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Students' versus teachers' views on culture learning in the language class: A case study from an Australian tertiary Spanish programme

Keywords: Languages , Language and Culture , Spanish , cultural revolution , cultural studies , cultural competence , cultural authenticity , Stern , Flewelling , target culture , target language , Intercultural Language Teaching , ILT

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Abstract:

This study investigated the opinions and understandings of "Hispanic Cultures" by students and teachers in a Spanish language programme at an Australian University. It examined how teachers of this programme perceived and taught "Hispanic Cultures” in their classroom, how students experienced cultural learning and ultimately what they understood as “Hispanic Cultures”. In particular, it looked in-depth at how the students of a Spanish programme were constructing their own concept of “Hispanic Cultures”. Four classes participated in this study with a total of 63 students and three teachers: the Elementary Spanish class and their teacher, the Intermediate Spanish class and their teacher and two Advanced Spanish classes and their teacher. The main research approach used in this one-semester study was qualitative and a combination of qualitative and quantitative data was collected in the form of student questionnaires, classroom observations, and student and teacher interviews as data-collection tools. The outcome of the study provided information on the current usage of cultural input resources in the Spanish classroom. It also provided insights on the students’ understanding of “Hispanic Cultures” and how the students were obtaining most of their cultural knowledge of “Hispanic Cultures”. It also touched on what can be done to inject more “Hispanic Cultures” into the classroom, especially resources related to “small c” culture. It was discovered that the majority of the students found the most useful cultural input resources outside the classroom. However, it was also was seen that all students found that story-telling, either by themselves, classmates or their teachers was one of the most enjoyable and important approaches used to develop and build cultural awareness. The study found that, overall, the students’ understanding of the term “Hispanic Cultures” was linked to “small c” culture, whereas the teachers understanding of “Hispanic Cultures” was more often related to “Capital C” culture.

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