FOREIGN LANGUAGE ANNALS • VOL, 40, NO, 1
The Challenge of Assessing Cultural
Foreign Language Instruction
Renate A. Schulz
University oj Arizona
Numerous publications, including the
Standards for Foreign Language
Learning in the 21st Century
(National Standards, 1999), emphasize the importance
of cultural understanding in the development oj intercultural competence in foreign
language learning. However, there is no agreement on how culture should be defined
operationally in the context of the foreign language curriculum in terms of concrete
instructional objectives, and there is even less consensus on whether or how it
formally assessed. This article reviews the literature relating to goals and objectives for
the teaching of culture and suggests
fivefundamental objectives to serve as a founda-
tion for the development of cross-cultural understanding and intercultural competence.
Portfolio assessment is proposed to evaluate students' emerging awareness, and a tem-
plate for such a portfolio is provided.
assessing cultural understanding, intercultural competence, objectives for
teaching culture, portfolio assessment, teaching culture
Relevant to all languages
Ever since foreign languages entered the formal school curriculum, foreign
language educators have claimed that such study helps develop cross-cultural
understanding, including positive attitudes toward other cultures and lessened
ethnocentrism, as well as the ability to communicate effectively (i.e., interact in
ways that are culturally appropriate) with people of the target culture. There is,
however, no empirical evidence that what Robinson calls a magic carpet ride to
another culture syndrome (Robinson, 1997) actually takes place.
There is no question that language and culture are inextricably interre-
lated. Ethnographers of communication have demonstrated that many speech
events have their own culture-specific structures and routines, such as inser-
vice encounters (e,g,, in shops, banks, government agencies, restaurants, etc),
phone interactions, and classroom interactions, and that many speech acts (e,g,,
apologies, compliments, expressing disagreement) use culture-specific variations.
Indeed, Mitchell and Myles (2004) point out that "researchers in the language
socialization tradition beheve that language and culture are not separable, but
Renate A. Schulz (PhD, The Ohio State University) is Professor of German Studies
and Faculty Member of the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Second Language
Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.