Teletandem and Teacher's Beliefs about Culture and Language: Deconstruction or Reinforcement of Stereotypes?

Teletandem and Teacher's Beliefs about Culture and Language: Deconstruction or Reinforcement of Stereotypes?

Ana Cristina Biondo Salomão (São Paulo State University (UNESP), Araraquara, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2019010101

Abstract

The present scenario of globalization and intercultural communication brings about new language learning contexts, such as Teletandem, to connect language teaching from a local and global perspective through telecollaboration. In this article, some results of a qualitative research are presented, focusing on a blended extension course for continuing education of language teachers in the Teletandem Brasil Project. The participants were eight Brazilian teachers who made regular teletandem sessions with Uruguayan and Argentinean teachers of Portuguese as a foreign language through Skype. The data analysis pointed to the need to reflect whether teletandem practice leads to deconstruction or reinforcement of beliefs about language and culture for these teachers. In this way, the results pose a challenge to mediation in Teletandem practice, which ought to address concepts of language and culture from a postmodern perspective as well as practitioners' beliefs in order to allow the interactions to work as a context for reflection and deconstruction of stereotypes.
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1. Introduction

The present scenario of globalization and intercultural communication afforded by digital tools brings significant impact on the way we understand the relationship between language and society. It also generates impacts for language teaching and language teachers aiming at intercultural citizenship (Byram, 2014). However, research has acknowledged that many educational practices in language classrooms and coursebooks still seem to be controlled by an essentialist view of language and culture, characterized by problematic and/or imaginary stereotypes of religious, ethnical, and national cultures (Salomão, 2011a; 2015).

We agree with contemporary scholars in Applied Linguistics, such as Risager (2006), Kumaravadivelu (2008), Kramsch (2009), on the need to think of language teaching from a local and global perspective, which may bring about cultural, discursive and linguistic flows in the language classroom. Thus, we believe it is important for language teachers to understand their own beliefs about language and culture, in order to reflect about how these may affect pedagogical practice, determine alignment with educational trends, and guide decisions. According to Woods (1996), understanding one’s beliefs, assumptions and knowledge regarding language teaching is essential to comprehend what one thinks to be desirable in the learning process.

The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss some results of a research project on teachers’ beliefs conducted from 2009 to 2012 in the context of the Teletandem Brazil Project (http://www.teletandembrasil.org/) (Telles; Vassallo, 2006; Telles, 2009; Benedetti et al., 2010). Teletandem consists of a telecollaboration mode for learning foreign languages by pairing speakers of different languages to work collaboratively, via synchronous communication tools on the Internet, such as Skype. The research data was collected in a blended (classroom/virtual) extension course for continuing teacher education within the Teletandem context.

In this paper, we aim to discuss whether Teletandem practice leads to deconstruction or reinforcement of certain beliefs, assumptions and knowledge about language and culture, and suggest problematization in mediation to help improve the Teletandem context as a medium in which language learning can be reflective and critical. In order to accomplish it, we start by reviewing the literature on beliefs, assumptions and knowledge and discussing tandem/Teletandem principles and pedagogical assistance/mediation. Then, we present our research perspective, context and participants, followed by the analysis of teachers’ beliefs, assumptions and knowledge on ‘foreign cultures’ and ‘native speakers’. Next, we present instances of problematization during the mediation process and conclude by arguing about the importance of such practice in order to help Teletandem participants deconstruct instead of reinforce stereotypes.

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