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Overview of the Syllabus

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    The course of 20 weeks is split into two parts. In practice, the material that I wanted to cover in the first part took approximately 12 weeks, with 8 weeks left for the remaining part of the course. The table below shows a schematic overview of the course. However, the course did not progress as neatly as the overview suggests. As well as discussing texts and doing writing activities, we also did grammatical exercises where appropriate. In addition, a number of lessons were spent on translating texts as this offers a way to discuss cultural aspects of a text.

    The first 12 weeks of the course consisted of two blocks. The first block introduces the notion of ‘style’ in relation to the aim and audience of a text before looking at how language in its stylistic choice of structures and lexis can reflect particular ideological positions in texts. In order to help students to query the seemingly natural positions in texts, I introduced most texts in ‘pairings’ so that students could see how else the topic could be talked about. I also structured the ideas in a gradual way, moving from ideas of situational context to context of culture. Paired texts covered the same topic, but were either written for different purposes, for different audiences, consisted of different genres, or draw on different discourses.

    The second block of this first part of the course applied these conceptual ideas to a more ‘traditional’ area of advanced language teaching; that of argumentation and text structure. In looking at structure and argumentation we initially focused on the ‘textual’ and ‘product’ level of the text, I introduced students first to the academic, rhetorical and linguistic aspects of these areas, e.g. how arguments and texts are constructed, and cohesion and coherence in texts. Then we looked at these texts in their situational and cultural contexts. It is in this block that I introduce the notion of cultuurtekst using the Men’s Health text which is the focus of this study. I will discuss these lessons in more detail below.

    The second part of the course aimed to put the framework and the new understandings of cultuurtekst into practice in more practically and professionally oriented situations and contexts, such as report and letter writing and giving oral presentations. I ask students to look at addressivity and at the positioning of the texts, as well as to write for different contexts, and drawing on different discourses. My main aim in this second part of the course with moving from cultuurtekst to instrumental and goal-oriented areas of language teaching was to encourage students to apply their critical awareness of discourses to communicative events which may seem even more natural than those of popular media texts but are equally filled with different voices, discourses, and ideologies. In their writing I want students to be responsible towards their readers and audience – to take account of ‘addressivity’.

    Course Overview

    TERM 1 Language and Culture

    Block 1

    Aim: To introduce the concepts in a progressive fashion


    • Representations of Dutch (and English) culture and society in the Dutch media
    • Comparing discourses
    • The multi-cultural society
    • A current debate, e.g. euthanasia
    • Gender roles and representations

    Texts used include:

    • Two newspaper reports from different newspapers reporting on an attempted prisoner break-out’. Newspapers: Telegraaf and Volkskrant.
    • Two interviews conducted by a female journalist in a series of interviews with ‘experts’ about their views on Dutch identity. One was an ex-diplomat, the other a young female parliamentarian of Turkish descent. Newspaper: Volkskrant.
    • Two informative texts about Dutch identity: 1) textbook for social studies at secondary school; 2) the first two pages of an article from a popular academic monograph Het nut van Nederland.
    • Three texts representing regional identities: 1) article from a Dutch newspaper, Volkskrant, about the Cotswolds; 2) column in the newspaper, Trouw, by Dutch novelist about his experiences of and views on London. 3) a texts from popular media, One, a magazine aimed at young women, ‘exoticification’ and essentializing particular travel destinations.
    • A set of texts to make the differences clear between aim, audience, style, and genre of the text. Topic: self-development courses. Texts: 1) PR material from personal development/vocational training company; 2) a section from a popular weekly publication for young women (Viva) giving ‘vignettes’ of people talking about courses they have taken and how this helped them to develop personal skills; 3) course description from the website of a publication aimed at professional staff, Intermediair Loopbaantrainingen.
    • Texts from the same genre, but different audiences and orientations are compared for different representations of the same event in terms of information focused on or left out; grammar, lexis, and their effect.
    • Texts from the same genre are looked at critically and used for discussion of content and are compared for different positioning from journalist and interviewee and the other way round, through the language used.
    • Text from textbook is looked at critically for the essentialist representation of an aspect of Dutch culture, and scrutinized for how the language used and its ‘breezy style’ help to ‘convince’. Text from academic monograph is used to compare its style: its structure and stylistic strategies (e.g. repetition and contrast) also help to ‘convince’.
    • The travel texts are used to further talk about the representation of identity, and how the language and style used aids respectively 1) its nostalgic impression of the Cotswolds through romantic literary language, 2) discussing students’ personal responses to the novelist’s views, and 3) its exoticizing and directing at the audience by fitting in with expectations of genre, using techniques of rhyming and repetition and focusing on senses.
    • We analyzed the texts for genre, purpose, audience and style. This led to talking about different values about work and personal development which were reflected in some of the texts.

    Tasks and Assessment:

    Activities included discussion about and analysis of the texts. Writing tasks are in preparation for the assessment task which is to write two contrasting pieces: a fairly essentialized description of a country or region or town in a ‘closed’ style as well as a more nuanced version about the same place in a popular academic style.

    Block 2 Argumentation

    Aim: To apply the concepts to a larger range of genres relating to arguments, debates, and discussions. Introduce the concept of cultuurtekst more explicitly.

    Texts and materials used include:

    • Textbook for native speakers about argumentation structures
    • Ons drugsbeleid mag er zijn. Rationale for drug policy written by the Dutch Health Secretary (published in NRC newspaper.)
    • Three texts about a new euthanasia law in the Netherlands: 1 and 2) two newspaper editorials from Trouw and Volkskrant respectively. 3) An emotive interview with a mother whose child died through euthanasia.
    • Three texts: 1) Het multiculturele debat, Paul Scheffer, NRC. This text later became a key text in the discussion surrounding multiculturalism in the Netherlands. 2) A criticism of this article and 3) Scheffer’s response to that.
    • Three texts about gender roles and representation: 1) a polemical text: ‘De man als dinosaurus’, Liesbeth Wytzes, Volkskrant. 2) An argued response to this text; 3) Men’s Health text: ‘Pas op. Er word op je gejaagd’.


    • Text in context of situation:

    • Text purpose
    • Audience

    • Text as product:

    • Argumentation structures
    • Argumentation types/genres
    • Cohesion and coherence

    • Text as the context of culture

    • Genre
    • Intertexts
    • Implicit argumentation/discourses - Cultuurtekst

    Tasks and Assessment:

    Activities included discussion about and analysis of the texts. Writing tasks were in preparation for the Assessment task which was to write an argument about the same topic and more or less the same viewpoint, but for different audiences and purposes and hence drawing on different discourses.

    NB The discussion of this particular text forms the focus of and is the entry point of my study.

    TERM 2 Practical Skills

    Aim: Apply the concepts introduced in the first half to communicative situations often encountered in work-related contexts.

    Oral Presentations

    Materials used:

    Textbook on communication Presentations from a symposium about the topic whether Dutch language is in danger of disappearing

    Authentic Contexts

    We look critically at text book examples. It is useful to gain new language expressions, but we critique its lack of authenticity. We talk about different styles and audience needs and contexts. Addressivity and audience.

    We listen to two presentations held at a symposium in the Netherlands to see how they are structured and what techniques the speakers use, such as repetition.

    Tasks and Assessment

    Students work on sample presentations for different contexts. These are recorded on film and discussed individually with students for pointers on style and manner etc.

    Oral presentation: students use the same topic as their year abroad research project and choose an appropriate and authentic context, and determine what role they themselves and the audience need to play. Students are assessed on relevance and appropriacy of content and style within the chosen context.

    Report Writing

    Materials used:

    Authentic reports of institutions and companies


    We look at these reports partly in terms of product, the kind of conventions within report writing and expressions and representations of statistical information, but we particularly look at these in terms of context of culture: what corporate or public identity the institution/company is representing through language and the information focused on (i.e. traditional and trustworthy, or dynamic, market leader, environmentally aware, successful, etc.).

    Tasks and Assessment:

    Activities include discussion about and analysis of the texts. Writing tasks are in preparation for the Assessment task which was to conduct a simple study, i.e. in local swimming club or amongst students regarding eating habits, and to write two reports using more or less the same information but for different audiences and purposes.

    Letter Writing

    Textbook on communication for a few examples.

    Many authentic letters: e.g. asking for donations, newsletter, letters from school to parents, an invitation to a leaving party of a colleague at work, an invitation to project meeting, and so on.


    We look at textbook examples critically. It is useful for some language expressions, but we critique its lack of authenticity. Talk about different styles and audience needs and contexts. Addressivity and audience.

    We used a framework I made for analyzing letters and focus on interpersonal relations and positioning and power relations and how these are embedded in language.

    Tasks and Assessments:

    Tasks included writing a range of letters for different purposes and audiences and ‘relationships’ including power roles

    This task is assessed during the exam where students have to write two letters about the same topic using different roles and purposes and positioning, e.g. provost sending letter to students advising not to go on strike, union sending letter to students urging them to go on strike.



    In the last couple of lessons, we focus on the importance of context in writing a summary. Depending on why you want to write a summary and for whom, you will focus on different aspects and formulate it differently.

    This page titled Overview of the Syllabus is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gerdi Quist (Ubiquity Press) .

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