Critical Reflections of Cultural Knowledges in French Bridging Courses

Robin Turner, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm (Room 232)



Kramsch (2014) highlights that post-secondary language programs build courses to meet expectations of the 21st century language learners and the demand for multilingualism in a globalizing community. In post-secondary French programs, learners complete basic language courses then may continue to bridging courses solidify language skills in preparation for upper-level content-centered courses. Often, bridging courses include a comprehensive review of French grammar, centering skills like speaking and writing. Using analyses of curricula of bridging courses in French language programs at three U.S. R1 universities, this presentation aims to initiate a conversation about the critical necessity of incorporating not only Francophone cultural elements in bridging courses, but also the cultural experiences and knowledges of advanced French learners.

Sociocultural theories of SLA argue that learning is a social process in which participants use cultural tools that facilitate a dynamic learning environment (Toohey & Norton, 2010). Along with poststructuralist approaches, sociocultural scholarship also emphasizes the positionality of the language learner as they relate to their environment. Contexts that affect their vision of life – social, economic, political, etc. – also affect their expectations about how foreign languages benefit their life (Norton & McKinney, 2011). Individual subjectivities regarding environmental and social conditions determine the extent to which learners invest themselves in the language learning process (Kramsch, 2009).

As encouraged by the ACTFL World Readiness Standards (2012), culturally informed competencies are critical to success in learning world languages. In addition to engaging with Francophone cultures, French learners in bridging courses must also be encouraged to contribute their individual cultural knowledge and expectations to their French learning experience. Drawing on sociocultural and poststructuralist theories of SLA, this presentation will further argue that cultural competencies developed in bridging courses necessitates learners’ critical reflection of the role of French in their own multilingual cultural experiences.