Teaching Culture

Culture in the classroom.. is this something that the students need or want? This argument can very much go both ways and much of it relies on what exactly your students want, but one model for the classroom isn’t likely to please everyone… as you’re not doubt aware. On the one hand we have the ongoing debates of English as an International Language (EIL) and English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) being strictly language as a tool – devoid of culture… I’ll come back to this later. The other hand has the Native English Speaker (NES) as the teacher, and he relies greatly on emploring his students with his culture… Whether this is American, British, Australian, etc. depends on the NES’s origins of course. Typically, students enjoy learning about their teacher’s homeland and culture, and just how things are abroad in general because it seems to give them a sense of adventure. But will this serve them well in the future? Yes… if they are communicating with other speakers from those countries. Which brings me back to EIL/ELF devoid of culture. The idea is to implement a tool that can serve it’s users well in an international setting. This tool requires no need for cultural norms and understandings of the NES’s realm… but, the question remains, is culture integral to successful communication? I believe so… as behaving in a culturally acceptable way is above all else in many settings and can make or break a deal, so to speak. However, if our students are communicating in a tool that is devoid of culture and they basically just transfers their L1 norms across to the English tool, well… imagine the chaos. So, there is the question; which culture are they to acquire and how are they to acquire it? Perhaps the answer lies in cultural lectures in the classroom… not cultural lectures as the NES typically provides of their homeland, but cultural lectures in the worldly sense; a general liberal arts sense. If we have an ESP class that has the goal of communicating across North-East Asia in the medium of English, then we should perhaps attempt to provide cultural awareness and sensitivity to these respective cultures so our students are better equipped. Although, we have a conflict that may arise with this; the NES interpretation of the culture they are teaching and the reality of the culture may be on totally different planes. Again.. imagine the chaos. At the end of the day, where are we going with this? EIL/EFL is a great idea.. a great concept. But is it realistic if the NES is still the preferred teacher...

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