Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity in Foreign Language Studies

By Hans Lauge Hansen | Go to book overview

A Social and Cultural View of Language

by Karen Risager


Introduction

A fundamental element in the further development of Foreign Language Studies (the philologies) is a rethinking of the view of language and of the relationship between language and culture (including literature).

In what follows I will present some reflections on this issue, based on my conviction that we need to develop Foreign Language Studies that are characterized by a truly integrative view of language, and by a conceptualization of the relationship between language and culture that clearly transcends the traditional national paradigm. A new foundation is needed for Foreign Language Studies, one that theorizes them as sites of linguistic and cultural encounters in a world that is becoming increasingly globalised1. We need to see language as both a social and a cultural phenomenon.


A social view of language

The teaching and learning of languages have been influenced since the 1970s by the pragmatic turn in linguistics. Today it is unexceptional to assert that language use should be analysed in relation to the context of communication, and that language teaching and learning should focus on the appropriate use of the target language, oral and written, according to the situational and wider social contexts. This communicative approach is often characterized as sociolinguistic as it rests upon a concept of language that foregrounds it as a means of communication in social interaction. However, whilst recognizing the importance of a communicative approach, I want to develop a more dynamic view of language in a global perspective.

1 The following is based on my book The National Dilemma in Language and
Culture Pedagogy. A Study of the Relationship between Language and Culture

(Risager 2003), in Danish, so far.

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