The use of context and subject content in foreign language teaching and learning has been an important variable to investigate for language researchers, practitioners and theoreticians. Also, active and reflective participation of language learners in their own learning process has demonstrated an enhancing effect on students' learning and motivation. This paper presents a co-curricular course of learning Russian language and culture by using cooperative task- and interest-based activities in the content area of Russian cuisine in an immersion Russian language summer program of Middlebury College in Vermont.
The objective of this non-graded nine-week course meeting weekly was to enhance students’ learning and knowledge of Russian language and culture while collaboratively learning and practicing how to prepare diverse Russian dishes. The structure of the presentation reflects language content of the course that has specific instructional objectives in relation to the preparation of Russian dishes being studied: consistent introduction of new vocabulary; use of authentic materials (written texts and dialogues in target language); diverse situational, cultural, traditional and historical contexts and recipes; form-focused grammatical, lexical and context-based exercises; and the use of visuals and recordings of thematic songs. The culmination of each lesson was the preparation and testing of a particular dish through the contextualized use of learned material in conversations and dialogues designed toward building a community of learners.
The presentation of the course also includes video recordings of the classes, curricular materials used and students’ evaluations. The paper discusses the theoretical basis for the integration of productive tasks and form-focused instruction within a total immersion language setting. The importance of the use of authentic materials and students’ multiple intelligences will also be addressed.
The paper will be beneficial to teachers of Russian language and culture who want to have a practical and experiential illustration of how to build a course of language and culture or a series of theme-related activities based on the topic of Russian cuisine reinforced with the integration of learners’ task involvement and interests. The presentation will also be helpful to language educators who seek to find creative ways to enhance information processing, motivation, and involvement of learners of Russian and increase students’ interest in university and high school Russian language programs.