Negotiating Cultural Images in the Language Classroom: Using Digitalized Films and Pedagogical Material from the World-Wide-Web
n order to encourage critical thinking and to develop cultural awareness in the classroom it is necessary to examine the discourse of written and visual texts to which students are usually exposed. However, the individuals and organizations that the media and publishers portray often do not represent equally all social groupings in the population. The unequal influence of social groupings is clear in terms of whose perspective is adopted, who is represented, and how they are represented in the visual and written texts. Furthermore, the second language literature review suggests that new techniques, which use multimedia to enhance learning, are often adapted with few pedagogical considerations (Fukushima, 2002). This paper presents research that answers to the challenge of creating pedagogical activities based on digitalized documentaries and films from the target culture posted on the World Wide Web. By critically contrasting and analyzing archetypical representations of diversity in traditional language textbooks and in digitalized documentaries from the target culture, students learn to negotiate alternate representations of gender, ethnicity and culture.
Mainstream media coverage frequently reflects the views and cultural biases of the dominant classes, and these views become interpretations that significantly influence the beliefs of mass audiences (Gist, 1993). It is for this reason that it becomes imperative to critically analyze a diverse range of cultural representations in both written and visual texts in the classroom setting. Furthermore, at the pedagogical level, mass media representations are authentic material, in that they are "not designed solely for classroom use but rather for native speakers" (Ciccone, 1995, p. 203). Not exposing students to authentic material at the beginning levels eventually hinders their language learning, and might increase their later frustration due to their lack of early exposure to the processing strategies necessary for decoding authentic language. The second language learner acquires language by "understanding language that is a little beyond our current level of competence. This is done with the aid of extra-linguistic context or students' personal knowledge of the world" (Kraschen, 1981, p. 103). Therefore, appropriately using authentic material from the target culture is proven to facilitate language learning.
Most scholars and pedagogues agree that the current challenge in the second language classroom today is to identify techniques to enhance students' language proficiency and their cultural awareness. One way to achieve this is by designing material based on authentic documentaries and films as a source to complement and contrast the cultural information presented in textbooks. The fact that the digitalized segments and pedagogical material created for them are available in the World-Wide-Web facilitates its access and reduces possible technological constraints.
Keywords: Cultural, Awareness, Critical, Thinking, Spanish, Film, Pedagogy, WWW
Dr. Isabel Moreno-López
Assistant Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures Department, Goucher College
Dr. Cristina Sáenz de Tejada
Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures Department, Goucher College