Co-Constructing Representations of Culture in ESL and EFL Classrooms: Discursive Faultlines in Chile and California
of Culture in ESL and EFL
Classrooms: Discursive Faultlines
in Chile and California
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)
C 2009 The Modern Language Journal
through which the cultural representations were
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,
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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,
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
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;
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
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.
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
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.
Chilean Participant Teachers
In-progress Masters in
Teaching English (Chile)
(Total of 8 hours per
(Total of 3 hours per
Note. All names are pseudonyms.
The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009)
U.S. Participant Teachers
(Total of 8 hours per
(Total of 3 hours per
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
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’
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
Approaches to Cultural Pedagogy
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
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.
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
[. . .]
Paraphrase or author’s note
Comment on voice quality or
paralinguistic features (e.g.,
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
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,
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:
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 . . . [. . .]
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.
[After several more turns of argument, and
considerable laughter, Genaro called on Renate, a woman in her ﬁfties.]
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.
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.
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.
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
[. . .] [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 . . .
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? [. . .]
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. [. . .]
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
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 [. . .]
[Paloma reminded the class that they had
100 discussed this topic last month.]
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?
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.
[. . .]
I don’t know about this, but Cesar was telling me, in the States
you can ﬁnd stores where they sell
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.
[. . .]
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. [. . .]
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
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:
It’s not necessary, toys, yeah?
Toys? You know, for children.
146 Melinda: You don’t think they’re necessary?
[. . .] That’s another controversial
subject we could talk about. But I
believe toys are the way that chil150
dren learn, and if they don’t have
toys then some of their learning suf152
But when I saw homeless, not poor
children, I saw old women or men.
[. . .]
156 Melinda: In The Street Lawyer were there
158 Students: Yes!
159 Melinda: Where did the people go with their
(But no on the street . . . )
163 Melinda: To the shelter! Do you think home164
less children will stand on the street
and ask for money?
166 Students: No. Maybe.
In my country.
169 Melinda: Sometimes. Sometimes.
[During several more turns in which stu171 dents brainstorm problems and solutions, “liv172 ing in cars” is presented as part of the prob173 lem.]
But homeless have cars? I don’t
Old cars, maybe. [. . .]
177 Melinda: Do you think homeless people have
cars? Sabah is surprised by that.
If you have a car you are rich!!!
180 Student: Old car.
Rich, no. ((Students laughing))
182 Melinda: Maybe if you have a car you
are rich? ((Students laughing)). In
You might sleep in the street!
186 Melinda: Almost everybody has a car.
$(900), they are cheap.
188 Melinda: Let’s go back to The Street Lawyer .
Can you ﬁnd the place in the book
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
Excerpt 5, Natural Resources Versus Human Values, Adan’s Class, Chile, July 8, 2005. Ad´ n taught
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:
The Modern Language Journal 93 (2009)
192 Guillermo: I think the economic growth is
related to capitalism, because no
important the value of the peo195
ple [. . .] the only point is to make
people produce and produce and
produce and produce. [. . .]
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:
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
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:
Yes, it’s like the most important
source of income. In the country. That’s true. OK, any other
opinions of Chile? Our economic
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)?
[Several turns in which people agree with
227 Celina about economic inequities; Ad´ n then
228 brings up environmental concerns.]
229 Ad´ n:
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) [. . .]
made a law to deny education to dif247
ferent people who come from an248
other place.11 (So all the educated
people didn’t stop this.)
250 Susanna: OK, so Veronica just made a point
that right now in Texas, is it the gov252
ernor that’s doing this? [. . .] And is
it against illegal immigrants? [. . .]
Yeah, that’s what I thought. OK, so
he’s making a law that says that ed256
ucation in the United States should
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
the people that they are against im262
263 Susanna: OK, so maybe he’s doing it for po264
litical reasons [. . .] What kind of
logical argument can the governor
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
is using the argument that “Hey,
they are not here legally, so why
should they beneﬁt?”
275 Veronica: [. . .]. But children doesn’t have a
fault (that the parents come) . . .
277 Susanna: So it’s not the child’s fault that
the parents came here illegally.
So that’s a good counterargument.
[. . .] Are there any other ways you
282 Hassan: Yeah! There is a United Nations
human rights declaration that says
that every children has the right
of education, it doesn’t matter if
they are illegal or legal [. . .] And
America is one of 10 countries that
signed that declaration.
289 Susanna: OK! And I think that’s a very good
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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)
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
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). This
law was in the news in 2005 because John Roberts, then
a nominee for the Supreme Court, had supported the
overturned Texas law.
12 In other teaching contexts, there will undoubtedly
be more focus on other English-speaking countries.
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