually, of course. And I'm not wanting to stereotype, of course, but there are paradigms within cultures that are valued and it doesn't mean that everyone adheres to them. Overstatement an understatement. I mean, I could tell you lots of stories. I married into an English family and overstatement is something they never do and always accuse the people that I belong to of doing all the time. And, they do understatement, which is irritating. When they're looking at a glorious view and they say, "Oh that's rather pretty." So, it's perfectly fine to understate, it's regarded as dignified if you're an understating person. But, it's regarded as really, really not quite there if you're an overstating person. [00:06:09][48.3]

Joseph: [00:06:10] Now, I'm just going to end with a story about how this is deeply significant in a social sense too. A few years ago I was watching late night television. I don't want you to get any bad ideas about this, I never watch television. But, I was watching television and there was a program about the Sendero Luminoso in Peru. The Sendero Luminoso were the Shining Path Maoist guerrillas who terrorized Lima and other parts of Peru for a long time. And they interviewed this man who was a Shining Path guerrilla, and he had his bandana on, and he was talking in Spanish about 'la pobreza', the poor, and the role of the poor in bringing about this revolution. And I was thinking, he's talking about the poor, but in a very, very special way. For him, the poor meant the potential for revolution. Then they switch to a priest who worked in this particular slum and he was talking about 'la pobreza', about poverty and about the poor, about God's love for these people and how this life had given them nothing, but in the future life they would be rewarded. So, for him, exactly the same people in the world, the people who were materially deprived were actually a completely different ideological category. And then they switched to a World Bank economist and this person is talking about poverty and Peru's failure, at that time, to guarantee social mobility. And for him, poverty was the failure of the rich to get richer because if the rich get richer some crumbs fall off the table and the poor get some crumbs. That was his world view, right? [00:07:52][102.2]

Joseph: [00:07:53] What were they talking about? They were talking about the same word, but radically different concepts. They couldn't have been more different. Really different political ideologies, different concepts, exactly the same word. I think, to me, that sums up both the intercultural and, in this case, the intracultural diversity of meaning. It's all carried by language. It's all carried by the connotations and the sense that we give language. And so we're involved in, through our language work, managing the meanings that our society makes for us. It's so important. Good luck. [00:07:53][0.0]

End of transcript.

Working with concepts 

Video transcript of working with concepts 

Michelle: [00:00:03] Angela, we hear a lot of people talking about working with concepts in language teaching and learning. What does this approach mean, and how is it different to what we already do? [00:00:12][9.3]

Angela: [00:00:15] Look, I think that perhaps there is some work on concepts, but I think that there's also a little bit of fear around concepts and some kind of sense that, perhaps, we can do concepts later when the language is more sophisticated, but we will do baby topics in the here and now. There is an issue that no doubt comes to the mind of teachers and that is the one about: how do we actually do this in the language that we are teaching and learning? And you've reflected about that, Michelle ... [00:00:57][42.3]

Michelle: [00:00:57] Yeah. I've been thinking about, well, and trying my own work, to work more conceptually. And what I found works for me, at least, is working through from the concept and sometimes considering the sub-concepts or the dimensions of that and then taking a particular line and really trying to then think about: where would I find this concept manifested through text? [00:01:26][28.8]

Angela: [00:01:27] Yes. [00:01:27][0.0]

Michelle: [00:01:27] And so my hook in is then through the layer of text. And so I begin to collect snippets of text around this. You know, a brochure here, or an email there, or whatever the texts are where this concept reveals itself in some way. And so then I collect the text around that and I look for, then, the next layer is the language layer of well, 'what's the linguistic content around this?' And it might be some specialized terminology, it might be particular forms around structures, it might be particular questions, and so on, and it might be the textual features itself. So the genre might actually be the key learning. But, so, I look for the patterns and then the ... it's kind of, I'd call it 'grounding' the concept because, if not, there can be a very high level conceptually that isn't possible in the language. And so those two things have to align for me to feel like the concept is actually teachable, that we will actually touch that concept, and then working through a unit or a program and actually bringing it back to reflection at the end. So, starting with a sense of what do I want them to learn about this concept, or understand in relation to this concept, and then working through the texts and so on in the usual kinds of ways, and coming back at the end to reflect on the concept as well as language and so on, to actually really pick up, have they actually developed some new thinking conceptually, not just linguistically? And, obviously, the two are related. [00:03:14][107.2]

Angela: [00:03:15] Yes, yes. Well, in some work that we're doing currently in curriculum development, we've explored many different ways. And this is, in fact, this project happens to be primary. But look, we've done at least 10 different projects in our centre with teachers looking at, actually, how to do this. And you're quite right, it's often through stimulus texts, but that needs to be understood in the widest possible way. Sometimes it's a YouTube clip, sometimes it's just we do cascading images just so that the students see a whole host of images, for example, on house and home - different kinds. The the high rise to, the in China, the mud caves as a home. And so, a real cascade of images to actually show the students and give that that impression of variation and seeing how different it can be. And then there's a lot of language work associated with that. Some of that language work is more routine in nature and so be it because we still have to do the language building work. That is absolutely necessary. And sometimes the ways of doing that are more mundane, although we try to stretch the imagination as much as we can. So there are flashcards and there are other kinds of images and, you know, a bit of repetition and so on, as one would routinely do, but it is placed in this larger context. And then, the learning experiences themselves are scaffolded. These routine language getting and practicing elements are there, but they are there as scaffolds towards the larger experience that is more conceptually driven. [00:05:26][131.3]

Angela: [00:05:28] It means selecting different kinds of resources, linguistic and otherwise. We use a lot of texts written by native speakers, often children, as well as adults. So, a lot of material that's there actually written by children. You know, the children of families that we know in order to get child, or language that is closer to the world of the child, and then, but they are scaffolds to the larger learning. With the reflections for this particular primary project, some of the times it is in English, but again, I will repeat, I will rather have some English meshed with the target language in order to get the deeper learning, than to say, "It is too difficult to get there in the target language, so we won't do that part at all." [00:06:41][73.7]

Angela: [00:06:42] Because, for my money, it is the engagement at the conceptual level that actually brings the students in. That it is exploring these issues around being in the world, almost philosophically, that brings children in. It's not by chance that there is the compulsory teaching of philosophy in France as part of a regular part of the curriculum because children, young people want to explore these big ideas about who we are in the world. And we have to scaffold the language to get them there, rather than dumb down what we do because of that gap that we're trying to bridge in language. [00:07:40][57.8]

Michelle: [00:07:40] And, I think, it really only needs to be a single question that ... [00:07:44][3.9]

Angela: [00:07:45] Absolutely! [00:07:45][0.0]

Michelle: [00:07:46] ... sometimes can get at that deeper learning. [00:07:47][1.1]

Angela: [00:07:47] Absolutely! [00:07:47][0.0]

Michelle: [00:07:48] It's not that we're saying, you know, we need to be doing 100 percent in English. [00:07:53][5.0]

Angela: [00:07:54] Oh, absolutely not. Heaven forbid. [00:07:55][1.4]

Michelle: [00:07:56] But, it's a question of the dose. It just needs to be one or two little prompts. [00:08:00][4.2]

Angela: [00:08:01] Yes, yes. And oftentimes it is just one question and it changes everything. [00:08:06][5.4]

Angela: [00:08:13] The work on concepts, we will acknowledge, takes a while. We have worked with lots and lots of teachers and they have told us, and we can see, that we kind of reach a level of understanding and then suddenly they go away and try to do it, and it falls apart somewhat. And we want to acknowledge that because we're not just saying, "Implement this as a strategy." It really is a way of thinking about the whole process of language teaching and learning. And it's changing your stance in relation to language teaching and learning. And that, is a much bigger task than just implementing some easy little strategy and then off we go. So, we would rather that you do a lot of experimentation and recognize that that experimentation itself is going to be worthwhile as you try to expand the language teaching and learning beyond description. [00:09:18][65.6]

Angela: [00:09:21] We want students to be able to do, to actively work with and in language. We want them to experience it. We want them, as Joe was saying this morning, put them into the shoes of being, of actually being, in another culture. And so, we need to try and unpack how students, themselves, see these ideas, and work with their conceptions to actually come to a better understanding of ourselves and our students as people. [00:09:21][0.0]

End of transcript.