The intercultural role of literature in foreign language teaching: A comparative study (Portugal and Japan)

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The overall aims of this paper are first to argue that literary works should have an expanded role in foreign language education, and then to explore how the beliefs and practices of secondary teachers of English in Portugal and Japan orient toward literary works. Their voices are analyzed in relation to the authors’ contention that literary works can be especially facilitative in the important endeavor of nurturing students’ critical cultural awareness and interculturality. To support their arguments, the authors first provide some brief background to substantiate their views that (1) intercultural competence should be a high-priority goal of education; (2) critical cultural awareness is an important component of intercultural competence; and (3) foreign language education has a special role in reaching this goal. They then elaborate in more depth their conviction that literary works represent an especially valuable pedagogical tool for pursuing this goal. To discern the degree of correspondence between the authors’ views and those of actual secondary school teachers of English in Portugal and Japan, interviews were conducted with 12 teachers in Portugal and two in Japan. The interviews were part of a broader study, but the data presented and analyzed in this paper were responses to the eleventh interview question “Do you see a role for literature in developing critical cultural awareness?”   The most general conclusion was that although most of the teachers interviewed recognized literary texts as a valid and important means to teach foreign language and culture, more visible links between literary texts and interculturality should be promoted. The challenge for educators is to get student readers to explore texts actively and critically, and then use them as a base to discuss cultural, ethical, and political issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-74
Journal言語と文化 - Kotoba to Bunka
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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