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Cultural dimensions of foreign language learning a sociocultural perspective /

by Andrawiss, He?le?ne.

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation is an empirical research documenting the development of a reflective approach to language and culture by four American undergraduate students enrolled in a third semester French class. University students in Liberal Arts are required to fulfill a language requirement of twelve to eighteen credits. The enhancement of foreign language study is currently very much linked to the globalization of the economy and the internationalization of the world. Commonly, culture has been conceived as a knowledge that can be acquired and distinctly separate from the language itself. However, current approaches have moved away from culture teaching as pre-established facts to a more dynamic model based on a dialogic process in which students have a reflective engagement. The objective is to teach language as culture and develop the students’ abilities to discover, observe, analyze, and remain critical toward another culture as well as their own culture (s). This ability to think analytically and critically is defined by Claire Kramsch (1993a) as the third place, where students learn and create new ways of meanings that are relevant to their lives. To date, there is little empirical research to document the educational impact of foreign language learning in broadening the students’ way to perceive the world. Drawing from the theoretical paradigms of sociocultural theory, this research adopts a genetic approach to reflect the inquiry process that is language and culture learning. It investigates the extent to which these cultural dimensions of learning a foreign language are present in the classroom and the processes by which they develop. In line with activity theory, the study explores the activity of learning as situated, that is grounded in a social, historical and cultural context. It explores the contributions the learners bring to their own learning, highlighting the unique profile of each learning process. It examines the students’ agency and considers the culture learning as a personal growth. The data were collected in a third-semester French language course, which corresponded to the students’ last semester of their language requirement. The research is descriptive and qualitative in nature, focusing on the participants’ perspectives. The outcomes derive from the analysis of a variety of sources of data (exchange emails, synchronous chat transcripts, essays, classroom assignments, etc), with an emphasis on the development of cultural awareness. Relying on four case studies, I tell the stories of Julie, Mary, Lucy, and David’s development. The study is significant in various aspects. First, unlike research in second language acquisition, this study considers learning a foreign language a social practice that is dialogically constructed. Therefore, it is concerned with language use and the sociocultural dimensions of language learning. In addition, the study considers the language learner as a social being with agency. Thus, it illustrates the contributions students bring to their learning experience and explores the participants’ personal growth. Second, the research does not limit its investigation to the outcomes at the end of the semester. The study is an inquiry that explores, describes and understands the complex cultural dimensions of foreign language learning. Third, it focuses on an intermediate level of language proficiency. Indeed, most research on the learning of culture is done at the advanced level. Here, the development of cultural awareness does not assume proficiency in the language studied. Finally, the cross-cultural dialogue that exists in the class as well as the inquiry process that has taken place brings interesting research and pedagogical implications. iii
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School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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