This book explored an approach to language and culture teaching as part of a general language class, which I called the cultuurtekst approach - a way of reading texts as culture. The underpinning rationale for my cultuurtekst approach is that language and culture are complex, and that teaching language as if both language and culture are stable notions creates a distorted representation of the cultural and social reality of people’s lives.
The study on which this book is based consisted of a deeply reflexive process, which originated in my disquiet with contemporary language teaching practices at the time I started my study. This reflexivity consisted of a constant interplay between ideas and practice. On the one hand, I reflected on theories of language, culture and of pedagogy in order to develop the approach. Conversely, in looking at how students responded to my approach I reconsidered the theoretical premises on which language teaching practice is based, including my own practice. I developed notions such as ‘being a text ethnographer’ and ‘Dutch articulation’, and utilized the notion ‘discourse mapping’, as an important rationale of the cultuurtekst approach as a way of being a critical intercultural language user. The reflexive process of looking at my own practice was a profoundly uncomfortable one. In listening word for word to my tape recorded lessons and looking at transcripts of these over and over again, I was confronted with everyday failings, such as not picking up on points students made, cutting off students, misinterpreting comments, leading discussions too much, or not leading them sufficiently and many other of these awkward deficiencies, which most of us are probably liable to as teachers. More significantly, however, because of what at times seemed to be only embryonic understandings and, perhaps more worryingly, because of the resistance shown by one student, Sarah, in particular, I started to doubt whether my approach was a worthwhile addition to teaching methodology. Was my contribution to the development of a new paradigm in fact worth exploring further?
However, in this micro observation of my own teaching, I became aware of two things. First of all, after the discomfort of potential failings, either in actual teaching or the methodology, was dispensed with, I realized that neither learning nor teaching is a linear and straightforward process. During the lessons, it was exactly the hesitations, the ruptures, the discomfort in students which indicated valuable learning moments, much more so than the occasions where confident answers were given. Equally, it was when students responded in personal ways, rather than in distant, seemingly objective intellectual ways, that real engagement took place. Moreover, it was the resistance of Sarah in particular, which pointed not to the failing of this approach, but to the fact that I had, in her words, not gone ‘far enough’ with it. An important conclusion then is that whilst students had taken a step towards discourse mapping, interculturality, and understanding the complexities of culture and being a text ethnographer, what was lacking was precisely the consideration and reflection on students’ own subjectivities. And by extension, it was through my reflections on my own subjectivities, my own teaching, and the discomfort I had felt, that I was able to progress in my own lessons to open up more space for personal engagement.
Before I come back to this later in this chapter, I summarize and conclude the findings of this study here, relating these to the theoretical concepts I developed, before discussing how this contributes towards thinking about a new paradigm of language teaching which fits in with the current demands of preparing students for their future complex mobile lives, linguistically, culturally and personally. In discussing the findings, I will also refer to significant data from student interviews, which indicate these learning moments and processes.