Participants and Bios

Participants and details

Border Crossings: Reaching out to the (Multicultural) Community

Before joining the department in 1991, Beth Bauer served as Assistant Professor and Language Coordinator for nine years at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. At Brown, she has continued her involvement in the language curriculum by supervising and coordinating several Spanish courses, as well as teaching Latin American and Peninsular literature courses for undergraduates and graduates.

Community-based foreign language education breaks down boundaries between the classroom and the world outside and encourages students "to engage multicultural communities at home" (ACTFL Standards). Ideally, the more language learning is rooted in the community, the more students will use language to convey, understand, and negotiate meaning outside the classroom, across cultures, and with increasing sensitivity to language as both cultural heritage and social practice. Using examples from a community-focused Spanish course on Latinos in the United States this presentation will consider strategies for maximizing the dialogue between the language classroom and the communities outside our doors, emphasizing the pedagogical opportunities present in local resources, student initiatives, and communication technologies.

Writing Culture in an Online 1st Year Textbook

Lynne deBenedette (Brown University) is co-author with William J. Comer and Alla Smyslova of Между нами (Between You and Me): An Interactive Introduction to Russian. At Brown she coordinates the Russian language program.

William J. Comer chairs the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Kansas. His research has focused on input processing and processing instruction in Russian and on reading pedagogy for Russian. 

Alla A. Smyslova is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Columbia University. She teaches Russian and supervises graduate instructors in the language, and has published on the acquisition of Russian by heritage speakers of Russian.

It is common for FL textbook publishers to describe their products as offering "rich cultural content." While many introductory textbooks provide considerable cultural information, the forms in which that information is presented vary tremendously. "Cultural content" can run the gamut from English-language "culture bubbles" and captioned photos to information about the target culture’s attitudes and behaviors built in to the language input itself.

The presentation unpacks the processes of selecting cultural information to include and the means to present that cultural content. Furthermore, the presenters will discuss how to build activities that make the students interact with and learn cultural information while simultaneously learning and practicing other aspects of the language (e.g. vocabulary, morphology). The presenters take an inclusive (and opportunistic) approach to all three processes. While the samples will be drawn from in an online textbook for introductory Russian, the discussion is applicable to all languages.

The culture of everyday life: The Tramway and Velib’ Urban project

Success, challenges, outcomes. Lessons learned from Cultura.

Sabine Levet is Senior Lecturer in French in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at MIT, and has taught all levels of language and culture classes. She has written chapters in books and articles about the development of tools for intercultural understanding  and has given many talks and workshops on technology and pedagogy, the integration of technology into the foreign language curriculum, and the teaching and learning of culture. She is one of the creators and developers of Cultura qith G. Furstenberg and S . waryn

The first presentation will discuss the project "Tramway and Vélib: Changing Urban Space in Paris". Its initial purpose was to to bring students to think about a real life problem (traffic congestion, noise, and air pollution in Paris) and see what solutions had been found. I will present how this project was developed and reflect on the process, in particular what type of documents I collected, how I organized them, and how they are used in a language and culture class.

The second  presentation will share lessons learned from Cultura, a model for intercultural learning highly adaptable to different contexts. It will present its key components and discuss how it has evolved: It will discuss the different tools that have been integrated into the exchanges over the years, the different types of documents which have been added, and different ways of working with partners. Http://

“Conversations on Culture”: Learning Language through Cultural Comparisons

Dr. Despina Margomenou, Lecturer III, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Modern Greek Program

Dr. Anna Maria Hadjitheodorou, Senior Lecturer, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Center for Foreign Language Teaching

“Conversations on Culture” is multidimensional, task based, peer teaching via videoconferencing currently aimed at students at the intermediate level of Modern Greek at the University of Michigan who are paired with students learning English at the University of Thessaloniki. This ongoing collaborative project between the University of Michigan, Modern Greek Program and the University of Thessaloniki, Center for Foreign Language Teaching started in the winter term of 2012. It is modeled after “the 5Cs” (communications, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities) suggested by the Foreign Language Learning Standards for the 21st Century. Interactions among students are primarily face-to-face oral (via Skype), but students also share written tasks as they prepare their Skype sessions. During the interactive face-to-face sessions, students from the US and students from Greece are asked to explore cultural topics in comparative ways using both their native language (as instructors/culture specialists) and the foreign language they are learning (as investigators/interviewers). 

Of Rats and Worms: Promoting Cultural Understanding though Translation

Stéphanie Ravillon graduated from the University of Burgundy, France, with a Ph.D in English in 2002. She has taught in the Department of French Studies at Brown since 2003. Her courses have ranged from beginners’ to more advanced classes in language, culture, and translation. Her current interests include: contemporary French language, culture and society; second language acquisition; teaching with technology and teacher training; and translation and translation studies. 

Language teaching is bound to contain references to culture: from novels to songs, movies and current affairs, cultural items continuously manifest themselves in the classroom. We generally consider the teaching of cultural skills as part of language instruction and raising both cultural and linguistic awareness has become one of our goals. Because it is described as a shift, not just between two languages but also between two cultures, translation is a useful way of developing cultural sensitivity and awareness. The aim of this presentation is to reevaluate the use of translation in language classes at the advanced level and to provide examples of activities, both traditional and technology-based, that use translation to develop translingual abilities and to promote cultural understanding.

Teaching Culture through Blogs

Jane Sokolosky, Senior Lecturer in German Studies, Brown University. Visiting Assistant Professor of German, Middlebury College (1997-98); Ph.D. in German Languages and Literature, Washington University in St. Louis (1997). Research Interests: Language pedagogy; Computer-mediated language instruction; language learning and technology

This presentation demonstrates ways to use technology to incorporate culture and foster intercultural competence in the language classroom.  Having students maintain a blog makes them active participants in their learning about the target culture. They become researchers and presenters; they learn and they inform.  Blogs are easily integrated into an existing curriculum based on films, research projects and literary short stories. In this presentation, blog projects will be presented in the order they are used in the classroom, an order which facilitates easy access to the technology, moves on to more interactive use of blogs and culminates with ideas for several collaborative culture projects using blogs. makes them active participants in their learning about the target culture. become researchers and presenters; they learn and they inform.  Blogs are easily integrated into an existing curriculum based on films, research projects and literary short stories. In this presentation, blog projects will be presented in the order they are used in the classroom, an order which facilitates easy access to the technology, moves on to more interactive use of blogs and culminates with ideas for several collaborative culture projects using blogs.

CULTURA 2.0: The road ahead

Shoggy, T. Waryn, Senior Lecturer in French studies. Ph.D. University of Iowa 1996). Interests and research: French language and French film; media history and technology; cross-cultural studies; on-line pedagogy and teaching. Curator of the Providence French Film Festival and the French film collection at Brown. Co-creator of Cultura with G. Furstenberg and S. Levet

Cultura  2.0 Fifteen years since the initial release of Cultura, the Internet has changed dramatically. Social media tools have emerged enabling people to interact with content and each other in new and novel ways. Inspired by the ethos of open source, these tools are now far more integrated, providing an interconnected ecosystem of free tools and services. And the way people interact with the Internet has changed, as mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets offer “anytime, anywhere” access.

The goal of Cultura Version 2 (“CV2”) is to redesign the existing Cultura platform to harness the benefits of these advances in digital technology. CV2 kicked off in May 2013. In the first phase of the project, we migrated the former Cultura website. In the second phase we will create a new front-end UX design that will make the site easier to use for both students and instructors. It will have a more contemporary look and feel and a dynamic layout to optimize usage on smartphones and tablets (support to include iOS, Android, Windows 8). We will integrate open source tools that are appropriate for the activities of Cultura to simplify how students and instructors interact with the site and expand the types of content they may access. The strategy of greater integration with also impact the back-end services of CV2, so that it can talk to institutions’ CMS platforms, allowing for open exchange of data for single sign-on and better grading and tracking of student performance. Finally, we will incorporate a more robust means of tagging content, so that instructors and researcher are able to search and find archived exchanges.

Cultura Version 2 is tentatively scheduled for full release in the Summer of 2014.

From knives and forks to digital tools: teaching French language/culture through gastronomy

Annie Wiart  has been teaching French language and culture at Brown since 1971. A firm believer in Study Abroad, she strives to enable all students who wish to study abroad. She has been very active in curriculum, course, and web-site design in the department. Her latest contribution to the French Studies curriculum has been "A table !", an advanced language course based on gastronomy.

Since the 70's, we have known that language IS culture and that as language teachers, we're also teaching culture.  The question this conference poses is: what has the digital age brought to the proposition?  But wait!  First, what has the digital age NOT brought?  Hence the knife and fork part of the title of this talk.  Knives and forks are still relevant and should not be neglected because this is the digital age.  This talk will present a course, "A Table!", offering practice in the 5 traditional skills, in which students cook and eat but also learn about the history, the tradition and current evolutions and practices in the French culinary world.  Films, blogs, videos, google docs are all used both for receptive and productive skill practice.  Collaborative work is also an essential part of the semester's work: preparing meals, cheese and wine tastings, as well as a competition for the best "œuf dur mayonnaise."