Portrait of a Monster. Savignon et Sysoyez (2005) recommend creating a sociocultural portrait of the TL culture to foster comprehensive understanding of a substantive topic such as marriage or religion. In this activity students examine the social constructions of monsters such as zombies which are very different in Hollywood than those portrayed in France or Haiti. In an upper level class where students are familiar with the cultural context for a given TL country they can examine how monsters are cultural constructs. In Haiti zombies are a legit part of the vodou religion. It’s possible to zombify an individual as a means of control if their behavior is deemed inappropriate. This goes far back to the slave trade. Do American zombies have a similar cultural origin? What about in France? In a given film, graphic novel, etc how do the zombies’ (or other monsters’ like werewolves and vampires) behaviors reflect their society and therefore culture.
Stereotype Busters. Based on the work of Byon (2007), students use the strategy, “investigate cultural truths,” to examine cultural stereotypes. The instructor will provide common stereotypes, such as Mexican men always have mustaches. Then students build a portfolio that includes the following types of evidence supporting and negating the stereotype, from both the home and target cultures.
Cultural Strategies Inventory. Students look at a list of strategies based on the work of CARLA, 2009 for working with concepts and ideas that may differ from their own culture(s) and brainstorm other strategies to use. For example, an inventory item asks if a student has reflected on cultural values as the possible source of a conflict as a possible strategy to reach an understanding. The student indicates if s/he has used the strategy, would like to, or it is not of interest. In pairs or small groups, students discuss the strategies and brainstorm additional options. This can be a useful way to begin an academic term or prepare for a unit that may differ from students’ cultural identity and values.
Sayings. Students are presented with a saying in the target language and use the strategy ‘making inferences’ to guess meaning. For example, “That is not my cup of tea” or in Spanish “Tirar la casa por la ventana.” Next, students research one of the words or the entire phrase. Then, they complete the following steps to discover more about the word: a) they use a site like [http://www.linguee.com/] to research the word in context b) they complete a specific search of target countries to search for the word in advertisements/images using Google Advanced Search c) students present the saying to the class with a skit demonstrating the literal and the actual meanings.
Follow a Floor Plan. Savignon & Sysoyez (2005) suggest role plays to establish and maintain intercultural contact. In this activity students play the roles of architects and prospective home buyers. Each student finds an image of a different TL culture home. In pairs one student describes it out loud to the other without showing the image. The student listening (the architect) draws the layout and furnishings as the partner (home buyer) describes the home they plan to build. The architect asks why the buyer wants those features. Ex: we prefer the toilet be separate from the sink and shower for cleanliness. Then they switch roles. At the end they make a list of differences between types of homes. Finally, they draw a sketch of a floor plan they will pitch to a prospective buyer and explain why the features are important to buyers in that market.