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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Learners’ perceptions of culture in a first-semester foreign language course

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Researchers have voiced concerns about current teaching practices regarding the effective integration of culture within the foreign language curriculum as more than an add-on (Durocher, 2007; Knutson, 2006; Kramsch, 1993; Magnan, 2008; Omaggio Hadley, 2001; Perraudin, & Porfilio, 2011; Schulz, 2007; Wilbur, 2007).  This study takes an emic perpective to explore how the experience of a first-semester foreign language course can shape learners’ understanding of culture and perceptions of the interconnection between language and culture.

Twenty-two students, native English speakers, enrolled in four first-semester French courses, were interviewed three times during a semester. The four instructors were interviewed at the end of the semester. Data analysis revealed that a majority of the participants viewed language and culture as separate entities, that they were mainly concerned with linguistic competence and possessed an incomplete understanding of the concept culture. Based on these findings, pedagogical recommendations are discussed to support the development of learners’ understanding of the intrinsic link between language and culture.

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