Co-Constructing Representations
of Culture in ESL and EFL
Classrooms: Discursive Faultlines
in Chile and California
Julia Menard-Warwick
misunderstanding that become manifest in classroom talk. Within this general orientation, this
of cultural agency, but in actual encounters with
other cultural groups, such simplistic views will
not get them beyond...

Julia Menard-Warwick
This article comes out of a larger qualitative
study that was conducted at a small un...

The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009)

U.S. Participant Teachers



Approximate Age

Julia Menard-Warwick
Approaches to Cultural Pedagogy
Cultural Change

Cultural Adaptation
Cultural Co...

The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009)

ranging in age from perhaps 25 to 65 years, only
2 were men. In this lesson, Ge...

Julia Menard-Warwick

do not meet our expectations. [. . .]
This is a very specific story, a very

The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009)

classroom violence. In Excerpt 3, when Paloma
asked the students to report back...

Julia Menard-Warwick
[During several more turns in which stu171 dents brainstorm problems and solutions, “liv172 i...

The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009)

192 Guillermo: I think the economic growth is
related to capitalism, becaus...

Julia Menard-Warwick
277 Susanna: So it’s not the child’s fault that
the parents came here illegally.
So that’...
Although the literature has suggested that the
English language itself may be a source of discursive tension (e.g., Can...
Julia Menard-Warwick
conflict between the father and son (Excerpt 2,
lines 86–90). Thus, dialogue addressing cultural
the political discourses underlying such laws, such
as (in the United States) “taxpayers’ rights” and
“securing our bor...
Julia Menard-Warwick
Duff, P. A. (2002). The discursive co-construction of
knowledge, identity, and difference: An ethnogr...
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Co-Constructing Representations of Culture in ESL and EFL Classrooms: Discursive Faultlines in Chile and California


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Co-Constructing Representations of Culture in ESL and EFL Classrooms: Discursive Faultlines in Chile and California

  1. 1. Co-Constructing Representations of Culture in ESL and EFL Classrooms: Discursive Faultlines in Chile and California JULIA MENARD–WARWICK Based on qualitative research conducted in 3 university English as a foreign language classrooms in Chile and 3 community college English as a second language classrooms in California, this article examines the approaches used in teaching culture in these classrooms, the differences in how particular cultures (usually national cultures) were represented depending on teaching context, the processes by which these representations of culture were co-constructed by teachers and students, and the extent to which the observed cultural pedagogies seemed to cultivate interculturality. In particular, this article focuses on discursive faultlines (Kramsch, 1993), areas of cultural difference or misunderstanding that became manifest in classroom talk. Although teaching culture was not the primary goal in any of these classes, the teachers generally provided space for students to problematize cultural issues; however, this problematization did not necessarily lead to interculturality. The article concludes with implications for cultural pedagogies based on the observed interactions. THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON QUALITATIVE research conducted in six classrooms, three English as a foreign language (EFL) classes at a Chilean university, and three English as a second language1 (ESL) classes in California community colleges. Given that, as Kubota (2003) has argued, “images of culture (in language education) are produced by discourses that reflect, legitimate or contest unequal relations of power” (p. 16), I set out to examine how culture is discursively represented by language teachers in different contexts. However, in analyzing my data, it became clear that in the classrooms I was observing, “images of culture” were frequently coconstructed by the teachers and students through a variety of classroom activities, most of which focused on language skills rather than on cultural knowledge. This article examines key processes University of California, Department of Linguistics, Davis 1 Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616, Email: jemwarwick@ The Modern Language Journal, 93, i, (2009) 0026-7902/09/30–45 $1.50/0 C 2009 The Modern Language Journal through which the cultural representations were co-constructed. Most of the time, this co-construction appeared to be a harmonious, consensual process. However, this article explores moments when the teachers or the students, or both, contested each other’s cultural representations, moments when discursive faultlines became activated (Kramsch, 1993). These tensions are pedagogically valuable because they index the cultural areas that need to be explored in order to work toward interculturality: “an awareness and a respect of difference, as well as the socioaffective capacity to see oneself through the eyes of others” (Kramsch, 2005, p. 553). In this article, I define culture as the understandings and practices that are shared within groups of people (Phillips, 2003) while noting that these shared understandings and practices are loosely bounded, constantly changing, and subjectively experienced (Kramsch, 1998; Kumaravadivelu, 2008). Given that cultural content must be discursively constructed in order to become a topic of discussion in the classroom (Risager, 2007), I define discursive faultlines (Kramsch, 1993) as areas of cultural difference or
  2. 2. Julia Menard-Warwick misunderstanding that become manifest in classroom talk. Within this general orientation, this article explores the following questions: 1. What approaches to discussing culture are taken in these classrooms? 2. How are particular cultural groups represented within ESL and EFL classrooms? How are these representations co-constructed by teachers and students? 3. How do these representations differ between the different teaching contexts? 4. What are some of the discursive faultlines in these classrooms, and how do the teachers handle them? 5. To what extent do the pedagogies in these classrooms promote interculturality? In this article, I do not focus on either the teachers’ or the students’ ongoing perspectives on culture, or on the semantic/pragmatic differences in linguistic practice, often referred to as languaculture(s) (Agar, 1994; see also Risager, 2007), but rather on the (at times contradictory) ways that the teachers and students jointly represented cultural issues in particular classroom discussions. Although English was the language being taught in all six classrooms, it seems plausible that similar processes of cultural representation may be at work in other foreign language (FL) and second language (L2) settings, regardless of target language (TL), wherever intermediate-to-advanced students discuss cultural issues with their classmates and teachers.2 CULTURAL REPRESENTATION IN LANGUAGE EDUCATION “Culture” in language education has often been unthinkingly conflated with “nation” (for discussion, see Risager, 2007). However, the shared practices and perspectives that constitute cultural participation can be rooted in regional, ethnic, and religious affiliations—or in membership in subcultural groups that are defined by their practices (e.g., surfers, hip-hop fans, applied linguists). To clarify this point, Holliday (1999) made a distinction between what he called “big cultures”—large, essentialized, abstract groupings of people, such as nations—and “small cultures,” which he defined as “any cohesive social grouping” (p. 237), such as an extended family or a professional organization. In an age of globalization, even small cultural groups (and their associated practices and perspectives) may be transnational in scope (McKay, 2002; Risager, 2007). Moreover, 31 it is important for language teachers to keep in mind (a) that groups of any size are heterogeneous and sometimes conflicted, (b) that practices and perspectives inevitably change over time, and (c) that individuals experience cultural participation subjectively, in accordance with their social positioning (Kramsch, 1998). In any case, as Risager (2007) pointed out, the inclusion of cultural content in language education necessarily involves the creation of cultural representations, which “are built up in discourses,3 and . . . convey images or narratives of culture and society in particular contexts” (p. 180). Such images may be attractive but trivial, such as the popular view that French is the language of elegance in couture and cuisine. However, as Kubota (1999, 2003) pointed out, the discourses that produce these images often arise within unequal power relations. For example, English language teaching often has been connected to notions of progress, enlightenment, and economic opportunity, which Pennycook (1998) termed discourses of colonialism, as well as to newer processes of “McDonaldization” (U.S.-influenced world homogenization; Kumaravadivelu, 2008, p. 39). Because of such discursive associations between the English language and politically powerful nations such as the United States and Great Britain, many learners consider the language (and associated cultural practices and perspectives) a significant threat to their local identities (Canagarajah, 1999; Ryan, 1998, 2003).4 Moreover, the English language teaching profession has been critiqued for constructing discursive representations of learners’ cultural identities (Kubota, 1999; McKay & Wong, 1996)— for example, that Japanese students value “harmony.” Several authors have described the problems that arise when discourses of cultural difference lead teachers in L2 settings to ask adolescents from immigrant families to explain the customs of “their countries,” which they left as small children (Duff, 2002; Harklau, 1999; Talmy, 2004). However, although discourses may be imposed on learners from above, they also constitute semiotic resources for identity construction (Blommaert, 2005; van Lier, 2004), which learners can appropriate and turn to their own ends (Ibrahim, 1999; McKay & Wong). As well as finding ways to (counter)represent their own cultural identities, learners and teachers can employ discursive resources to construct representations of TL-related cultures—for example, that people in the United States and Britain are “slaves of sex, money, and alcohol” (Sellami, 2006). Constructing such representations offers learners a sense
  3. 3. 32 of cultural agency, but in actual encounters with other cultural groups, such simplistic views will not get them beyond using “their own cultural system to interpret . . . messages whose intended meaning may well be predicated on quite different cultural assumptions” (Cortazzi & Jin, 1999, p. 197). Thus, cultural pedagogies in language teaching must be seen in transnational perspective (Risager, 2007), situated within “the relationships between different societies and the effect of these relationships on repertoires of language users and their potential to construct voice” (Blommaert, 2005, p. 15). Given the complexity of these relationships and given that teaching materials and activities necessarily “function as a form of cultural politics by inclusion (or exclusion) of aspects of social, economic, political, or cultural reality” (Cortazzi & Jin, 1999, p. 200), how should language teachers engage cultural issues in the classroom? First, many authors have recommended that teachers and students problematize cultural representations. Kubota (1999) advocated a “critical multiculturalism” that views culture “as a site of political and ideological struggles over meaning” (p. 30). Similarly, Harklau (1999) argued for problematizing cultural content in order to “facilitate students’ explorations . . . of culture from their own varied individual backgrounds” (p. 126). Whereas some teachers avoid cultural topics, in fear of privileging one culture over another (Duff & Uchida, 1997), or fall back on safe topics like “daily life and routines, traditions, folklore and tourist attractions” (Sercu, 2006, p. 62), students will not “develop into multilingually and multiculturally aware world citizens” (Risager, 2007, p. 1; cf. Kumaravadivelu, 2008) unless they have opportunities to explore a variety of cultural representations and perspectives, some of which will necessarily be conflictual. Second, many authors have emphasized the importance of dialogue on these issues (e.g., Guilherme, 2002; Luk & Lin, 2007). Such dialogue occurs when “speakers of different languages . . . struggle to keep the channels of communication open in spite or because of the ideological differences they recognize and maintain between them” (Kramsch, 1993, p. 23). The goal is “not only to exchange words with people who speak that language but actually to understand what they mean” (p. 34) and, furthermore, to be able to negotiate conflicts with people from other cultural communities (Zarate, 1997). Because personal representatives of TL cultures The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009) are not always available, dialogue can also occur around texts containing culturally divergent viewpoints (Kramsch, 1993). Third, a number of recent authors have stressed the importance of dialogue for teaching not just cultural knowledge but interculturality, which involves attitudes of curiosity and openness, skills in interpretation and mediation, and a critical awareness of conflicting perspectives (Byram, 1997). According to McKay (2002), a key use of English as an international language is “to allow speakers to tell others about their ideas and culture” (p. 12). Thus, EFL/ESL teachers may use language materials reflecting local realities or provide space to discuss local topics (Cortazzi & Jin, 1999; Luk & Lin, 2007). However, learners may also need to consider materials from other groups in order to identify their own cultural resources. This process can be seen in a study in which a U.S. EFL teacher in Mexico was observed drawing on the students’ “knowledge about Latin American folk music while at the same time contrasting music customs in Mexico with those in the United States” (Ryan, 1998, p. 143). Thus, a number of pedagogical works have recommended problematizing cultural content, through dialogue between teachers, students, and texts, with the goal of developing interculturality—the ability to see cultural issues from multiple perspectives. However, studies of North American classrooms have observed teachers imposing cultural representations on students, who responded with resistance (Duff, 2002; Harklau, 1999; Talmy, 2004), whereas studies in Mexico and Sri Lanka found local teachers and students alienated by TL-related cultural content (Canagarajah, 1999; Ryan, 1998, 2003). Although European surveys of FL teachers have not uncovered the same deep-seated resistance, they have noted consistently that most teachers lack the time and confidence to teach cultural themes in depth and instead focus on narrowly linguistic issues (e.g., Castro, Sercu, & M´ ndez Garc´a, 2004; e ı Sercu, 2006). Similarly, a recent Hong Kong study of “cross-cultural encounters” between “nativeEnglish teachers” and local students found that typical classroom activities “required students to participate with only their institutional identities” (Luk & Lin, 2007, p. 196)—for example, reading questions and answers out of textbooks. These challenges index the need for attention to how language teachers and students nonetheless manage jointly to construct and contest cultural representations, even in classes largely focused on language skills.
  4. 4. 33 Julia Menard-Warwick METHODOLOGY This article comes out of a larger qualitative study that was conducted at a small university in northern Chile and at several adult ESL programs in northern California between 2004 and 2006. This research involved multiple interpretive case studies of English teachers and their cultural pedagogies in both educational contexts. As Faltis (1997) wrote, “interpretive case studies in language and education are analytical descriptions that illustrate, support or challenge existing theoretical assumptions about teaching and learning” (p. 146). For this article, I illustrate the intersection of teaching and learning in the coconstruction of cultural representations in six language classrooms. Data Collection The data for this article come primarily from audiotaped classroom observations and secondarily from interviews with 3 Chilean university EFL teachers and 3 California community college ESL instructors.5 As Watson-Gegeo (1997) noted, researchers have long recognized “the important role that . . . classrooms play in cultural . . . socialization processes” (p. 135). For example, Wortham (2001) studied teachers’ classroom narrative representations of student identities, and Luk and Lin (2007) examined crosscultural events in Hong Kong English classrooms. For this study, I spent 8 hours in each classroom over several weeks, focusing on how the teachers talked about cultural issues. I took detailed notes while observing and expanded them into full ethnographic field notes immediately after each observation (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). I transcribed the classroom observation audiotapes selectively, following my thematic coding of the field notes (see Data Analysis section). I interviewed each observed instructor twice. The first interviews covered their history of FL study and use, their experiences as English teachers, their cross-cultural experiences, and their perspectives on culture in language teaching. In the second interviews, I shared my field notes with them, in order to learn their views on the cultural issues I had observed in their classes. The interviews lasted approximately 1.5 hours; all were audiotaped and transcribed. Because I assumed that the students’ greater linguistic competence in intermediate to advanced classes than in beginning classes would allow more discussion of cultural topics, I looked for teachers at that level who were willing to be observed and interviewed. Through personal contacts, I recruited California participants at several adult ESL programs. The California participants described in this article were all born in the United States and were teaching intermediate to advanced skills-based community college ESL classes at the time of the research. The Chilean participants were teaching intermediate to advanced general English courses in a teacher education department of a small university, where my research was arranged by the U.S./Chile Binational Fulbright Commission. All were born in Chile. Both U.S. and Chilean participants were aware of my interest in teachers’ cultural identities and pedagogies. Tables 1 and 2 offer information about (a) the backgrounds of the participating teachers, (b) my observations, and (c) my interviews with them. Details about the courses they taught are given in the Findings section. TABLE 1 Chilean Participant Teachers Genaro Paloma Ad´ n a Approximate Age Education Fifties Doctorate in Education (U.S.) Fifties MATESOL degree (U.S.) Thirties In-progress Masters in Teaching English (Chile) Dates Observed (Total of 8 hours per teacher) 6/25/05; 7/2/05; 7/9/05; 8/20/05 6/21/05; 6/28/05; 7/5/05; 7/7/05; 7/12/05; 7/14/05; 7/26/05 6/22/05; 6/28/05; 7/1/05; 7/5/05; 7/8/05 Dates Interviewed (Total of 3 hours per teacher) 7/12/05; 7/26/05 7/6/05; 7/29/05 7/4/05; 7/27/05 Note. All names are pseudonyms.
  5. 5. 34 The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009) TABLE 2 U.S. Participant Teachers Eric Melinda Susanna Approximate Age Education Thirties MATESOL degree (U.S.) Fifties MATESOL degree (U.S.) Forties MATESOL degree (U.S.) Dates Observed (Total of 8 hours per teacher) 2/6/06; 2/13/06; 2/27/06; 3/6/06 10/12/05; 10/21/05; 11/4/05; 11/18/05 9/12/05; 9/14/05; 9/23/05; 9/26/05; 9/30/05; 10/3/05 Dates Interviewed (Total of 3 hours per teacher) 3/24/06; 3/31/06 11/9/05; 11/30/05 9/23/05; 11/21/05 Note. All names are pseudonyms. All 6 teachers were of primarily European descent, and they had all lived abroad for periods ranging from a few months to 20 years. These factors, as well as their common educational backgrounds and professional experiences, gave them a fair amount in common with each other, as well as with the researcher. Although I observed the teachers in two national contexts, I did not observe great diversity in teaching practice; other educators may have contrasting ways of handling cultural pedagogy. All observed teachers in the present study were skilled and experienced, all occasionally made space for wide-ranging discussions, and all found the need at times to curtail dialogue in order to pursue other pedagogical goals. In the classroom interactions selected for this article, I am not comparing the effectiveness of particular teachers. If some interactions unfold more smoothly than others, it is not because I intended to judge certain teachers as more successful. One limitation of this study is that I did not interview the students to get their perspectives on the observed interactions. From the beginning of this study, I intended to concentrate on teacher perspectives on cultural pedagogies. It was only after significant data analysis (more than a year after the classes were observed) that I began to realize how much the students shaped the cultural representations being constructed in the classrooms. In writing up the larger study, I concentrated on the teacher perspectives, as initially planned (Menard-Warwick, in press a, in press b). However, in this article, I examine the joint construction of cultural representations. Although I include the teacher perspectives on what was happening in the interactions, for the present study I focus my analysis on the observed interactions rather than on the teachers’ commentaries. Data Analysis In order to avoid anecdotal, impressionistic accounts of classroom events in qualitative research, comprehensive data analysis of the entire set of observed classroom interactions is necessary (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998; Faltis, 1997; WatsonGegeo, 1997). Therefore, I conducted a thematic analysis of the interview transcripts and classroom field notes (Boyatzis, 1998), coding data segments that exemplified particular patterns; for example, codes for prevalent topics in my study included “politics” and “gender.” I also coded the classroom data for the source of knowledge about topics discussed—that is, “text” or “student” (i.e., a student’s background knowledge). These codes were based on themes “at the manifest level (directly observable in the information)” (Boyatzis, 1998, p. 4). However, given that people often talk about cultural themes without explicitly labeling them as “cultural,” I also coded themes that were “at the latent level (underlying the phenomenon)” (Boyatzis, 1998, p. 4). I began by coding data as having cultural content when it concerned practices, perspectives, and resulting products (e.g., works of art) that are shared among groups of people (Phillips, 2003). For example, in the data from Paloma’s class (see Excerpt 3), the film Bowling for Columbine (Moore, 2002) is a cultural product that exemplifies practices that a student perceived as typical of the United States. Thus, this discussion was coded as having cultural content. I then coded cultural data for approaches toward culture taken by the participants. Of the various approaches I identified while coding,6 the principal approaches discussed in this article are cultural change, cultural adaptation, cultural comparison, and cultural values. I chose to focus on these particular approaches in order to illustrate
  6. 6. 35 Julia Menard-Warwick TABLE 3 Approaches to Cultural Pedagogy Approach Cultural Change Cultural Adaptation Cultural Comparison Cultural Values Definition Context(s) Discussion of how contemporary practices, products, and perspectives differ from those of the past Discussion of the changes that individuals undergo as they adjust to new contexts Discussion of the ways that practices, perspectives, and products of one group differ from or are similar to those of another group Discussion of what particular groups (e.g., nations) believe or should believe about what is right and wrong, good and bad, valuable or worthless similarities and differences between the two contexts, as well as prevalent patterns of tension. In Table 3, I define these approaches and note the context in which they were prevalent. In order to select data for this article, I coded the interactions from each classroom that exhibited tension (i.e., misunderstandings or disagreements between teacher and student[s], or between student[s] and the TL-associated culture),7 on the premise that observable tension in classroom interactions often indexes underlying discursive faultlines (Kramsch, 1993). Of the interactions coded for tension, I selected one per teacher to illustrate the range of cultural approaches that I had decided to compare (see Table 3). I then transcribed the selected interactions from the audiotapes to ensure that I used the participants’ exact words. FINDINGS In this section, I present six classroom interactions, taken from audiotaped classroom observation transcripts.8 Although I reference the discourses that the participants seemed to be using to construct cultural representations (Kubota, 1999; McKay & Wong, 1996; Pennycook, 1998; Risager, 2007), this is not a fine-grained discourse analysis (for an in-depth discursive look at some Chilean teacher narratives, see Menard-Warwick, in press b). For information on the transcription conventions used, see Table 4. The interactions are presented in pairs—first a Chilean interaction and then a U.S. interaction— juxtaposed for purposes of comparison. After each pair, I present an analysis of the two interactions. In the U.S. segments, I mention either student nationalities, if known, or the region of the world from which they came, in order to give an idea of the global diversity of the interactions.9 Chile California Chile, California Chile, California TABLE 4 Transcription Conventions [. . .] [text] ... Italics ( ) (( )) Text omitted Paraphrase or author’s note Trailing intonation Emphasis Transcriptionist doubt Comment on voice quality or paralinguistic features (e.g., laughter, gestures) All but one of the students in the Chilean segments were Chilean, so I only note nationality for that one student. All names are pseudonyms. Although the students quoted in the interactions tended to speak often in class (many students said little), all of the images of particular cultures and cultural issues that appear in these discussions were constructed from contributions by multiple participants; no matter who had the last word, the contradictions remained. Comparing Representations of Cultural Transformation and Adaptation The first interaction in this subsection illustrates a typical debate about cultural change in Chile (specifically, regarding gender roles); the second interaction, in the U.S. classroom, shows multiple perspectives on the relationship between an immigrant father and his son and thus demonstrates differences in immigrant students’ views on adapting to life in a new country. Excerpt 1, Gender Differences: Genaro’s Class, Chile, July 9, 2005. Genaro led a professional development class designed to help practicing Chilean English teachers improve their communication skills in the language. Of 13 students,
  7. 7. 36 The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009) ranging in age from perhaps 25 to 65 years, only 2 were men. In this lesson, Genaro played a commercially produced (British) ESL audiotape on gender differences in mathematical performance and then asked the class for other gender differences they had noticed. In Excerpt 1, one of the younger teachers, Tania, began by arguing that women were better at multitasking than men; an older man, Marco, disagreed: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Marco: Since 10 years ago, I think the situation has changed, maybe. Now men are looking after the children very very well, they are cooking very very well. [. . .] And now women are more conser vative . . . [. . .] 7 8 9 10 11 12 Tania: I disagree. There is an image that men are cooking and cleaning but in spite of the fact they say that, there are some of them that take care of children, there are some who like to help in cooking, some. An image. 13 14 15 [After several more turns of argument, and considerable laughter, Genaro called on Renate, a woman in her fifties.] 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 Renate: I should say that women, we as women (are blamed for the production of this chauvinism). Because we raise our boys traditionally in that way. [. . .] The girls are supposed to help their mother at home and the boys [. . .] are supposed to . . . [. . .] play football, yeah, or take care of the garden. [. . .] I have tried to change this with my son [. . .] Because as Marco said, times change today. And . . . maybe 100 years ago, 50 years ago men were the supporters . . . [. . .] of the house, you know, and women were supposed to be at home, supporting the children, and do the cooking and do cleaning and everything, but now with just one wage, a family cannot live. [. . .]They have to work both of them . . . [. . .] and that’s why both of them have to help in the house and with the children, and that’s why we have to change our concept of life now. 40 41 42 Genaro: All right. The goals and concepts are changing because society itself has changed a lot. Excerpt 2, Immigrant “Illiteracy,” Eric’s Class, California, February 13, 2006. Eric taught an advanced ESL reading class at a suburban community college, attended by adult immigrants, the majority of whom were women under the age of 40. Most of the students were Eastern European, but some came from Latin America and South Asia. The students who participate in the discus´ sion in Excerpt 2 include Saul, a middle-aged Mexican man, Gabriel, a young Armenian man, and Stefania, a middle-aged woman from Eastern Europe. The class was discussing a textbook reading about a son’s relationship with his “illiterate” fa´ ther (Lopez, 1995), and Eric asked why the author would have written this essay. 43 44 45 46 47 ´ Saul: I think he try to show some situation about the . . . many immigrants come to the U.S., and they are illiterate in Mexico, and they have to try to a better life right here. 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 Eric: So it’s about Mexicans? And immigrants? How about, let me ask you a question. How many liked this story? ((A number of hands went up)). Most people liked this story. And how many people are from Mexico? Only two of you. [. . .] Another question. How many of you had il literate parents? ((No hands went up)). 58 59 60 61 62 63 ´ Saul: [. . .] [My father] went to work in the U.S. and he had many partners, who never write, I mean he had to do letters for them to their family, he had to read letters from their family . . . 64 65 66 67 68 69 Eric: So from your experience, you are familiar with this situation but for the rest of us, we’re not Mexican, our parents weren’t illiterate but we like this story, so why do we like this story? [. . .] 70 71 72 73 74 75 Gabriel: Father–son relationship. [. . .] Maybe there was something else, that the father should know something, that he don’t know, that we are the one knowing. It doesn’t have to be writing or reading. [. . .] 76 77 78 79 80 Eric: Ahh, this question of . . . the father being illiterate . . . that’s just an example! [. . .] We are all children and we all have expectations about our parents, and often our parents
  8. 8. 37 Julia Menard-Warwick 81 82 83 84 85 do not meet our expectations. [. . .] This is a very specific story, a very specific example, but we all like it, we connect to it, it has a universal feeling. 86 87 88 89 90 Stefania: Probably we don’t have a problem with illiterate but when we coming here, we know how write and read, but we don’t know nothing about English, so it is like being illiterate. 91 92 Gabriel: ((sotto voce)) Who says we don’t know nothing about English? In both Excerpts 1 and 2, the issue of change, whether societal or individual, was introduced by the students, not by the teacher. Indeed, in the follow-up interview with each instructor, both teachers stated that they had met other pedagogical goals through the interaction. Genaro felt that discussing a controversial issue was a good way to make the students speak freely, without worrying about their grammar. This spontaneity was an important goal for the class because the students themselves taught English grammar rules 5 days a week. Eric, as a reading teacher, wanted his students to see that the text was about issues deeper than what appeared on the surface. Thus, he was delighted when Gabriel (70–75) suggested that the story was about parental inadequacy rather than literacy or immigration. Nevertheless, when the students connected the audio recording in Genaro’s class or the reading passage in Eric’s class to their own lives, their priority became representing their own experiences accurately. In order to do so, the Chileans drew on current gender discourses: Marco (1–6) wanted the women in the class to acknowledge that men have become more involved in housework; Tania (7–12) refused to concede the point; then Renate (16–39) presented a more nuanced analysis in which she suggested that, due to economic changes in society, both women and men have needed to change their gendered practices. When Genaro (40–42) summarized, he seized on the only point that most people seemed to agree on: “Society itself has changed a lot.” In this discussion about Chile, the national culture was represented as torn between different groups: men versus women, traditional versus nontraditional thinkers. Eric, in his California class, played a more active role in the interaction than Genaro did in the Chilean class. Specifically, he tried to steer the conversation away from the problems of immigrants because he wanted to reach a deeper level of abstraction. Drawing on a traditional literary discourse of universal themes (76–85), he en´ couraged Gabriel’s response (70–75) over Saul’s (43–47). In so doing, however, he implied that everyone in the class should identify with the son rather than with the father in the story. As he says in lines (78–79), “We are all children.” Stefania, who had grown children of her own (Eric was single and comparatively young), came up with an alternate analysis (86–90), in which illiteracy became a metaphor for all the ways that adult immigrants find their previous knowledge inadequate, an analysis with which Gabriel (also young and single) refused to identify (91–92). In both classes, talk of transformations in family relationships triggered discursive faultlines, as students with different social positions (men vs. women, parents vs. adult children) drew on different discourses to represent the changes from their own viewpoints. However, the Chileans had all lived in the same society during the time when the changes had taken place, whereas many of the Californian students were immigrants who had recently arrived from other countries. These students were facing the very individual process of adjusting to life in a new country, a process that Genaro’s students had not experienced.10 Comparing Representations of Differences Between Nations In Excerpt 3, the Chilean students discuss problems with classroom violence in their own country, but then they begin sharing what they have heard in the media about gun violence in the United States. Their teacher offers them a more complex view of U.S. “gun culture” before leading them back to the official topic of discussion. In Excerpt 4, one student tries to introduce into a discussion about homelessness her personal experiences with homeless people both in California and in her country. However, her comments are judged as incorrect or irrelevant, and the teacher points out a passage in the textbook that contradicts her views. Excerpt 3, Classroom Violence, Paloma’s Class, Chile, July 26, 2005. Paloma taught an advanced English class for fifth-year undergraduate students. Of the approximately 20 students in attendance, the majority were female and in their twenties, and all but one were Chilean, the exception being Ming, a young man from Taiwan. All of the students were prospective English teachers at the end of their last semester of English instruction before entering the workforce. In this lesson they were in pairs discussing how to prevent
  9. 9. 38 The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009) classroom violence. In Excerpt 3, when Paloma asked the students to report back to the class, Eliza summarized her partner’s comments: 93 Eliza: 94 95 96 97 98 He was telling me about . . . on the TV it said there are students, young students who bring those type of [. . .] weapons, although they are an exception, I mean they are not like in the States [. . .] 99 [Paloma reminded the class that they had 100 discussed this topic last month.] 101 Paloma: 102 103 104 I remember we said that not all kids do that in the States, but many do. But why is it that many do in the States? 105 Ming: 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 They (perceive) that somebody just bothers them, you know, and they feel kind of unfair [. . .] and maybe they ask the teacher to help them, and then they believe the teacher didn’t help them, and so they just find the final solution. [. . .] 113 Eliza: 114 115 116 I don’t know about this, but Cesar was telling me, in the States you can find stores where they sell guns. 117 Paloma: 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 Stores! That’s what we said last month. That’s exactly the . . . access to buying, the access to buying! And many argue against that in the States, so I don’t want you to think that’s the culture of everybody, you know, supporting guns. [. . .] ´ 125 Cristobal: 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 If you go to Canada there is also availability of guns [. . .] but people they do not kill each other. (Michael Moore) went around opening doors of people’s houses and nobody . . . And if he did that in the States maybe he would be shot. [. . .] 133 Paloma: 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 Excellent point, excellent point, because if you have two neighboring countries that have access to guns, and you have one that reacts violently, you wonder what’s behind that. Then you have to go back and study the culture, and how they arrived in 141 142 143 the United States . . . You know, there’s a whole history there to understand the violence. Excerpt 4, Homelessness, Melinda’s Class, California, November 4, 2005. Melinda taught an intermediate ESL reading class at a suburban community college. The class was attended by about 30 adult immigrants, and there were approximately equal numbers of men and women, who came from Eastern Europe, East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. In Excerpt 4, the students who participate most actively are Sabah, a young woman from Africa, and Pavel, a young man from Eastern Europe. The class had been reading an ESL adaptation of John Grisham’s novel The Street Lawyer (2001). In this lesson they were creating a group outline on homelessness (an important theme in the novel), classifying statements as problems or solutions. As one way of alleviating the problems of homelessness (i.e., one “solution”), a student suggested giving toys to children. Sabah disagreed: 144 Sabah: It’s not necessary, toys, yeah? 145 Pavel: Toys? You know, for children. 146 Melinda: You don’t think they’re necessary? 147 [. . .] That’s another controversial 148 subject we could talk about. But I 149 believe toys are the way that chil150 dren learn, and if they don’t have 151 toys then some of their learning suf152 fers. 153 Sabah: 154 155 But when I saw homeless, not poor children, I saw old women or men. [. . .] 156 Melinda: In The Street Lawyer were there 157 homeless children? 158 Students: Yes! 159 Melinda: Where did the people go with their 160 homeless children? 161 Sabah: (But no on the street . . . ) 162 Pavel: Shelter! 163 Melinda: To the shelter! Do you think home164 less children will stand on the street 165 and ask for money? 166 Students: No. Maybe. 167 Sabah: In my country. 168 Pavel: Sometimes. 169 Melinda: Sometimes. Sometimes.
  10. 10. 39 Julia Menard-Warwick 170 [During several more turns in which stu171 dents brainstorm problems and solutions, “liv172 ing in cars” is presented as part of the prob173 lem.] 174 Sabah: 175 But homeless have cars? I don’t think so. 176 Pavel: Old cars, maybe. [. . .] 177 Melinda: Do you think homeless people have 178 cars? Sabah is surprised by that. 179 Sabah: If you have a car you are rich!!! 180 Student: Old car. 181 Pavel: Rich, no. ((Students laughing)) 182 Melinda: Maybe if you have a car you 183 are rich? ((Students laughing)). In 184 [this area]? 185 Sabah: You might sleep in the street! 186 Melinda: Almost everybody has a car. 187 Pavel: $(900), they are cheap. 188 Melinda: Let’s go back to The Street Lawyer . 189 Can you find the place in the book 190 that talks about Lante and her chil191 dren [a homeless family]? Again, in Excerpts 3 and 4, discursive faultlines became apparent as the students introduced their ideas about a topic under discussion that was based on sources outside the classroom. In the Chilean class, the information came from media reports about the United States, and in the California class, the students’ ideas about the topic arose from her personal observations. Neither teacher had a goal of making cultural comparisons: Paloma wanted her students to focus on violence prevention strategies, and Melinda was teaching textual organization. In Paloma’s class, the tension existed between the participants and the TL culture. Although the official topic was violence in Chilean schools, Paloma was willing to entertain the topic of U.S. gun violence when Eliza introduced it (96–98). Although her students used a common international discourse about U.S. violence throughout the excerpt, Paloma took the opportunity to steer her students away from seeing the United States as a homogeneous collection of “gun nuts” (117– 124). Nevertheless, in an interview, she said she pursued this topic with her students because “if there is anything that I can say, not favorable, for the U.S., at this point would be this war.” Thus, it was her concern about the Iraq war that led her to speak against U.S. violence, although it was not the lesson topic. However, in Melinda’s class, the primary tension resided between Sabah and the textbook’s fictional representation of homelessness in the United States (Grisham, 2001). Melinda did not take advantage of the opportunity to compare poverty in the United States with poverty in other countries. She did not do so, first, because Sabah, in Melinda’s opinion, often spoke without thinking and, second, Sabah’s specific remarks (in lines 153–155 that she had never seen homeless children in the United States, and in line 174 that homeless people do not own cars) appeared to indicate that she had not done her reading homework, which was an account of a homeless mother and her children living (and dying) in their car. (It is also possible that Sabah had read the text but did not believe that it represented reality.) Thus, Melinda’s priority was to correct Sabah’s assumptions rather than to explore the larger question Sabah was raising about differences between poverty in California and in her homeland. As an educator, I recognize that the lesson was focused on textual organization, but as a researcher, I cannot help noting the missed opportunity for intercultural understanding. Comparing Representations of Cultural Values In both Excerpts 5 and 6, the students and teachers discuss political issues (which are nonetheless cultural, in that they concern shared perspectives): the consequences of economic growth in Chile and whether the U.S. educational system really provides opportunity for all. In both interactions, the students are on task, discussing questions posed by the teacher, but in both classrooms, the students’ different positionings in relation to controversial issues bring a certain volatility. Excerpt 5, Natural Resources Versus Human Values, Adan’s Class, Chile, July 8, 2005. Ad´ n taught a ´ a high-intermediate general English class for fourth-year undergraduate students preparing to become English teachers. There were about 20 students in his class, all Chilean and mostly in their twenties, with about equal numbers of women and men. They had read an article from an ESL textbook about affluence and waste in the United States (Datesman, Crandall, & Kearny, 1997), after which they discussed the opinion questions at the end of the article. The first question was whether natural resources or human values were more important for economic growth:
  11. 11. 40 The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009) 192 Guillermo: I think the economic growth is 193 related to capitalism, because no 194 important the value of the peo195 ple [. . .] the only point is to make 196 people produce and produce and 197 produce and produce. [. . .] 198 Luisa: 199 200 201 202 203 204 On the other hand, if you have a natural resource, and if it’s exploited in a good way? [. . .] It has advantage, for instance it . . . a natural resource has to . . . it brings opportunity to have, to pay better . . . jobs? [. . .] 205 Ad´ n: a 206 207 208 209 It’s a good thing, right? [. . .] Now, what about our country. Do you think that we are having here in Chile a sort of balanced economic growth? 210 Luisa: 211 212 213 214 215 No. Because for example, copper? [. . .] Copper is sold to other countries, natural resources is not well developed in Chile, and it is the most important natural resource that we have. 216 Ad´ n: a 217 218 219 220 Yes, it’s like the most important source of income. In the country. That’s true. OK, any other opinions of Chile? Our economic growth? 221 Celina: 222 223 224 225 In the case of the amount of money that people earn, there is a group that earns a lot of money and the rest of the people earn less, and the difference is . . . (big)? 226 [Several turns in which people agree with 227 Celina about economic inequities; Ad´ n then a 228 brings up environmental concerns.] 229 Ad´ n: a 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 I don’t know, this country is producing and producing and producing a lot of income and income, but I am not sure that those resources will last forever if we look at the way in which things are being exploited, right? [. . .] Every day in the news, or every month we have new figures of the economic growth that Chile is living, as you said, it is mostly based on capitalist strategies. Which I think is not wrong but everything has to be sustainable, balanced. There must be balance between both things. Hmm? Excerpt 6, Education and Discrimination, Susanna’s Class, California, September 21, 2005. Susanna taught an advanced ESL reading class at an urban community college. The class was attended by about 30 adult immigrants, the majority of whom were women under 40 years of age. The students came from Eastern Europe, East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Of the students who participate in Excerpt 6, ´ Veronica is a young woman from Mexico, Hassan is a young Afghan man, Yakov is a middle-aged man from Eastern Europe, and Anet is a young woman from Armenia. They had read several articles on the topic of education and had been asked to discuss related questions in small groups. As the groups reported to the class, Susanna found that everyone had agreed on the first question: that all children had a right to an education. When she asked for reasons to support this argument, Hassan argued that education would reduce dis´ crimination. Veronica disagreed: ´ 245 Veronica: You know in Texas (they) [. . .] 246 made a law to deny education to dif247 ferent people who come from an248 other place.11 (So all the educated 249 people didn’t stop this.) ´ 250 Susanna: OK, so Veronica just made a point 251 that right now in Texas, is it the gov252 ernor that’s doing this? [. . .] And is 253 it against illegal immigrants? [. . .] 254 Yeah, that’s what I thought. OK, so 255 he’s making a law that says that ed256 ucation in the United States should 257 not be avail able to illegal immi258 grants. [. . .] Any idea what his rea259 soning would be? [. . .] 260 Hassan: To get the vote and the support of 261 the people that they are against im262 migrants. 263 Susanna: OK, so maybe he’s doing it for po264 litical reasons [. . .] What kind of 265 logical argument can the governor 266 use? 267 Yakov: 268 269 270 Maybe some reason that . . . because the government wants to help poor immigrants with law that (they be) legal. [. . .] 271 Susanna: Right. [. . .] I am sure the governor 272 is using the argument that “Hey, 273 they are not here legally, so why 274 should they benefit?” ´ 275 Veronica: [. . .]. But children doesn’t have a 276 fault (that the parents come) . . .
  12. 12. 41 Julia Menard-Warwick 277 Susanna: So it’s not the child’s fault that 278 the parents came here illegally. 279 So that’s a good counterargument. 280 [. . .] Are there any other ways you 281 could respond? 282 Hassan: Yeah! There is a United Nations 283 human rights declaration that says 284 that every children has the right 285 of education, it doesn’t matter if 286 they are illegal or legal [. . .] And 287 America is one of 10 countries that 288 signed that declaration. 289 Susanna: OK! And I think that’s a very good 290 argument also. 291 Anet: 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 And I think some of the countries, children they don’t have opportunity to go to school but America, it provides more opportunity for children to go to school. [. . .] Because I wanted to get a good education there but it was too expensive, and I didn’t have more opportunity. But here the government helps you to get to your goal. [. . .] 301 Susanna: OK, so that is a great strength of the 302 United States. In the two events in these excerpts, there was comparatively little tension between the teachers’ goals for the lesson and the issues under discussion: The tension lay in the juxtaposition of competing discourses (e.g., capitalist vs. anticapitalist). Ad´ n told me when I interviewed a him that he was concerned about Guillermo’s critique of capitalism (192–197): The fact that they’re all going to be teachers of English [. . .] they shouldn’t feel this rejection towards the capitalist world [. . .] I mean they should feel, not identified with the American culture, but they should be friendly [. . .] towards the values of the American culture. (For further discussion of this issue, see MenardWarwick, in press b.) Thus Ad´ n, in line 205, supported the pro-growth a stance that Luisa had taken in lines 198–204. This reasoning also may explain why he based his own critique of the Chilean economy (229–244) on the environmental issues from the U.S. textbook (Datesman et al., 1997) rather than on the financial inequities raised by students. Susanna, in contrast, was unconcerned about the substance of her students’ opinions. As she told me, “I usually don’t try to weigh in on one side, I usually . . . try to play a little bit more of the devil’s advocate, where I get them to think about a lot of different things.” Thus, her response to controversy was somewhat similar to Genaro’s, but like Ad´ n, her summation of the a discussion at the end (301–302) avoided some of the trickier issues that had been raised. Just as Chile was represented in Genaro’s and Ad´ n’s a classes as fraught with division, this discussion in Susanna’s class referenced a number of controversies in contemporary U.S. society. In this short interaction, discursive faultlines appeared repeatedly: (a) in lines 245–266 between the students’ agreed upon values and those of U.S. politicians; (b) in lines 267–270 between legal and illegal immigrants; (c) in lines 275–276 between undocumented immigrant children and their parents; (d) in lines 282–288 between the values of the United States and of the United Nations; and, finally, (e) in lines 291–300 between students able and unable to take advantage of U.S. opportunities. None of these controversies was resolved, although Susanna let Anet’s comment about educational opportunity stand as the last word. The resulting representation of the U.S. educational system juxtaposed many of the most prevalent and contradictory discourses in contemporary U.S. society. DISCUSSION In this section I review the answers to my research questions, specifically (a) the approaches that were used in the ESL and EFL classrooms to discuss culture and represent particular cultures, (b) the location of certain discursive faultlines in the classes and the ways that teachers handled them, and, finally, (c) the extent to which the observed cultural pedagogies seemed to cultivate interculturality. In addition, I relate these findings to questions of cultural pedagogy raised in the literature. One goal of this article was to illustrate the range of approaches to cultural representation used in these two teaching contexts. Thus, I (a) contrasted a discussion of cultural change in Chile with a discussion about cultural adaptation in the United States, (b) juxtaposed two instances of cultural comparison between the United States and the students’ own countries, and (c) paired discussions of the cultural values inherent in certain political controversies in the United States and in Chile. I chose these interactions as examples of classroom tensions in order to explore the idea that uncovering discursive faultlines (Kramsch, 1993) is necessary for intercultural understanding to develop.
  13. 13. 42 Although the literature has suggested that the English language itself may be a source of discursive tension (e.g., Canagarajah, 1999), this was not a finding of this study. Tensions tended to arise (a) when students presented their own knowledge, which they had acquired from personal experience or electronic media; (b) when the teachers’ agendas differed from those of the students; or (c) when participants from different social positions had different stakes in the issues under discussion. Under these conditions of tension, the images of particular cultures constructed in the classroom were often based on contributions to the discussion made by several different individuals, each drawing from different discourses. They thus tended to be convergent rather than coherent (Kramsch, 1998). The cultural representations that the students and teachers constructed in these classrooms were generally of national cultures; the two national cultures that they tended to discuss at greatest length, and with greatest heat, were Chile (in Chile) and the United States (in both contexts).12 Thus, the Chilean classrooms were in line with current pedagogical recommendations that learners engage with their own culture as well as with the target culture (e.g., McKay, 2002). In the California classrooms, talk about the students’ own cultures was less common than in the Chilean classrooms, and usually what the immigrant learners had to say about their countries of origin was accepted respectfully but not dwelt on. Unlike the findings from other studies (Duff, 2002; Harklau, 1999; Talmy, 2004), in my observations none of the California teachers made much effort to ask the students in-depth questions about their countries. There was some talk about other parts of the world: Melinda’s students discussed the college fair, which featured student-created exhibits about their homelands; Eric’s students read a book that took place in England; Paloma’s class debated the causes of the current London subway bombings; and a textbook in Ad´ n’s class had a some information about tourism in Europe. It was in the classroom co-constructions of life in the United States and in Chile, however, that discursive faultlines became most apparent. Moreover, both nations were represented as internally divided rather than as homogeneous and consensual—as, for example, when Tania and Marco argued about whether Chilean men do housework (Excerpt 1, lines 1–12). Pictures of the United States were likewise convergent: The students saw it as a land of violence (Excerpt 3), discrimination (Excerpt 6), poverty (Excerpt 4), and opportunity (Excerpt 6). Whether or not it was The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009) the goal of the teacher in a particular activity, images of life in contemporary Chile and the United States were often problematized by students with divergent viewpoints, an approach that Harklau (1999) and Kubota (1999) recommended. One difference between the two educational contexts in this regard was that the immigrants in California had a chance to differentiate U.S. media images from their own experiences, whereas the students in Chile had very little opportunity to make these kinds of distinctions. However, although the Chilean students could never be sure about the differences between U.S. media images and lived reality, they evaluated media images according to their own values (Excerpt 3). How were these classroom representations of culture constructed? They were constructed from personal experiences, but also from discourses: commonly available ways of referring to and evaluating groups of people, nations, and issues (Kubota, 1999; McKay & Wong, 1996; Pennycook, 1998). Multiple, contradictory discourses are semiotic resources (Blommaert, 2005; van Lier, 2004) available as raw materials for speakers to use in constructing their own cultural representations. At times, all of the classes in this study came to exemplify Kubota’s contention that culture should be seen as “a site of political and ideological struggles over meaning” (p. 30). The students not only shared their own opinions, but problema´ tized each others’ ideas—as when Veronica used the proposed Texas law to counter Hassan’s assertion that educated people were less likely to discriminate (Excerpt 6, lines 245–249). The teachers handled these cultural representations in a variety of ways. Teaching culture was not a central curricular objective in any of the classes, a fact that I knew when I began this project, and I am not now arguing that it should have been. As European FL survey research has pointed out (e.g., Sercu, 2006), it can be difficult to address culture in language classes because there are always other priorities and there is never enough time. It is perhaps for these reasons that the ways in which the teachers in the present study handled the emerging discursive faultlines tended to depend on their agenda for the activity they were conducting. For example, if speaking practice was the goal, they were likely to accept whatever the students said and encourage them to say more. They also at times used their power as teachers to make short authoritative statements, as Ad´ n did about capitalism and sustainability. Neva ertheless, many students insisted on promoting their own views, as when Stefania refused to identify with Eric’s “universal” interpretation of the
  14. 14. Julia Menard-Warwick conflict between the father and son (Excerpt 2, lines 86–90). Thus, dialogue addressing cultural conflict certainly happened in these classes, but it was not a top priority. Although addressing cultural tensions through dialogues like these may be essential for teaching intercultural competence, it may not be sufficient. Indeed, in the classrooms observed in the present study, it was difficult to perceive progress toward the development of interculturality, the complex understanding of difference (Byram, 1997; Kramsch, 2005). Too often, discussion activities left “the students in their native cultural mindsets and failed to engage them in making sense of a reality other than their own” (Kramsch, 1993, p. 27). The students often seemed more concerned with convincing others of the correctness of their own evaluations than with listening to their classmates. Moreover, the teachers’ desires for a collaborative atmosphere often led them to “paper over” differences before going on to the next activity. Nevertheless, at least some students in each observed class were able to appropriate English for their own purposes, to represent their own realities (Canagarajah, 1999). Whether these debates along cultural faultlines helped anyone to understand realities other than their own or to see their own culture through the eyes of another (Kramsch, 2005) was harder to determine. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR CULTURAL PEDAGOGIES In the literature on appropriate cultural pedagogies, three recommendations stand out: problematizing cultural representations (Harklau, 1999; Kubota, 1999, 2003), encouraging dialogue (Guilherme, 2002; Kramsch, 1993), and promoting interculturality (Byram, 1997; Kramsch, 2005). In this section, I suggest ways to implement these recommendations, based on what seemed to be effective or ineffective in the observed classes. Although teaching culture is not top priority for most language teachers (Sercu, 2006), I would argue that every lesson contains representations of culture (Cortazzi & Jin, 1999). In some circumstances (from extreme political unrest to administrative pressure to cover grammar points), teachers may just need to ensure that representations are noncontroversial. However, confronting difficult issues in class can help prepare learners to use the TL in encounters with people from other cultural groups. My observations suggest that in classes in which there are outspoken students, teachers may not 43 have to problematize representations of cultures and cultural issues. It may be enough to leave space for the students to do so, as Sabah did when she questioned whether homeless people could afford cars (Excerpt 4, line 176). In such classes, the teacher’s role can be (a) to ask students to elaborate or provide evidence for their views, (b) to make sure students with unpopular viewpoints are heard, and (c) to find places for shy students to share their ideas. However, in other contexts with more reserved students, teachers may need to pay attention to subtle cues of student discomfort or resistance in order to determine unresolved cultural tensions (Harklau, 1999). On noting areas of tension, teachers can then hold up certain aspects of representations (e.g., assertions in texts) for particular scrutiny. Allowing written as well as oral answers, or at times encouraging students to respond in their first languages, can help them begin to share ideas on these issues. As students begin to point out contradictions between their own experiences and the assertions of a text, the teacher, or their classmates, the teacher can highlight these contradictions, with the aim of helping students to see all representations as partial and provisional. However, this process of problematization needs to go beyond simple critique to involve dialogue. For students to realize that their own experiences and opinions are valid but necessarily partial, it is important that discussions around cultural representations be more than occasions for speaking practice; they should also provide opportunities for listening and comprehending (Kramsch, 1993). Therefore, teachers should try to ensure that learners respond to comments that were made previously in the class or in the text, rather than simply present preexisting views. This kind of responsiveness can be seen in Genaro’s class when Renate brought in her personal experiences with gender issues (Excerpt 1, lines 16–39) in order to synthesize Marco’s and Tania’s contradictory statements about cultural change and continuity (1–12). Teachers can facilitate this type of response by paraphrasing statements that have been made and by inviting comment, as when Susanna asked her students to speculate about the motivations behind the Texas law (Excerpt 6, lines 256–259). Such dialogue is essential to the development of interculturality. In confronting discriminatory ´ laws like the one mentioned by Veronica (Excerpt 6, lines 245–249), immigrant students need not only to understand why they are wrong in the eyes of the United Nations, as Hassan did (Excerpt 6, lines 282–288), but also to comprehend
  15. 15. 44 the political discourses underlying such laws, such as (in the United States) “taxpayers’ rights” and “securing our borders.” Interculturality does not mean agreement; it means understanding, and it can be essential to the development of responsive action. For example, Ming’s insights about U.S. schoolchildren who carry guns (Excerpt 3, lines 105–112) could help him find ways of handling the similar, although usually less deadly, situations that arise in the Chilean schools where he was soon to be a teacher. Thus, my observations of these six classrooms in California and Chile suggest that many L2 and FL students and teachers are finding numerous ways to question and reconstruct cultural representations as they enter into dialogue with each other, with course texts, and with the media. Although members of classroom communities could achieve a greater degree of interculturality if they spent more time listening to each other, the observations in the present study provide concrete examples of how language learners appropriate global discourses to their own ends (Canagarajah, 1999; Pennycook, 1998). This study shows that, despite unequal relationships between societies, many learners indeed find ways to construct voices in their L2s (Blommaert, 2005). ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This research was funded by the U.S./Chile Binational Fulbright Commission, and by a grant from the University of California, Davis. I am deeply thankful to all the teachers who participated in this research. NOTES 1 In second language (L2) teaching, the language being taught is widely used in the society in which the learners currently reside, whereas in foreign language (FL) teaching, the language being taught has restricted uses in the society in which the learners live. 2 Although qualitative case study research is not generalizable in a statistical sense, “case study methods do present evidence for readers to make generalizations based on the particulars of the case. . . . Within the case there are features and events that readers can find in similar settings” (Faltis, 1997). 3 Discourses may be defined as common ways of referring to and evaluating particular topics. 4 Other languages with colonial histories (e.g., French or Japanese) undoubtedly pose similar cultural threats to the identities of certain learners, but threats posed by languages other than English have not received much attention in the literature. The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009) 5 In my larger study, I also observed and interviewed two California adult school instructors. I interviewed, but did not observe, 15 other practicing or prospective Chilean English teachers. 6 Approaches that I observed, but will not discuss here, include nonevaluative description of practices or products, discussion of students’ cultural identities, and discussions of metacultural issues such as stereotyping. 7 It was most common for the participants to reference national cultures rather than subcultural groups. 8 I have removed fillers (e.g., uhh), false starts, pauses, and most repetitions. 9 I did not survey the students for their nationalities, but the nationalities were sometimes mentioned in the classroom. 10 Few of the students had even traveled to an Englishspeaking country. 11 To the best of my knowledge, Veronica was not re´ ferring to a current Texas law, but to one overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 (Tallman, 2005). 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