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iCLT principle 4

iCLT fosters explicit comparisons and connections between languages and cultures

Example 1 | Example 2 | Example 3 | Example 4

The need for learners to experience new uses of language and new cultural meanings involves them reflecting on their knowledge and experience, making comparisons and connections with what they already know.

If teachers want to teach language in such a way that learners are initiated into its social and cultural meanings, then teachers need to respond to the question:

  • “How many of these meanings must be made explicit, and how many can be understood implicitly?”

The link between linguistic forms and social structure is not given; it has to be established. An intercultural approach to the teaching of culture is radically different from a transfer of information between cultures. It includes a reflection both on the target and on the native culture.

The examples that follow illustrate these concepts.

Example 1: What’s to blame?

Year 12 learners of French read an article from a French newspaper about a road accident. Although it is mentioned in the article that the driver had been partying with friends, the cause of the accident is attributed to tiredness:

  • “Le jeune homme, fatigué, commence à s’endormir au volant.” [The young man is tired and nods off at the wheel.]

The text is supposed to be factual, not an opinion piece.


The teacher discusses the statement about the cause of the accident with students in order to find out whether the attribution of cause to driver tiredness challenges their opinions and assumptions.

The teacher uses questions to make the comparisons and connections between cultures explicit, for example:

  • Is the statement a personal perspective or a fact?
  • Considering that the young man had been partying with friends, why is alcohol not considered as a cause of the accident?
  • Would such a statement have appeared in an equivalent report in a New Zealand newspaper?
  • What had students been thinking as they were reading the report and making meaning from it?
  • Were their thoughts based on their knowledge of French culture or did they stem from their own values and opinions?

Example 2: Not what she expected

Year 12 learners of Cook Islands Māori read an email from Mata to her cousin Rae. Mata describes her male cousin’s a hair-cutting ceremony, which she attended the previous day.

The event that Mata writes about is a significant event for boys in Cook Islands Māori culture. Mata has not only describes the event; she also records her feelings.

For example, she expresses her surprise when something happened that did not match what she was expecting. In expressing her surprise, she shows that her previous understandings of a hair-cutting ceremony have been challenged by this new experience.

In expressing her surprise, Mata indirectly challenges Rae, as the recipient of the email, to reflect on her own experiences (if any) of hair-cutting ceremonies.


By expressing her surprise, Mata indicates that hair-cutting ceremonies are not all the same. Students infer that hair-cutting ceremonies are part of the culture, but the ways these are carried out differ in detail.

Students could investigate further the rituals associated with the hair-cutting ceremony in Cook Islands Māori culture in a range of texts and text types. Using this knowledge they could explore ways to communicate information, ideas, and opinions on the hair-cutting ceremony in Cook Islands Māori culture through different text types (oral, written, visual) for different purposes, and to different audiences.

Text types could include conversations, letters, interviews, reports, speeches, songs, stories, and so on.

The teacher can lead students to a deeper exploration of the significance of the hair-cutting ceremony in Cook Islands Māori culture, for example, the high expectation for boys to become leaders and take on family responsibilities.

Also, the hair cutting ceremony signifies different roles for male and female within a family or community setting.

Students could make comparisons and connections between hair-cutting ceremonies in different countries, for example Cook Islands and Niue. They could also make connections and comparisons with significant events for boys and girls in their own cultures, and the values these express.

Selecting one of these events as an example, how would they communicate information about it to a speaker of Cook Islands Māori?

Example 3: Expressing sympathy

Year 13 learners of gagana Sāmoa read a poem lamenting the loss of loved ones in Sāmoa during the 2009 September tsunami. Within the poem, the greeting "Talofa" takes on another meaning in this context of lament, that of expressing sympathy.


Greetings in other languages have a range of meanings depending on their use in different contexts. For example, the word “Hello” in English, which is a greeting, can have different meanings depending on its intonation and context. For example, it can be used as an exclamation to express surprise. Teachers could set students the task of exploring the different uses of greetings and their linguistic and cultural meanings in a range of contexts in gagana Sāmoa, in English, and in the other languages that they know.

Teachers could also set students the task of exploring how people express sympathy in different contexts and text types in gagana Sāmoa.

They could investigate the linguistic and cultural features of these texts, and make comparisons and connections with text types and contexts in English (and in other languages known to students), for example, how would they express sympathy when someone dies, or is hurt? What text types would they use?

Example 4: Showing respect

Ronnie is a year 11 student and a first generation New Zealander from Niue. He gives a formal speech to his peers about his experiences of living in New Zealand.

To open his speech, Ronnie gives a salutation considered culturally appropriate in Niue culture, directly greeting the ancestral deity. He demonstrates the value of "fakalilifu" (respect) with this greeting and the formal language he uses to express it.

Ronnie then gives extended greetings to his audience. The formality of his greeting signals the importance of his speech for his audience. They are to expect depth in his delivery.

Ronnie then introduces himself, giving his name and also where he comes from. By giving this information he shows pride in his heritage and also show respect towards his ancestors.

Ronnie also uses spoken features such as pronunciation, intonation, rhythm patterns, delivery speed, audibility, and stress patterns in particular ways. He also uses body language to assist interaction with his audience.

His audience constructs meaning from what he is saying. They are variously supported or challenged in their views depending on their own personal beliefs.


A speech is a well-defined genre in Niue culture. A speech as a text type illustrates how form and content are interlinked.

The audience of a speech finds meaning in their responses to the content, as well as to the ways the speech is structured. According to their prior experience, the audience will have expectations about how the speech is to be structured, the ways the message will be delivered, and the kinds of content that are appropriate.

This activity illustrates that the meaning of the speech is not in the text of the speech; meaning is created through the interaction between the speech and the audience. A speech is therefore a form of social interaction.

Students could study the kinds of language used in speeches in vagahau Niue, in English, and in te reo Māori (as well as in their own languages and cultures).

  • What similarities and differences do they notice?
  • How could they apply their learning to become better speechmakers in vagahau Niue to different audiences?

By identifying culture as an explorative process they can undertake with learners, teachers can use the knowledge that students themselves bring to the classroom to share in the construction of knowledge.

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Last updated March 26, 2013