Ch r i s t i n e Ro e ll
Intercultural Training with Films
ilms are a great medium to use not only to practice English, but also to facilitate intercultural learning. Today English is a global language spoken by people from many countries and cultural backgrounds. Since culture greatly impacts communication, it is helpful for teachers to introduce lessons and activities that reveal how different dialects, forms of address, customs, taboos, and other cultural elements influence interaction among different groups. Numerous films contain excellent examples of intercultural communication and are highly useful resources for teachers. Additional reasons for teachers to incorporate films in ...view middle of the document...
According to Kramsch (1995), this development is due to political, educational, and ideological factors; even though politicians might feel that learning a foreign language will solve socioeconomic problems,
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educators think that for that to happen a language course must contain legitimate cultural content. Kramsch (1995, 90) thinks that in the future the language teacher will be defined “not only as the impresario of a certain linguistic performance, but as the catalyst for an ever-widening critical cultural competence.” Intercultural topics that show how people from different backgrounds communicate and interact are becoming more prominent in language teaching. Teachers can benefit from the treasure trove of films that deal with subjects like immigration, xenophobia, adjusting to a new culture, or the dilemmas faced when one belongs to two cultures. Although films cannot substitute for actual interaction with members of other cultures, they can provide useful preparation for those encounters by fostering understanding and developing sensitivity. “Learning about stereotypes, ethnocentrism, discrimination, and acculturation in the abstract can be flat and uninspiring. But if we experience intercultural contact with our eyes and ears, we begin to understand it” (Summerfield 1993, 1). Intercultural contact through films enables students to understand other people’s actions and to have empathy with members of minority groups. Films also vividly represent intercultural misunderstandings and the roots of racism.
Culture representation in film
Films that illustrate intercultural conflict Not surprisingly, there are many films that illustrate the conflicts and problems that arise between members of different cultural groups: • Witness shows the culture clash between the mainstream American lifestyle and the Amish culture. • A Love Divided, based on a true story, reveals some causes of hostility between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. • Ae Fond Kiss is about the problems faced by an Irish woman and a man of Pakistani descent after they start a relationship. • Save the Last Dance shows the resentment a white teenage girl is exposed to due to her relationship with a black classmate. • Yasmin explores the anger and estrangement a young British Muslim woman feels because of the way she is treated in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Films that deal with racism Some films tackle the difficult topic of racism: • American History X is about a Southern Californian skinhead who is imprisoned after committing murder; in prison he starts seeing the error of his ways. • This Is England portrays a teenager who joins a skinhead group in the early 1980s. • A Class Divided is a documentary about an experiment conducted by Jane Elliott, a teacher in a small allwhite Iowa town, in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Elliott divided her class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed...