In developing my approach to language and culture teaching, I conceived of the context of situation and context of culture as consisting at two levels: context of situation as the basic level that students would need to understand and the context of culture as the level which would allow students to become intercultural – to understand where the text or the speakers were ‘coming from’ at an ideological level. Both levels are necessary to discuss and understand text, and indeed to become a competent language user and intercultural speaker. The second level, the context of culture, addressed the relationship between language and culture at the generic level; how values and ways of thinking are articulated and refracted in language through discourses. Following a range of other concepts, such as a Foucauldian notion of discourse, Bakthin’s notion of multivoicedness and dialogue, Kress’s notion of conflicting discourses and Maaike Meijer’s idea of cultuurtekst, I applied these ideas to my language teaching courses, in what I came to call the cultuurtekst principle of language teaching. As I set out in previous chapters, this principle holds that seeing text as cultuurtekst helps students to become aware of the discourses and values which underpin our everyday communications and which are often taken for granted. I wanted to make students aware of this through reading texts, and also to apply, or at least be aware of it in their own communications.
The notion of cultuurtekst also helped me to address the tension that exists in the relationship between language and culture at the differential level, i.e. ‘a’ language related to ‘a’ specific culture. As I set out in chapter 3, we cannot hold to a view of a direct relationship between a language and ‘the’ culture with which it is associated. Yet, at the same time, we cannot ignore that there are cultural patterns which relate to or, at least, are experienced by people as a national or localized entity (cf. Holliday, 2011). Many of the discourses that learners come across, however, are global and cross many different national borders, e.g. the discourses of ‘terrorism’ or ‘environmentalism’, but these ‘global’ discourses can be articulated differently in different contexts, including national ones. I have called this in relation to the text we discussed in class a ‘Dutch articulation’.
In the process of conducting my study and analyzing data, making tentative inferences, and recognizing categories, new concepts emerged. Whereas earlier on in the study I had worked with the notions of context of situation, context of culture, and different views of criticality, which then led me to the idea of cultuurtekst, the analysis of the data brought new categories to the fore. One of these new categories was particularly the importance of students’ previous personal experiences, their emotions, their lifeworld knowledge as ways of making sense of the world in interpreting texts. Also, I realized that the view that students had of ‘text’ became an important part of their response to the text. The ‘partial’ or ‘half ’ understandings (as I saw them), I recognized later to be an important part of the ‘struggle to mean’ and to gain a deeper understanding of these complex issues. As I realized, the ‘rich’ learning moments in the lessons had been where students engaged with and related the text to their own experiences.
Students did not just approach the text in an intellectual way, but also in an experiential way. That is to say, they read text in relation to their own experiences. I came to think of this way of intellectually and experientially engaging with text as ‘seeing text as a text ethnographer’, which I describe in Chapter 3.
It was only retrospectively, after the process of analyzing, further reflection, and further theorizing on the course that I came to see how reading texts as an ethnographer is a way of engaging with the other and being intercultural through texts, so it was not part of my pedagogy at the time of data collection.
This study analyses two lessons in the fourth-year language course. In order for the reader to understand where these lessons fitted in, I will give a short overview of the course, its aims, and the distinctiveness of my approach.