This week we started off with Intercultural Factors in Teaching Content and Development at the University of Seville. In relation to this subject, every weekend I will write about our experiences and the new didactical as well as linguistic and intercultural insights we’ll come across. In this preliminary entry, I take advantage of the opportunity to describe of what kind of nationalities our group of students is composed.
Our teacher, Juan Pablo Mora Gutiérrez, has put a lot of effort into creating a group of students of many different cultures. First of all, there are the Spanish students, who are all studying the master in Teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language. In that same master are also a few foreigners involved: a Mexican, whose mother tongue is also Spanish, a Polish, a Chinese, and me, a Dutchman. In addition to all this intercultural variety within the Master career, there is also one student from Ghana who studies at Ohio University, a Japanese student and eight students from the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. Although these eight students from China have the same nationality, the fact that they are from different Chinese regions makes them to some extent culturally different as well. To which extent exactly is something we will see during the course.
The course started off with presentations of our intercultural selves, based on a painting we had to make during class. I myself had painted of a green land on which stood a windmill that looked more like a palm tree, surrounded by the sea. The sea has always played and still plays a big part in the Netherlands and one could say that the sea has not only formed our country, but our culture as well. The green and blue colours did flow into the red and yellow of the Spanish flag, on which was painted the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona: the first place I ever went in Spain. On the other end of the painting, there was a small green island with a geyser, which obviously represented the country where I am about to go to for a half-year internship in September: Iceland.
For this first class we had to take a song with us that had influenced or formed our intercultural selves. My classmates had taken all sorts of songs with them, from a Cantonese opera to a sung poem. I, myself, first looked for Dutch-Spanish song, then I wanted to go for a French-Dutch song (since French was the language I learnt and fell in love with before Spanish), but in the end, I chose to go for something completely different and something that was as multilingual, and for that matter, intercultural as could be: a version of a Beauty and Beast’s song in six languages: Dutch, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian and English.
I saw this performance when I was sixteen years old and I can still love every second of it. Partly because I just love theatre and musicals (although curiously I have never seen Beauty and the Beast), but more particularly because I love the way in which Disney as a common childhood memory can unify many people from all over the world, no matter their cultural background. I think that the many languages that are sung in this performance symbolizes really well how different languages and cultures can come together. At the same time, it shows that languages that are closer to each other, might blend in better than those that are not and the same goes, one could argue, for cultures. Another fact that I liked about this performance is that in the end all sing together in English and that the Dutch “beauty”, Chantal Janzen, takes the English solo in the end, which in my opinion symbolizes the importance that English has in Dutch daily life.
For the next coming weeks we will analyse several cultures in particular. Together with one Spaniard and two Chinese girls, I have formed a group that will analyse Dutch and Icelandic culture in constrast with Spanish and Chinese culture.