We currently have 145 articles in the Teacher's Handbook See the Full list

How Should I Introduce Target Language Culture in The Classroom?

Dusty Fox

Culture is an incredibly important part of language instruction. After all, language is about a lot more than speech or writing skills. Language is the entryway into understanding and communicating with a whole new group of people. Whether your students are learning a foreign language for fun, for school, or for business, they’ll ultimately use it as a tool to be able to interact with others.

Teachers have many opportunities to introduce target language culture in the classroom. The key to success is keeping your students actively engaged in the process. Here are just three suggestions to get you thinking about the ways you can help your students understand and appreciate other countries and cultures.

1) Share popular media that shows commonalities between the target language culture and our own.

For example, if you are working with high school students, they will be intrigued to learn that their favorite TV show is also popular in foreign countries. Search for an episode of a popular show online and show it to the class. Challenge them to identify key words in the dialogue and talk about the way they are used.

If possible, try to get a few popular magazines that are printed in the target language to share with your students. If they are old enough, create an assignment that asks them to compare the American and foreign versions of the magazine. In the assignment, ask them key questions that draw attention to cultural differences. How do the ads compare to one another? Do the men and women in the target language edition dress the same as they do locally? What is the tone of the content like in comparison to the American version of the magazine? This can be an eye-opening exercise for students.

2) Use your own experience and belongings to tell a story about culture.

If you have been to a foreign country where the target language is spoken, you have firsthand experience seeing, feeling, and even tasting the culture. Create a lesson plan based on your own experience, mementos, and memories. If you can, prepare a typical dish from that country. Bring souvenirs to the classroom and talk about what they represent in the culture. Show pictures of the amazing things you saw and tell the students how it felt to experience the target language culture in person.


You can turn this lesson into a more interactive experience by inviting students to get involved. Ask them to choose an item you’ve brought and invent an explanation or history for the item. Once they’ve made their attempt, tell them the item’s actual name. Assign them the task of researching the object for the next class and giving a brief overview about the actual significance of the object. Students will feel challenged to find out about the “mystery object,” and you will be setting them up to feel a sense of accomplishment at the following lesson.

3) Give individual Assignments That Paint a Larger Picture of What The Target Language Culture is Like.

Attempting to introduce culture as a concept within just one lesson can be overwhelming for students and teachers. By breaking it up into smaller categories, information becomes more interesting and students have a better chance of absorbing key points.

If you are teaching a larger class with many students, consider breaking the group up into smaller teams of two or three students each. Give each of those teams the task of researching a particular component of the culture. One team can be responsible for finding out about a relevant country’s food, and another is responsible for finding out about music in the same country. Assign a leader to each team and ask them to create a presentation. Have them run the presentation by you in advance so that you can offer feedback and provide guidance to ensure what they show the class is both culturally sensitive and factually representative of what the culture is actually like.

“Language is culture in motion. It is people interacting with people”

If you are planning culture introduction for an individual or very small group, identify a single component of the culture for each session. Ask the student(s) to research three facts about the topic and bring that information to the appropriate session. Invite each student to share the information first, and then contribute your own personal knowledge on the topic. Compile each lesson’s topic and key points to create an overall “Cultural Guide” for students to keep.

If you have any other helpful ideas about introducing target language culture in the classroom please submit them below!

About the author

Dusty is a full-time freelance writer and world traveler who loves especially loves Latin American culture and food. She sometimes calls a different city home every day of the week and can't imagine living life any other way.