Language teaching courses for prospective tour guides often focus exclusively on the linguistic medium of communication, coupled with a basic awareness of history and geography. This paper argues that language courses in tourism institutes should not separate the teaching of a language from wider political and cultural spheres. Similarly, during their daily encounters with visitors, tour guides should not present an unrealistic, idyllic image of a particular place, avoiding questions of a more political or socio-cultural nature. Taking French language teaching at the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS), Malta, as a practical example, this paper studies how the teaching and learning of the French language can become more critically aware of the politics of culture. How can a language curriculum in a tourism institute remain loyal to its dominant role of imparting different language skills to students and simultaneously avoid a false distinction between the linguistic medium and its cultural or political environment? Using Freirean critical pedagogy and Pennycook’s politicisation of language as theoretical frames of reference and action research to outline a ‘problem’ in foreign language education, this research proposes ways of coming to terms with this issue. Making use of a number of interviews with Maltese tour guides and tour guiding students, the study evaluates perspectives, issues and solutions and proposes curricular developments that can transform the teaching of foreign languages in tourism institutes like ITS. By proposing more creative tours that consider a broader range of disciplines and firmer emphasis on a visitors’ needs analysis, this research presents a more holistic tour guiding experience that engages with the realities of various communities, cultural scenarios and other social groupings and challenges.





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