ASILE conference presentation:
Attending to 'culture' in 'intercultural understanding': A case study of Indonesian language teachers in Australian schools.
This paper examines the notion of ‘culture’ in the discourse of language teachers, with particular regard to the development of ‘intercultural understanding’ among students of Indonesian. Along with linguistic proficiency, ‘intercultural understanding’ or similar constructs are now widely accepted as an objective of second language education. The new Australian Curriculum includes ‘Intercultural Understanding’ as a General Capability, whilst the curriculum for Languages is informed by an ‘intercultural’ approach. This ‘intercultural’ focus reflects a shift in the perception of the relationship between language and culture in the field of language education. However, there is uncertainty among researchers regarding the extent to which teachers in the field have adopted an ‘intercultural’ approach to language education.
This paper draws on qualitative research conducted with teachers of Indonesian in NSW schools, to explore the ways they construct meaning around the ideas of ‘intercultural understanding’ and ‘culture’. Their discourse reveals the complexity of the way ‘culture’ is understood and used in reference to their teaching practice. As practitioners, language teachers deploy the term ‘culture’ frequently and yet, as a conceptual tool, it is not always used in a reflexive manner. This study attends to the ‘work’ of ‘culture’ in the discourse of the participants, not only in terms of what is said but the way the concept is utilised by teachers for particular purposes. This paper demonstrates the neglect of ‘culture’ as an object of intellectual interrogation by language teachers, and argues for its re-positioning as a central concern in teacher training, both pre-service and in-service. In order to effectively foster the development of ‘intercultural understanding’ among students, it is imperative that teachers are given the opportunity to critically engage with the concept of ‘culture’. Indonesian offers a particular set of challenges and opportunities which are explored here in relation to the implementation of an ‘intercultural’ approach to language education.
Kate Naidu is a HDR student and casual academic at Western Sydney University, having previously completed a BA (Asian Studies), DipEd, and Master of International Social Development at the University of NSW. She is currently enrolled in the Master of Research program and is based in the Institute for Culture and Society. She has over fifteen years of experience as a teacher, in both primary and secondary schools, primarily teaching Indonesian as a second language. Her current research examines the discourse of teachers of Indonesian in NSW schools, with regard to the development of ‘interculturality’ among students.
Western Sydney University