To be able to talk about the integration of culture in a Comprehensible Input class, it is first necessary to define “Comprehensible Input” and “culture.”
The “Comprehensible Input” theory is one of the theories of language acquisition proposed by the American linguist Stephen Krashen. In his hypothesis, Dr. Krashen explains that there can only be the acquisition of a language when the input, linguistic component or message is understood by the learner, but in addition to being understandable it should be of interest to the learner and that it be about an issue with which the learner can relate and connect. Visit Comprensible.com to learn more about CI.
Culture is a term that has been defined by different authors in different fields. The definition most commonly used and that challenges people in different fields is that of Clifford Geertz (cited in Ortner, 1999) who defines culture as “a system of values and beliefs that represent a group, as a network of meanings within which people live. Meanings encoded in symbolic forms (language, artifacts, etiquette, rituals, calendars, etc.)” (p.3).
Taking into account the definitions of “Comprehensible Input” and “culture,” I will explain a little the process of how I integrate these two elements in practice and offer you some advice, too.
I find it helpful to start with the goal or the objective of the topic. Why do I want to share this topic in my class? Where do I want my students to arrive with the exploration of this topic in class?
Then I think about the developmental stage and the linguistic level of the students. Is it a topic that is easily understood with the level of L2? Is the subject relevant to the students’ age?
I suggest you consider this approach:
Define the theme or cultural content that will be shared with the student. Once the theme is defined, make sure that the content that is going to be shared is true and does not fall into the perpetuation of stereotypes. If possible, check that information with someone from the culture. Another important aspect to take into account, especially at the beginner levels or early grades, is whether it is a specific issue and whether it allows generating connections and space for comparisons. The cultural theme should not be limited only to the culture of L2.
Determine the input: In this case, it is not important for the students to understand each word, but the input must be by context and the use of cognates.
Determine what type of material can be used to support the topic: Photos, videos, songs, artifacts or authentic resources, etc.
It is possible to teach culture in a world language class, but in this case, it is very important that this input is understandable so that there is a success in the fusion of culture and Comprehensible Input.
Here are some resources that might help you get started with this topic. Ready, set, go!
Orter, S. (1999). Introduction. The fate of “culture”. California, University of California Press, p.1.