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The University of Southampton

LANG2005 Learning about Culture: Introduction to Ethnography

Module Overview

This course will enable you to use ethnographic methods to enhance your understanding of the cultural practises and behaviours you will encounter in contexts in which the languages you are studying are used.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• draw on your experiences and skills as language learners; • provide you with theoretical frameworks, methodologies, and analytical tools for observing and interpreting cultural practices both in familiar environments and in ‘foreign’ settings such as those you will encounter during your year abroad; • enhance your cultural sensitivity and help you to acquire a better understanding of your own and others' cultural worlds; • prepare you for the cultural challenge of your year abroad.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • "key concepts as used by social anthropologists in areas such as: family and gender relations roles and relationships identity and boundaries rituals and symbolic meanings power and language."
  • "important ideas central to social anthropology such as: the social construction of perceived reality the social nature of apparent individualism the cultural construction of beliefs, attitudes, actions. the patterns and regularities under the surface of life "
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • respond in an informed way to questions of cultural difference;
  • reflect on the links between language learning cultural learning;
  • realise own role as a reflexive cultural learner;
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and solve problems
  • present a coherent argument
  • use appropriate evidence as necessary.
  • cope with unfamiliar circumstances
  • take controlled risks
  • overcome hesitation and shyness
  • communicate effectively with others
  • identify an area of interest
  • pose interesting and innovative questions
  • evaluate a project proposal
  • interrogate your data
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • "use ethnographic methods: to collect data required for your assignments to carry out ethnographic interviews in your own and the foreign language to record interviews and transcribe them to act as participant observers to take notes of field observations to keep a field diary. "
  • "analyse the data for your projects: to index the data collected to evaluate evidence to apply anthropological concepts in order to interpret the data to verify your interpretations through comparison with other evidence. "


The course will introduce you to anthropological concepts, e.g. what is meant by cultural knowledge, values and beliefs, the way these are expressed through language, and how cultural knowledge relates to behaviour and social structures. The course will also introduce you to ethnographic methods, i.e. ways of observing and understanding one's own and other cultural practices from an insider's point of view. As a result, the course should help you to make the most of your year abroad in terms of understanding the people around you, their cultural practices, including their beliefs and values and your own response to them and the social world which they inhabit.

Special Features

The module is designed as a preparation for the Year Abroad in that it offers a systematic approach to cultural and intercultural learning, and prepares methods tools that will help students to conduct an ethnographic project. It culminates in a ‘home ethnography’ which entails doing fieldwork in a local context.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • one lecture and one seminar (in workshop format) per week Learning activities include • pair- and group-work • preparing and delivering individual presentations • devising a project and conducting fieldwork Innovative or special features of this unit • doing fieldwork in a local context as preparation for doing fieldwork in an unfamiliar context during the year abroad

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Spradley, J. & McCurdy, D. (2000). Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. 

Hammersley, M. & Atkinson, P. (1995). Ethnography: Principles in Practice. 

Roberts, C., Byram, M., Barro, A., Jordan, S., & Street, B (2001). Language Learners as Ethnographers. 

Fetterman, D. (1989). Ethnography Step by Step. 

O’Reilly, K. (2005). Ethnographic Methods. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-unit feedback  weekly practical assignments gone over in class  tutorial advice on formulating and planning project  guidance on writing up projects and preparing oral presentations The combination of reading and discussion on the one hand and planning and conducting empirical tasks on the other will give you insights into the relationship between theory and practice in ethnography and the opportunity to develop a critical approach by ‘doing’ some ethnography for yourself. Similarly, assessment through a combination of book review (familiarising yourself with a written ethnography) and an ethnographic project (delivered in the form of a written account and an oral presentation) will reinforce the aims of developing theoretical understanding, research skills, and presentational skills (both written and oral).




MethodPercentage contribution
Book review  (1000 words) 30%
Project  (3500 words) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Book review  (1000 words) 30%
Written report  (3500 words) 70%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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