Научная статья на тему 'The teacher, as a cultural mediator between two languages'

The teacher, as a cultural mediator between two languages Текст научной статьи по специальности «Языкознание и литературоведение»

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Ключевые слова
cultural / mediator / intercultural learning / foreign language

Аннотация научной статьи по языкознанию и литературоведению, автор научной работы — Marisa Janku

Objective: presenting an overview of the importance and role of teachers in intercultural learning of foreign languages Methods: generalization, observation, theoretical cognition. Results: The article shows that, the teacher of a foreign language should be a cultural mediator between language A (native language) and language B (foreign language), and not just a transmitter of knowledge. The teacher achieves this through vocational qualifications and experience acquired in a foreign culture. Scientific novelty: The article presents the impact of intercultural elements and their importance in the embezzlement of a foreign language by students. Through intercultural learning, it is aimed to achieve a multidimensional personality development of the student, by placing it in actual intercultural situations. Practical significance: the main provisions and conclusions of the article can be used in scientific and teaching activities in addressing issues of foreign language didactics.

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Текст научной работы на тему «The teacher, as a cultural mediator between two languages»

Austrian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 1-2 (2017) Linguistics

< iAgTWEST > 3 - ISSN 2310-5593 (Print) / ISSN 2519-1209 (Online) -

Linguistics Лингвистика

UDC 81-22 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.20534/AJH-17-1.2-8-13

M. Janku1

1 University of Tirana, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Tirana, Albania.



Objective: presenting an overview of the importance and role of teachers in intercultural learning of foreign languages

Methods: generalization, observation, theoretical cognition.

Results: The article shows that, the teacher of a foreign language should be a cultural mediator between language A (native language) and language B (foreign language), and not just a transmitter of knowledge. The teacher achieves this through vocational qualifications and experience acquired in a foreign culture.

Scientific novelty: The article presents the impact of intercultural elements and their importance in the embezzlement of a foreign language by students. Through intercultural learning, it is aimed to achieve a multidimensional personality development of the student, by placing it in actual intercultural situations.

Practical significance: the main provisions and conclusions of the article can be used in scientific and teaching activities in addressing issues of foreign language didactics.

Keywords: cultural, mediator, intercultural learning, foreign language.


The teacher should be seen not only as the head of the class, but also as a cultural mediator between the two languages. The role of cultural mediators enables pupils and students to be more active in their attitudes and to be socially skilled. From the other part, it enables lifelong learning for them. This is achieved with a very good pedagogical education of the teachers. Intercultural profile, that a foreign language teacher must have, should be exactly that of a teacher who owns professionally intercultural competence. Using the arguments and opinions of several researches, the article will show that the foreing language 1 teacher is a pupil itself. So, the intercultural teacher is seen as an «experience provider» in the process of learning a language, in order to generate more and more intercultural space in class.

1 In this article we mean the German language as a foreign



"The mediator is a courier, is the one that maintains contact with both languages and cultures. He is the one who approaches the student with a language and culture that is different from his one. The mediator is the bridge between the two nations, two languages and two cultures [1, P. 33].

Today's worldwide developments have had their impact to Albanians also, who intend to join the European Union, as well as to ranked alongside many countries with a common cultural history. Albania is experiencing numerous developments, undergoing a series of reforms in all fields, including education also. In this context, teachers today are not seen simply as managers of the class but, much more than that. Here it is a multidimensional process and their role should be the primary, because they are those who prepare and form students as future citizens of this European country.




Austrian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 1-2 (2017)

The question to be raised in this case is: Are foreign language teachers able to fulfill this mission? Do they have the proper education or training to overcome the challenges they face? During this paper we have put forward and noted the importance of foreign languages and communication between different worlds. Professor Dhurata Hoxha from the Department of Romanic Language in Faculty of Foreign Languages, "Luigj Gurakuqi" University in Shkondra city, have quoted in one of her papers, regarding the teachers of foreign language as follow:

"[...]Motivation should be much more than that and go up there that, what can they do to society, for this society that faces every day with problems of intolerance and misunderstanding between different individuals or social groups. For a teacher, learning a language today, it means not only to transmit the cultural and language knowledge, but also to educate the new generations to be open to others, to accept and respect them, preserve and appreciate their cultural identity, helping them to become ambassadors of their culture" [2, P. 23]. From this statement, it is clear that the role of the teacher is seen as a cultural mediator between two languages. At this stage, it is seen a multicultural Europe, which gives importance to cultural diversity and dialogue between cultures [2, P. 24].

The terms «mediation» and «mediator» in this paper, refer to language users, that are described as « simple intermediaries between two or more interlocutors, speaking different languages, which for one reason or another can not be directly understood. This mediation is done through activities such as oral interpretation, translation, compilation or reformulation of texts in the same language, when the original text is incomprehensible to the receiver, and strategies reflect the ways of coping with limited resources to handle information and to find equivalent meaning." [3, P.67]

Thus, it should be implemented numerous innovative practices through various projects in the field of teaching foreign languages, which improve mutual understanding, mobility and exchange of information. What does it mean concretely? The didactics of foreign languages should be treated as a field which is administered daily by people with personal and professional experience. It is also seen as a multilingual space where values are transmitted arising from different linguistic systems. "The meeting point between mediation and didactics of languages is the interaction between social connectivity and education" [4, P. 25].

Going back to specifically on the role of teachers of foreign languages, it must be said that todays teaching

does not mean that teachers impart information only, but much more than that. Today, every teacher should advise their students, as well as any lecturer to guide his students, to strengthen the confidence on their own. Only in this way, they will feel more independent, more responsible and motivated. But how can this be achieved? Exactly, through the relationship they develop with the pupil and the students. Recently, according to new pedagogies, it is paid more and more importance to this relationship. Being a «mediator» in the teaching of foreign languages helps pupils/students to be active in their attitudes or even to socially skilled, that enables the lifelong learning to them [1, P. 33]. To achieve this, teachers should have a very good didactical and pedagogical background, as far as in this way they can provide the components of the mediation process, specifically the material side (book), immaterial side (social form, work in groups, debate), oral and written expression also. The teachers and professors can definitely play the role of cultural mediators, but when it comes to foreign languages, they serve as a bridge of cultural transmission [1, P. 33]. Therefore, intercultural meetings should be encouraged by them, so that pupils or students become part of intercultural learning. The teacher cannot have only the leadership and/or evaluator role in the class but, also must create and enable an environment for the acceptance of the "foreign". In other words, it should be prevailed a friendly atmosphere in the class, away from prejudices about certain actions and attitudes.

We share the opinion that, teachers should have undergone and experienced cultural experiences, because it affects a more favorable process of intercultural dialogue. Knowledge gained during the different experiences can become part of didactic teaching practice. In the case of foreign language teachers, Brojgnot says: [...] as it might be thought that in his case, it's a special interest for at least a foreign culture and that he, more often than in many other areas is a forigner himself, and thus cannot see himself as a subject of study for his students" [5, P. 289].

In the role of cultural mediator between the two languages, the teacher must not only make the elements of culture and civilization, part of the lesson, but also need to adapt them according to age, demand, needs and interests of his students. Additionally, materials and information to be used in class, should be modern, authentic and arouse students' interest. Above all, foreign language teachers should use new technologies in teaching, to be able to create situations and daily real-life scenarios, and

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communication patterns related to the foreign language that the students are learning. In intercultural education process, teachers should be able to recognize intercultural innovations, to understand and to put them into use [6, P. 9]. This cannot be achieved only through teaching method (the book), that obviously has some civilization and intercultural elements. A series of interactive activities can be performed by the teacher through additional materials and the creation of different simulation scenarios. In this regard, Prodani and Gjinali [1, P. 35] propose in their article some activities such as:

- Create situations with different topics, which are directly related to everyday life. Creating the simulations in the «role-play» form, should be focused on difference between foreign cultural forms from personal ones, but also on the similarities between these forms.

- Bring extra materials (various journals, that contain papers and information for students, for which the students can have their own approach). Such items enable a process of discussion, during which arise the differences and commonalities.

- Use video, which can show moments from everyday life of a nation. In function of the goals that the teacher has decided at the beginning of the lesson, he/she can use such sources of information.

Also, pupils and students can be given tasks outside the classroom environment, such as viewing TV and radio shows, conducting interviews, participation in cultural activities etc. Obviously there is a great variety of such methods and techniques, but every teacher is free to choose among them, depending on cultural topics and the learning objectives. What should be noted is that, the teacher cannot be an authentic connoisseur of foreign culture, therefore cannot be pretended that he/she understand it fundamentally. In this case, it is important that the general knowledge must be constantly updated. This can be achieved through continuous training of teachers, within the country and abroad. However, other researchers have their opinion that, the teacher cannot be a cultural "mediator" in the full sense of the this word. The teachers cannot be in any way cultural experts, who need to know everything. Their important role, is to mitigate the cultural differences between the two languages, but the teacher may not necessarily be the person who solves the intercultural problems. We share the

opinion that, for the implementation of intercultural learning of foreign languages, continuous contact with the cultural phenomenons and the personal attitude of teachers in the country of foreign culture, is an essential condition. In this way, teachers can transmit above all, a positive attitude towards other cultures [7, P. 1-19]. Numerous experiences of teachers during their meetings and their contacts with foreign culture, provide them facilities to place themselves in different cultural situations or to give examples from their own experiences. These experiences are a great help for the creation and use of teaching materials, for a more qualitative learning in didactic and methodical aspect. The teacher is a person who plans, advises, organizes and translates. The role that, teacher takes in intercultural learning, is seen as «the complex task of coordination» [8, P. 169]. Today's modern teaching is not focused on the teachers, but on the pupils, who is seen as an important factor in the center of the learning. Viewing the image and positioning of the teacher from this point of view, he performs the task of an observer, mediator, consultant, etc. In this view, the teacher himself is a student who can benefit from the cultural diversity that exists in the classroom, learning himself and expanding intercultural competences also [8, P. 169]. Thus, the teacher becomes part of the learning group, and leave his role as the most important person. On the other hand, the teacher is seen as an "important factor in foreign language learning», playing the role of cultural mediators in the class. The students base their information and knowledge only to the teacher, who is the representative of the culture of the language learned from them. This is an important task of foreign language teachers, but, we cannot say for sure, how aware are they for this role. However, regarding Holthaus, [9, P. 115] a precondition for teachers is their professionalism in terms of intercultural competence. But if we want to know whether they really have acquired intercultural competence, it cannot be verified, since the views cannot be tested empirically with teachers or with students. In addition, the acquisition of intercultural competence is a process that lasts throughout life, so it doesn't end. This means that, the teacher must possess a competence that does not necessarily have to be «professional» as the teacher is a student itself. "It is an "unfamiliar ground for many language teachers". For they are, indeed, language teachers, most of them with an education in the literature of the language (s) they teach, and a training in the discipline of literary criticism and the theory and practice of teaching



Austrian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 1-2 (2017)

linguistic knowledge and skills" [10, P. 1]. It is an unknown situation to many teachers of foreign languages, as they actually are teachers of foreign languages, but often are educated and qualified to teach the subject of literature (in the relevant foreign language), to be literary critics, as well as beingskilled to linguistic theory and practice. There are two controversial views. From one side, the teacher is seen as someone who can help and not control the learning. But on the other hand, it is necessary to ask for the teacher to represent the main point for students. Moreover, Konig says that «intercultural learning occurs not because the representatives of different «cultures» are in the same class. Intercultural learning does not exist "in itself" but, it must be in purpose of the topic of learning» [11, P. 103]. Therefore, both views mentioned can be found in the teaching of foreign languages. Intercultural competence can be gained only through personal experience. So, the culture must be experienced to better know it. Teachers have a major impact on the learning behavior of their students'. The attitudes of teachers and the teacher competence in contact with various forms of the diversity play a central role in reducing differences between student results [12, P. 206]. Obviously, it's a psychological aspect, that every teacher must be aware of, because in most cases it is up to teachers to see what skills have the students and what tasks they can perform and achieve. Add to this, the attitude of teachers towards the concept of culture and intercultural aspects in the classroom. His/her personality also plays an important role. If the teacher allows uncertainties and misunderstandings and treat them to promote intercultural learning, he/she can affect the behavior of students [10, P. 5]. The teacher's professionalism is distinguished even if he/she sees all cultures equally and conveys them in the same way. Equivalence of cultures is an important precondition to develop intercultural competence. None of the two cultures, whether native or foreign should prevail in the classroom. How difficult can it be to simulate situations of intercultural learning in the classroom? For the transmission of intercultural competence it is necessary that the teacher possesses such competence. This competence includes certain dutiesthat, a teacher must accomplish. First of all, it is important that the teacher has the role of a guide or leader in all areas of social life, not only in terms of intercultural competence in foreign language teaching. Teachers have many duties. He/she conveys not only the foreign language, but also the social competence, which will enable students to find them-

selves in other cultures, to act properly, respecting «the other» and to present their views. Such tasks pose a new challenge for both students and teachers, who themselves must first obtain social competence. Teachers should take seriously their duties about intercultural learning. This is a condition for the transmission of intercultural competence among students. How should be the teacher of German language, but also the teacher of any other foreign language at intercultural learning hour? An intercultural profile of German language teacher should have a lot of knowledge and be very established. In the best case, he/she should be educated and trained in this field, professionally capable, because the ability to intercultural dialogue exceeds language skills. Simple teaching concepts are not enough, because as we have already seen, the intercultural personality of the students should be formed. Foreign language teacher, concretely the German language teacher should be a cultural mediator. In the ideal case, nowadays, the teacher must be someone who is more «a provider of experience» in the process of language learning than just a mediator of grammatical progression. Furthermore, he/she should be someone who prescribes not only the contents and teaching methods, but supervises and promotes the process of formation of the student's personality. It will be also important that, students bring their experience, knowledge, skills, behavior, attitudes, and their sensibilities. If we see the didactical and methodical aspect, the learning of a foreign language is an important and necessary condition to expand the boundaries of cultural individuality toward an intercultural personality. Therefore, the language teacher should coordinate interactions in class, focuses mainly in the field of semantics and pragmatics. These processes serve to fully understand the knowledge and specific cultural behavior.Thus, the profile of a German language teacher or any other foreign language, as a «mediator» between two cultures includes the following features:

- Being aware of the prejudices, values and stereotypes

- A broad cultural and intercultural qualification.

- He/she must be part of two cultures, which will be equally transmitted without favoring one of them [13, P. 91].

These are very big challenges for an intercultural profile of a foreign language teacher.These challenges become even bigger when we talk about the working conditions of German and other foreign language teachers in our coun-

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try.In this context, what we need is a qualification and training for teachers of the German language, in order to generate much more intercultural opportunities in class.

The inclusion of intercultural experience in the teaching of foreign languages requires:

- Training and qualification of foreign language teachers,

- Elaboration of teaching curriculums, particularly in relation to their content, so the inclusion of a content suitable for students, as well as the selection of topics in learning methods (books).

- Closer cooperation between social stakeholders, the media and universities. A linguistic and cultural background cannot be solely the responsibility of language centers, but it is the main task that requires the involvement of many stakeholders,

- A clear definition of cultural content, so that students cannot only cope with the situation within the country, but to know how to cope with members of other cultures worldwide [13, P. 93-94].

Regarding the inclusion of intercultural dialogue in teaching foreign languages, specifically the German language, Pfleger [13, P. 93-94] proposes some practical ideas for the lesson hour:

1. The involvement ofthe «third culture» in teaching, not prevailed in this way, none of the cultures A and B (A= native culture and B = foreign culture).In this case the similarities should be emphasized, such as universal cultural models (love, death, family relationships), basic values and norms of everyday coexistence (justice, equality, etc.), instead of continuing cultural differences.

2. Teachers should participate in different intercultural projects together with students.For this, it is important that both parties seek to current existing projects 1.

3. To get in touch with local cultural institutions belonging to the foreign language taught. If we take as an example the German language, such institutions are: Goethe-Institut, DAAD 2. They provide different materials and offer an active support.

1 Such projects can be found at: http://www.lehrer-online.de/links-interkulturelles-lernen.php

2 Ibid.

4. Students should learn together and from each other.

5. Every experience in foreign language learning provides an opportunity to reflect on «the other» and on»the foreign ».Therefore, the respect toward «the foreing» should be in the focus.

6. Different working groups should be set up during the lesson, who do research and work on certain intercultural topics.

7. Teachers should collect their teaching experiences and, with the help of their materials and documentation, should enable the implementation of an intercultural curricula within their institution.

In summary, we emphasize that, it must be clear that the inclusion of the «intercultural» topic is more an enrichment and expansion of duties within foreign language learning.Foreign language teacher as a cultural mediator can encourage and put the students to think about the concept of culture, and above all, help them to focus on the hidden cultural elements.


Today's didactic of foreing languages points out that teachers of a foreign language cannot sipmly be the transmitter of knowledge, but more than that. Ever more, is emphasized the role of teachers as a cultural mediator that, enables pupils and students to be more active in their attitudes and be socially skilled. In order for students to join the «intercultural learning», they should be part of intercultural meetings. In the center of intercultural learning process, the teacher must distinguish cultural innovations, understand and put them into use. The use of new technologies in teaching and creating situations of everyday life, are very important elements regarding the intercultural learning. The teachers of foreign languages cannot be genuine connoisseur of foreign culture, but their knowledge should be constantly updated. The continuous contact with cultural phenomenons and the personal attitude of teachers constitute a fundamental condition for the realization of intercultural learning.


1. Gjinali A., Prodani, A. Foreign language teacher, a bridge between two cultures, Pedagogical Magazine, Institute of Education Development, Tirana. - 2012. - P. 29-40 (in Albanian).

Linguistics " Austrian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 1-2 (2017)

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2. Hoxha Dh. The mission of foreign language teachers as cultural mediators, Proceedings from the National Conference "Challenges and perspectives of foreign language teaching", University of Shkodra "Luigj Gurakuqi", -2008. - P. 23.

3. European Council, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Albania version), - 2006. - P. 67. - Filara.

4. Lévy D., Zarate G. Cultural mediation in foreign language didactics, Proj ect realized in the framework of medium-term programs and activities, (in German), Graz, - 2003. - P. 189.

5. Reich H., Bilingual acquisition at children and adolescents. An overview of the situation of national and international research, Hamburg, - 2000. - P. 289.

6. Reiberg L. Intercultural learning. Didactic instruments for intercultural education, German Federal Agency for Political Education, Bonn, - 1998. - P. 9.

7. Paige R. M. On the nature of intercultural experiences and intercultural education. In R. M. Paige (Ed.) Education for the intercultural experience, Maine: Intercultural Press. Yarmouth, Yarmouth, - 1993. - P. 1-19.

8. Grau M. Intercultural meeting and teacher's perspectives. In: Bredella, L., Christ, H. (ed.), The meaning of „foreign" in theory and practice. Didactics of foreign language, - Tübingen, - 2000. - P. 169.

9. Holthaus M. (ed.) Intercultural learning, education and training: Theoretical and practical teaching suggestions for dealing with differences in the class. Document of primary school in Paterborn, Münster, - 2004. - P. 115.

10. Byram M., Morgan C. Teaching-and-learning language-and culture. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. (Multilingual matters, 100), - 1994. - P. 1.

11. Königs F. G. About concept of intercultural education. In: Bausch K. R., Christ H., &Krumm H-J (ed.): Intercultural learning in foreign language teaching: Proccedings of the 14th Conference for research on teaching foreign languages, Tübingen, - 1994. - P. 103.

12. Auernheimer G. Intercultural competence and pedagogical professionalism. - Vol. 13, Opladen, - 2002. - P. 206.

13. Pfleger S. The role of the teacher in intercultural teaching. The case of German language in Mexico. In: Katharina H., Pfleger S., Karin P-S and Sabina S. (ed.) Transformation. Didactics of German language in Latin America. Impuls and research in classes. - Vol. 4, Tübingen. - 2014.

Information about the authors

Marisa Janku, PhD student, MA, Lecturer at Department of German Language, Faculty of Foreign Languages at

University of Tirana, Albania, Chairmen of "German Language Teacher Association" in Albania.

Address: Faculty of Foreign Languages, Rruga e Elbasanit, Tirane, tel: 003555/42452610

E-mail: jankumarisa@outlook.com

ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1385-7110

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