Pop culture

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It doesn’t really matter what your attitude towards popular culture is, whether you think it is good or bad, assimilationist or political, interesting, destructive or escapist it is out there and each of us is familiar and engage with it to a smaller or greater extent every day. However, there is a distinct group of people that have experienced its pervasive force more than others have. English language learners. Thus, I would like to talk about the role of popular culture in English language learning and teaching. And when I say popular culture I mean literature, television, music, social media, and art.

There are plenty of arguments of why including pop culture into the classroom is a bad idea and that it may possibly result in learners’ immersion with the exclusion of other different cultures. On the other hand, let’s not forget that there have been written thousands of pages on the importance of integrating students own culture and of the others. Thus, given the awareness about both sides of the coin, I still think that popular culture is of paramount importance in the process of language learning.

First of all, the inclusion of popular culture works well with the main principle of teaching and learning the language which is the use of language in the context. And guess what? What else can possibly encourage students to engage in the learning process than discussing their favorite TV shows or any other popular culture manifestation? In addition, all of the learning comes from authentic context-bound resources. For example, using a high fantasy fiction books or movies, news or even comic books will expose students to the everyday language and more importantly, to real-life agenda which in turn will allow them shaping their perspectives and opinions about things. Isn’t that the very aim of communicative approach?

Moreover, based on my personal experience, I can state that the very notion of popular culture extends further and deeper than songs by Britney Spears and binge watching a popular TV-show. As for me, popular culture became a catalyst for my motivation to learn different languages. As American popular culture served as a channel to many other cultures and it inspired me to create different interesting ways to personalize my learning outside the classroom and triggered my curiosity about various notions prevalent within and outside popular culture.

As one of those millions of English language learners, I would say that popular culture has played an immense role not only in the language learning process but may have possibly constituted the notion of universal cultural background and shaped the way I view and perceive the world.  Thus, educators might draw some implications about language teaching if they do a little research on the interests of their students.

7 thoughts on “Pop culture

  1. Hey @deyna13, thank you for your engaging post! I strongly agree that pop culture might become a strong incentive that motivates people to learn a new language, and it can serve as an authentic and entertaining material for teaching foreign languages. However, whether language learners benefit from the inclusion of popular culture into classes largely depends on how it is included or used during the lessons. For instance, I remember becoming disinterested when my French teacher made us watch a sitcom in French as I could not understand anything. That’s why language teachers should select Pop culture materials carefully taking into the account the learners age and language proficiency. And it should be complemented by different activities and tasks so that students will not just return to their home after an hour of watching a film.

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  2. This post is really interesting to me, because it overlaps with the topic of my Thesis. Because I firmly believe that the millenial generation is shaped as well as shaping the media they consume, I believe that the practices of integrating pop culture into education are crucial to development of interest of learners and yet it needs to be up-to date and customized to the context and the participants of the process, not formulaic and textbookish, as they tend to be in most manifestations of use in education.

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  3. I love American TV. I learned my English from American TV. Countless episodes of Star Trek (of different varieties), Seinfeld, Friends, and X-files among others (you can probably guess my age from these examples :)) But would I recommend them as a classroom activity? Probably not — it’s just too time-consuming and not interactive at all. Better do something more communicative in class and leave TV binge-watching for homework.

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    1. Wait, then why in the world do you have a British accent?! You should have taken on a Seinfeld accent! “Linguistic determinism, WHAT is UP with THAT?” 😉

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      1. I remember watching Doctor Who for the first time, and not understanding half of what was said onscreen because I was so used to the American accent in the media I consumed.

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  4. I learned another language from various TV shows and music from scratch. And it is a very engaging way of learning because we learn “real language” through natural dialogues rather than those repeated patterns from language textbooks. Let me confess, I still learn new words from Big Bang theory, and it is fun!

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