Carthage College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN09 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 4626-4639
ISBN: 978-84-612-9801-3
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2009
Location: Barcelona ,Spain
Living in a global world makes it necessary to know other languages, cultures and lifestyles. This paper will present a new approach to teaching grammar in a communicative way, implementing the use of cultural aspects to learn the target language. The different activities will be based in structured input and output to teach students grammar in a communicative way within a cultural context.
Our purpose is to show how traditional grammar exercises can improve and how to implement culture within this teaching. We will set some important guidelines to create these kinds of activities. We will also provide a set of activities in French. Finally, we will offer the necessary tools to engage and motivate students to learn grammar through cultural aspects of the target language.
The teaching of foreign languages today is based in the communicative approach which has many advantages because it provides input: new linguistic information comprehensible for the student. In this light, study abroad programs are successful because the learner is completely immersed in the language; he has countless opportunities to listen to contextualized input which helps him to acquire the language in an effective way. Thus, a successful language acquisition depends on giving opportunities to the learner so that he is exposed and interacts in quality, contextualized, comprehensible input exchanges.
Swain (1985, 1998) and other researchers have studied French language acquisition in the immersion classes in Toronto, Canada. These studies show that in spite of the rich linguistic information and the opportunities to communicate, students haven't achieved a high level of competence to communicate. Their research has proved that the amount of input that the students are exposed to does not result in grammatical accuracy.
As a result, there have been new investigations (Ellis, Van Patten) that advocate for the teaching of the grammar in a way that is meaningful and communicative.
In our study, we suggest using Structured Input (SI), into our language classes as a way to foster the grammatical accuracy that the communicative method was neglecting.
Structured Input (Lee & VanPatten) means planned input that forces students to attend to the form-meaning connection. The focus of traditional grammar instruction was often on form or meaning but not on the way that form encodes meaning. The purpose of this approach is not only to focus in grammatical forms, but also, to alter incorrect processing strategies in the language acquisition.
An example of this is when a teacher sets up a situation for students to use the past tense, but they have only spoken in present tense. In this example the activities used to teach and practice the past tense have focused more on the form that verbs should take rather than on the way that form expresses meaning (I.e. the form-meaning connection has not been clearly established for them).
In our practical application of the principles of Structured Input (SI) we are trying to improve the typical structured input activities, suggested by Van Patten, by including the cultural context of the target language. We have created activities using authentic materials: songs, literature, comics, movies, brochures and photos which are not in the textbooks. We want to avoid the limitations of traditional approaches so we can favor the acquisition of the grammar in a meaningful context to foster the communicative practice.

culture, grammar, input, output, structured input, form meaning connections.