Teaching the culture in language through film Linda Marion


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Teaching the culture in language through film, presentation by Linda Marion at AFMLTA conference in Sydney 2009

Published in: Education, Technology
  • 'If only we could have SBS advocating the teaching of language more explicitly, and maybe as sponsors or guest speakers at conferences like this one.'

    I think there's a lot of potential for the new ABC Children's channel to include foreign language content... this is an avenue that AFMLTA could explore :) More opportunity/chance with a new channel and new concept than the already-established SBS?
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  • A highly useful and relevant presentation - I especially liked your choice of film. If only we could have SBS advocating the teaching of language more explicitly, and maybe as sponsors or guest speakers at conferences like this one.
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  • Choice of Film. “Not One Less” : a library of cultural exemplars.This film has great appeal with teenage students in High School. The narrative has a child protagonist and is a simple lost and found story. The story of a young female student becoming a teacher for a month is rather appealing to an Australian audience of High School teenagers, as is the notion that the young fresh inexperienced teacher Wei in the end appeared to have achieved far more in her month as a teacher than teacher Gao could ever have hoped to do.      All of the actors played the roles they have in their everyday life adding a documentary touch, an extra sense of authenticity to the film which creates an impression of reality in the mind of the viewer.     Choice of Key scenes:    Film is an exhibit which can be used to raise student awareness of particular aspects of Chinese culture. By provoking learners to examine themselves in relation to the aspect of Chinese culture highlighted in a selected scene, the ICL teacher is doing what Valdes said is essential, that is demonstrating the nature of the interdependence of language, thought and culture and convincing them of ‘the essentiality of including culture in the study of a language which is not their own’.(Valdes 1986)
  • Key scene “The Curriculum” 1. Salience in the context of the film‘The curriculum’ is a scene which introduces the viewer to the spartan context of a dreadfully under resourced dilapidated school in a small rural village 4. Cultural authenticity and relevance: through the urgency and seriousness of GaoLaoshi we sense that education is of central importance, which however, the extreme poverty of his circumstances belies. The viewer sees, hears and feels how a Chinese child reacts to making a mistake, to a teacher’s criticism and to being given important instructions to follow.Chinese viewers are invited to remember and Australian viewers to learn, what a traditional Chinese teacher’s role is, the methods a teacher uses to teach, the Chinese teacher’s close relationship with his students which goes beyond the task of teaching them, the importance of learning from great writers and philosophers of the past and the respect and deference a laoshi老师 has in Chinese society.  
  • 2. Conceptual relevance: the concepts of schooling, classrooms, blackboards, text books, teacher authority are all well known to an Australian High School audience. Language competence: the language is accessible to intermediate learners, containing abundant examples of the syntax used for giving instructions. there are many examples of questioning and agreeing. there is a Chinese song with actions which is accessible. 
  • In Not One Less, we are presented with a cameo of Chinese schooling under harsh and difficult conditions, panning across all facets of traditional educational philosophy. GaoLaoshi has been called away to be with his sick mother and Wei Minzhi, a thirteen year old ‘graduate’ of primary school has come to the village to replace him for one month. Despite grave misgivings about her suitability, he finds out what she can do and gives her instructions about the daily running of the class. The syllabus is contained in an ancient text book of which a page is to be copied from the blackboard each day. HuWenzhong and Cornelius Grove, in ‘Encountering the Chinese’ outline underlying cultural and traditional influences which have shaped education in China:In China the role of a teacher is said to be 教 书 育 人 ‘jiaoshuyuren’,which is literally translated ‘to teach book [and] to educate (nurture, bring up, rear) people…………………………………………. schools operating in the Chinese tradition focus their curriculum heavily on writings from the past, writings treated more or less as sacred texts worthy of being committed to memory.Hu, Wenzhong, Grove, Cornelius (1991) pp 77 – 82.
  • Not One Less Scene 1, Cut 2, Teacher Gao interviews Wei Minzhi
  • SynopsisTeacher Gao interviews Wei Minzhi inside the school building. As he sits with legs crossed, on a small wooden bench, inside the school building, with dilapidated, crumbling walls, large holes in the door and newspaper patches on the windows, Teacher Gao scrutinizes Wei Minzhi, and asks her what she can do.Text AnalysisKey linguistic structures & features: i) Teacher Gao’s selective silence and serious facial expression - denote his teacher status.  ii) Teacher Gao’s terse tone of voice and body language - imply irony and frustration.   
  • iii) Teacher Gao’s direct and repetitive questioning – he asks Wei Minzhi, 你 都 会 什 么? (nidouhuishenme?) What can you do? suggests he thinks she probably knows nothing. He repeats his question adding, 听 见 了 没 有? (tingjian le meiyou?) Do you hear me? indicating a hint of annoyance. iv) Wei Minzhi’s answer- 会 唱 歌. (Huichangge) I can sing - seems hopelessly inadequate, but she cannot avoid Teacher Gao’s persistent questioning and she forces herself to utter this reluctant reply. Film Language: Close up of Wei Minzhi - focuses on her embarrassment and awkwardness. ii) Chinese audience would sympathise with the severity of Teacher Gao’s problem and the extreme poverty of his conditions demonstrated when the camera reveals the derelict doors and windows and furniture of the classroom. 
  • Context, Processing AnalysisRoles & Relationshipsi) Power distance and teacher/student hierarchy are exemplified in the way Teacher Gao and Wei Minzhi respond to each other. ii) Wei Minzhi has to answer Teacher Gao, but she also has to maintain appropriate modesty. The tension for her in maintaining harmony is tangible.  
  • DiscourseWeiminzhi’sresponse to Teacher Gao is submissive and she does not offer anything of her own volition. To do so, may have seemed conceited and would have opened her up for more criticism.China’s economic growth - Wei Minzhi’s quest reflects modern China’s less idealistic, more pragmatic aspirations for economic growth This young Chinese girl is not inciting a revolution, but is simply trying to make some moneyThe spartan setting - suggests poverty and an extreme of lack of resources, inimical to any type of learning. In order to appreciate the full impact of these poor conditions, the film should be viewed in the light of China’s current national policy on education The traditional style of teacher and student dialogue demonstrated here by an autocratic Teacher Gao and timid Wei Minzhi would be unfamiliar to western high school students who would likely misread him.
  • Cultural Themes i) Traditional Chinese teacher - Wei Minzhi is being critically examined for faults. Teacher Gao’s duty is to help her to improve by finding her mistakes. Teacher Gao also has to establish his authority and control as he is worried about leaving his students ii) Loss of face - Embarrassed, shy, reluctant, modest and humble response - Wei Minzhi has failed to satisfy teacher’s request adequately The teacher is expecting Wei Minzhi to do things beyond her age and ability, things which she cannot refuse to do without being seen to be stubborn and difficult  iii) Education - according to Confucianist values, education is good but here we see a sad case of neglect and inadequacy. Education in the remote regions and rural areas of China is very poor, as provincial and local governments provide less than they should in funding, leaving almost one-fifth of the population illiterate (Rong, X & Shi, T 2001). Pedagogy, resources and educational standards are fore-grounded in the question 你 都 会 什 么 (nidouhuishen me?) What can you do? What should Wei Minzhi be able to do at the age of 13? Indeed, why isn’t she attending a middle school herself, instead of trying to earn 50 yuan to prop up a crumbling primary school? 
  • iv). The educated youth of China – heroically personified by Wei Minzhi, noticeably alone in her venture to take over the old teacher’s position, perhaps a reference to the bad old days of the Cultural Revolution when students were encouraged to take over society’s institutions and purge them of the Four Olds: old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits.Symbols i) The youthful face of China – pitifully personified by Wei Minzhi. She appears full of ambition and determination, only lacking everything modern society says is necessary for the job: - age, experience and qualifications ii) China’s economic growth - Wei Minzhi’s quest reflects modern China’s less idealistic, more pragmatic aspirations for economic growth This young Chinese girl is not inciting a revolution, but is simply trying to make some money.
  • Teaching the culture in language through film Linda Marion

    1. 1. “Culture is embedded in language as an intangible, all-pervasive and highly variable force. How are we to capture it and teach it?” <br />(Crozet and Liddicoat, 1999)<br />
    2. 2. Questions<br />What is culture?<br />2. Why ‘film’ as a<br />medium for teaching<br />culture ina language<br />program?<br />3. What aspects of<br />Chinese culture are<br />apparent in the<br />Chinese film “Not One<br />Less”<br />4. How can this<br />cultural content be<br />identified, then<br />taught/learnt?<br />
    3. 3. 1. What is culture?<br />
    4. 4. When we use the word &quot;culture&quot; in its anthropological sense, we mean to say that culture is any of the customs, worldview, language, kinship system, social organisation, and other taken-for-granted day-to-day practices of a people which set that group apart as a distinctive group. By using the anthropological sense of the world &quot;culture,&quot; we mean to consider any aspect of the ideas, communications, or behaviour of a group of people which gives to them a distinctive identity and which is used to organise their internal sense of cohesion and membership. <br />Scollon & Wong Scollon (1995), p. 126.<br />
    5. 5. 2. Why ‘film’ as a <br />medium for teaching <br />culture in a language <br />program?<br />
    6. 6. Teaching Culture in the Classroom<br />“Culture is embedded in language as an intangible, all-pervasive and highly variable force. How are we to capture it and teach it?” (Crozet and Liddicoat, 1999)<br />Australian Chinese language learners are faced with the enormous task of acquiring not only a new sound system, syntax and script but also of accessing an eastern culture which is also very different to a western one. <br />In-country visits or exchanges are one way to overcome the problem of achieving exposure to the language and culture in a natural setting. However, for most students this is out of reach and anyway would not happen very often.<br />
    7. 7. Teaching Culture <br />Using Feature Film<br /><ul><li>Creates a classroom environment which surrounds students with authentic sights and sounds in a real situation and context – a virtual immersion!
    8. 8. Allows teachers to bring particular aspects of Chinese culture to the students’ attention, by demonstrating them visually, with sound, in a real context.
    9. 9. Provokes learners to examine themselves in relation to the Chinese culture and language being experienced through film. </li></li></ul><li>The Selection of scenes to use from a language film should be based on four criteria which describe their usefulness for teaching culture in the classroom:<br />Salience within the context of the whole film.<br />Conceptual relevance for the target audience.<br />ICL learners’ language competence. <br />Cultural authenticity and relevance.<br />
    10. 10. High Cognitive<br />3<br />4<br />Low Linguistic<br />High Linguistic<br />2<br />1<br />Low Cognitive<br />Professor Do Coyle, Nottingham University<br />
    11. 11. 3. What aspects of Chinese culture are apparent in “Not One Less”<br />
    12. 12. Chinese Culture<br />Cheng, 1999<br />community<br />community<br />family<br />family<br />self<br />The Australians<br />The Chinese<br />
    13. 13. Culture and Chinese Education<br />The notion of schooling in this film offers several strata of culture which can be brought to the attention of learners, these include<br />Chinese educational philosophy, methodology and rural conditions; <br />Confucianism including respect, honour, authority, obedience and the idea of the intrinsic goodness of mankind; <br />Verbosity and silence; <br />Inter-relational elements such as teacher and pupil, student peer groups; <br />Naming and titles of address<br />
    14. 14. How can the cultural content of a film text be identified, then taught/learnt?<br />
    15. 15. Critical Discourse Analysis<br />
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    18. 18. Scene 1, Cut 5 Teacher Gao explains the daily routine<br />Synopsis<br /> Teacher Gao gives Wei Minzhi a series of intense instructions, a sort of ‘professional development’ session about day to day housekeeping matters and how to teach the 28 primary school students left in his school<br />
    19. 19. Text Analysis<br />Key linguistic structures & features<br />Instructions: Teacher Gao tells Weiminzhi when the sunlight reaches the nail on the pole in the classroom, it is time to go home. Teacher Gao’s face and voice reveal the extent to which he is worried about leaving the children.<br />
    20. 20. ii) Questions and answers: 那 如 果 要 是 没 有 太 阳 呢 ? When Wei Mingzhi asks a question about what happens on days when there is no sun, Teacher Gao instructs her to send them home a bit earlier.<br />iii) Questions and answers: 那 如 果 要 是 学 生 提 前 抄 完 呢 ? Repeating the pattern那 如 果 要 是, emphasises Wei Minzhi’s attempt to engage in a productive conversation with the teacher. <br /> <br />
    21. 21.  <br />iv) Questions and answers: Finishing class work early: Wei Minzhi asks what students can do once they have finished copying the text. Teacher Gao answers they should go out to play and she should not let them fight.<br /> <br />v) Questions and answers: Extension work: After they have finished the work, students can copy the text out again.<br /> <br />
    22. 22. vi) Teacher Gao’s frown and gestures: to a western audience this might indicate annoyance or anger, but there is no intended suggestion here that the teacher is being unreasonable to Wei Minzhi. His tone of voice and manner expresses proper moral serious concern about leaving his students, which overrides all other considerations in this exchange.<br /> <br />vii) Wei Minzhi is observing the politeness rules about eye contact and giving face to Teacher Gao by listening attentively. <br />
    23. 23. Film Language:<br /> <br />i) The Chinese audience would be both shocked and amused by this travesty of impoverished educational conditions being revealed by the camera with such intense and touching realism. <br /> <br />ii) The actors, although playing parts, have themselves first hand experience of such conditions and there is a convincing natural and matter of fact quality to the dialogue enhanced by the close-up shots showing the teacher’s concerned expressions and Wei Minzhi’s animated responses.<br /> <br />
    24. 24. Context, Processing Analysis<br />Roles & Relationships<br />i) Teacher Gao maintains an intense, formal distance as he systematically explains the daily routines.<br /> <br />ii) Wei Minzhi relaxes a little in the familiar environment of listening to the teacher and is even bold enough to ask some pertinent questions.<br /> <br />
    25. 25. Discourse<br />  <br />i) Each question that Wei Minzhi asks is answered with seriousness and at times a sense of hopelessness. This is a teacher/student discourse of instruction in which he repeatedly asks her if she is listening, 听见没有? (tingjianmeiyou) <br /> <br />ii) This solemn discourse is dominated and driven by Teacher Gao’s problem. It is not his intention or role to make Wei Minzhi feel comfortable or welcome as one might expect in a western setting.<br />
    26. 26. Context, Social Analysis<br />Cultural Themes <br />i) The extreme poverty of rural China: No clock and the need to lengthen the teacher’s bed by putting a chair at the end of it, amplify the extreme poverty and declining standards of living and education in rural China.<br /> <br /> <br />
    27. 27. Symbols<br /> <br />i) The nail on the pole underlines not only the poverty, but also life being lived at a primitive subsistence level where even a basic item like a clock is missing.<br /> <br />ii) Lack of sealed roads and being at the mercy of the elements underscores the neglected infra-structure and further stresses the extreme simplicity of the village lifestyle.<br /> <br />
    28. 28. ii) Chinese resourcefulness and creativity: Teacher Gao explains the practical strategies he has developed for dealing with the hardships of the impecunious learning environment. Teacher Gao shows how Chinese people can find inventive solutions under difficult conditions and make the best of trying circumstances.<br /> <br />
    29. 29. iii) The Chinese teacher’s duties: Chinese teachers are traditionally responsible for many aspects of their students’ lives apart from their education. In this scene, sleeping three to a bed with the female students, cooking for them, and on really windy or rainy days, personally accompanying students home, are all part of a teachers day, as well as teaching them.<br /> <br />
    30. 30. 一个都不能少 Not One Less<br />Directed byZhang Yimou<br />Starring Wei Min Zhi<br />
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    40. 40. REFERENCES<br />Culture:<br />Kramsch, C. (1998). Language and Culture, OUP.<br />Liddicoat A. J. & Crozet, C. Ed. c2000.Teaching languages, teaching cultures / Melbourne, Applied Linguistics Association of Australia [and] Language Australia, <br />Scollon, R. W. S., Suzanne. (2001). Intercultural Communication. Malden, Massachusetts, Blackwell.<br />Lo Bianco, J. C., Chantal., Ed. (2003). Teaching Invisible Culture - Classroom Practice and Theory. Melbourne, Australia, Language Australia.<br />Chinese Culture<br />Hu, W.-C. (1991). Encountering the Chinese. Yarmouth, Maine, USA, Intercultural Press, Inc.<br />Bond, M. H., Ed. (1986). The Psychology of the Chinese People. Hong Kong, Oxford University Press.<br />