(2011). Learning about Chinese-speaking cultures at a distance.
In: Fenoulhet, Jane and Ros i Solé, Cristina eds.
Mobility and Localisation in Language Learning: a View from Languages of the Wider World.
Intercultural Studies and Foreign Language Learning (5).
Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 145–172.
This chapter focuses on the challenges posed by curriculum choices and pedagogical frameworks to the study of Languages of the Wider World in the UK. These languages reflect complex linguistic and cultural realities that do not fit into the traditional constraints of language education, which raises questions about the extent to which we can address the global and local dimensions of the target languages and cultures. I examine in particular the case of Chinese – a language family with multiple varieties and spoken by many communities in Asia and other parts of the globe – in the context of distance education. Issues surrounding language learning at a distance are discussed, as well as the role that teachers and technology play in supporting the development of language learners’ cultural awareness. While teachers can, in a face-to-face situation, exploit, expand and discuss cultural information, this possibility is very limited in distance learning. We will see how, at present, technology has taken on a major role in both formal and informal education, facilitating contact between learners and between learners and teachers (however distant they might be). For example, the Open University’s beginners’ Chinese course discussed here makes use of online forums to enable cultural interaction; initial examinations of these forums reveal the students to be diverse and mobile, and they also give us a sense of their cultural stances, and of the shapes of the beliefs, values and attitudes supported by their individual cultural backgrounds.
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