Time and Place: Tuesday 8: 00-9: 40, Room 109

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Time and Place: Tuesday 8:00-9:40, Room 109

Instructor: Erika Mikó

Email: erika.miko.29@gmail.com

Office: Main Building, Room 116/1.

Office hours: Monday 12:00-13:00, Tuesday 12:00-13:00 and by appointment

Description of the course

This seminar course is designed to improve first-year students’ language skills through acquainting them with some of the core topics of American civilization, including geography and regionalism, government, basic political concepts, politics and the Constitution, society, national holidays, and everyday life. Special emphasis will also be put on certain aspects of American English. Students will be graded on the strength of their class performance, an individual short lecture, short written assignments (i.e. response papers) and in-class tests (short tests and an end-term test).


Class attendance and participation in the discussion of the topics at hand are essential and considered an important part of the final grade. In addition, each student will give a max. 10-minute presentation during the semester on a pre-approved topic, prepared on the basis of the instructions discussed during the first class. There will be short tests (announced in advance) and an end-term paper. Students will have to hand in some written assignments of about 1,000-1,200 words altogether) during the semester. The details of the specific assignments will be discussed during orientation.


Each student is required to choose a presentation topic from the issues indicated under the weekly discussion topics, or recommended either by the instructor or the students. Presentations should be about maximum 10 minutes in length and should be interactive (with thought-provoking questions to the class or various activities) to generate discussion. Audio-visual aids, PPT presentations, etc. are more than welcome to support your talk.

A typed handout strictly not longer than one page should be handed in to the instructor ONE WEEK before the due date of the presentation for overview. Only handouts approved by the instructor can be presented. The handout should be only a guideline to the presentation and not a word-by-word transcript. You must not read out your presentation! The content of your talk, your performance and presentation skills as well as your pronunciation will be evaluated. If someone does not show up when his/her presentation is due and does not notify the instructor in advance, he/she will lose all the credit points on the assignment.
Short Quizzes

Students will write FOUR short tests or quizzes on (1) the US map and the Facts and Figures handout, (2) the Election Glossary, (3) society, and (4) legal vocabulary, etc. If necessary, students will write random vocabulary and comprehension tests on each occasion based on the week-by-week assigned readings.

Written Assignments

Response Paper

Students will be required to write ONE response paper based on or inspired by an American magazine or newspaper article of the students’ choice (e.g. The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, etc.). This may include articles related to topics and issues discussed in class. This paper should not be a simple summary of the reading or the problem at hand but should include reflections of the student on the particular topic. The originality as well as the composition features/language of the papers will be evaluated. Plagiarized papers are unacceptable. Plagiarism will automatically result in ‘fail.’

The response paper is to be typed (double-space, Times New Roman 12) and should be of about 800 words. Please do not forget to enclose the article to your paper!

Students are required to prepare a brief report or interview (400 words) with some of their Hungarian and/or non-Hungarian peers, family members, friends, etc. to pursue information about these people’s views and opinions about the United States. The questions may address a wide variety of issues and debated topics of American life and culture. Reports are due on Week 19 (April 14).

End-term Test

The end-term exam will be a comprehensive test on the material discussed during the semester and it will also include short essay questions. There is no excuse for absences on this occasion. Please note that there is NO re-sit for the end-term test (except for illness or other justified serious emergencies).


The final grade will be calculated from the grades assigned on class participation (20%), presentation (10%), short quizzes (20%), written assignments (15%) and the end-term paper (35%). More than three absences will result in a “not fulfilled” grade. Grades will be assigned according to the following conversion formulae: 0-60% = fail; 61-70% = satisfactory; 71-80% = average; 81-90% = good; 91-100% = excellent.

Further Rules

It is an essential part of the course requirements to attend all class meetings. If you must miss a class because of illness or emergency, please let me know, and make arrangements to complete any work missed.

Students may not miss more than three classes under any circumstances. If you do not turn up on occasions when course assignments (presentation, quizzes) are due and you fail to notify the tutor you will lose all the credit points on the particular assignment.

There is no excuse not to come to class when the quizzes and the end-term are due.

Academic dishonesty or Plagiarism (failure to acknowledge and note the use of another writer’s words and ideas) is both unethical and illegal and will result in a failure of the course.
Tardiness and early departures are not allowable. They are offensive to your fellow students and to the instructor because they disrupt class work. If you have a compelling reason for arriving late or leaving early, talk to your instructor about the problem. If you regularly cut the beginning and/or the end of class sessions, it can add up to unexcused full-class-time absences.
Classroom etiquette

During the class please DO refrain from using your electronic devices including tabs, mobile phones, etc. Please, DO NOT receive phone calls and text messages during the class!!! It is disturbing and impolite in the first degree!!!!


The basic textbooks for the course are Maryanne Datesman, JoAnn Crandall and Edward M. Kearny, American Ways. An Introduction to American Culture (New York: Longman, 2005) and Pintér Károly, Szántó Ildikó, Jancsó Daniella, Suba Ferenc and Surányi Emőke, Cultural Relations. Brit, ausztrál, Amerikai és kanadai országismereti nyelvkönyv (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2001). The relevant sections of textbook are scanned and available electronically in the IEAS Library.

NB: Students are kindly required to make their own copy of the material and have all the texts PRINTED OUT so that they could be at hand and available for classroom purposes. The readings are available at the IEAS Library (ask our librarian Eszter Patócs for help), or will be distributed by the instructor.
Additional materials will also be distributed in class or made available digitally at the instructor’s institute homepage. Students are also encouraged to check other sources available at the Institute Library and on the internet, especially in connection with their presentation topics.

Week 1 (February 16) Orientation and introduction to the course, sign-up for presentation topics

Week 2 (February 23) The American Context (icons and symbols of the country, the national anthem, the flag, the great seal of the USA, etc.)

Readings: Facts & Figures on the flag, anthem, capitol, mottoes available at the instructor’s homepage

Presentation topics: the story of the US flag, national and state symbols, cultural icons

Week 3 (March 1) The Country of Extremes (American geography, cultural regions, the concept of the frontier, national parks)

Readings: Cultural Relations: pp. 138, 140-141, 143-145; the US map, Facts and Figures on population & geography trivia

Presentation topics: the national parks in the US, cultural regions in the USA: New England, the South, the West, etc.

Week 4 (March 8) Governing the Country (political institutions, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the federal government, the system of checks and balances and the separation of powers)

Readings: Cultural Relations: pp. 153-154, 159-161; American Ways: pp. 142-143.

Presentation topics: the Bill of Rights, the American presidency, states’ rights vs. federalism

QUIZ on the Facts and Figures and blind map

Week 5 (March 15) Public Holiday

Week 6 (March 22) “Road to the White House” (presidential and midterm elections, the stages of presidential elections: announcement, primaries, national convention, TV debates and campaigns, election day, electoral college, inauguration)

Readings: American Ways: 144-145; Election Glossary

Presentation topics: US presidential elections 2016 in the spotlight, the elephants vs. the donkeys: American political parties

Week 7: CONSULTATION WEEK (March 28-April 1)

Week 8 (April 5) The Nation of Immigrants (immigration to the US, the nation of immigrants, from the melting pot to the ‘boiling pot,’ three groups in close-up: Hungarians, Chinese and Hispanics)

Readings: American Ways: pp. 166-173

Presentation topics: the Statue of Liberty, Hungarian immigrants

QUIZ on government and the Election Glossary

Week 9 (April 12) The Minority Question in American Society (women; racial and ethnic minorities: Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans; discrimination and civil rights)

Readings: American Ways: pp. 166-173

Presentation topics: Native Americans in US culture: past and present, the Afro-American Civil Rights movement

Week 10 (April 19) American Values and Beliefs (freedom, individualism, volunteerism, patriotism and the American Dream)

Readings: American Ways: pp. 28-34

Presentation topics: patriotism in popular culture, the typical??? American, the myth of the American Dream

QUIZ on Society

Week 11 (April 26) “In God We Trust:” Religions in the US (Puritanism, religious plurality, American churches, the freedom of religion)

Readings: American Ways: pp. 52-59

Presentation topics: the Mormons, the Amish, the Christian Scientists, the Quakers; religion and material culture

Week 12 (May 3) From Ambulance-Chasers to Celebrity Lawyers: The American Legal System (the sources of US law, the system of federal and state courts, crime and punishment, death penalty, law enforcement)

Readings: American Ways: pp. 163-169

Presentation topics: frivolous lawsuits in America, the twelve angry men, the role of the Supreme


Week 13 (May 10) Everyday Life in the US (education: public and private, higher education; scholarships, standardized tests; the freedom of the press, media, newspapers and magazines, radio, television, popular culture, sports: the big 4; technology and American culture; automobile nation; aviation; holidays)
Readings: American Ways: pp. 191-201, 216-225

Presentation topics: Hollywood, sports, holidays, car culture, American education

QUIZ on legal vocabulary


Week 14 (May 17) End-term Exam

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