Articulating the relationship between language, literature, and culture: toward a new agenda for foreign language teaching and research


The Modern Language Journal

Summer 1997, vol. 81, n°2, pp.164-174

Departments: Languages & Cultures

Today, university teachers of foreign language (FL) in the U.S. face a pedagogical environment in which two camps have developed, one basing its emphasis on communicative competence, the other on the importance of exposure to culture and, especially, literature. The reliance of the former on data from empirical studies often conflicts with the feelings of the latter that nonquantitative, intuitional aspects of language learning are essential to language acquisition. However, much research into the role of culture and literature in language learning remains to be done so that these feelings may be articulated and applied systematically to the development of materials, syllabi, and curricula. Areas in which such articulation might take place include: (a) the extent to which language itself is laden with affect that may be catalyzed as an inducement to learning; (b) the extent to which the affective element is embedded in the nature of symbolic expression—and thus metaphor, myth, and literature; (c) the specific ways in which language and literature may encode culture and have an affective impact on learners in the classroom. Research already exists that lends itself to a close examination of these areas. By taking advantage of that research, FL teaching in the U.S. could establish the importance of literature and culture in the language classroom in ways that would solidify its role in an environment fraught with transformation and change