Have you ever asked yourself how important it is for students to get to know the culture behind the language?
In other words, how important is it for them to learn about of the culture from which that language emerged? In our field, the topic of culture comes up quite often, and in my opinion, it is one that deserves a bit of attention. Not all students have the opportunity to visit foreign countries. With some luck, they might get a chance to spend a bit of time in the foreign country to "immerse" themselves in the "culture". Sadly, that is not the case with most students and to be honest, some of them don't care much about cultural aspects behind the language they are learning. In the case of adult students, many try to acquire the language in order to serve a specific purpose, like getting a job, or a place at a university. Their motivation is linked to a specific objective, and they are not concerned with the culture from which their target language emerged. Nonetheless, even those students need to understand that learning about culture will give them an advantage they otherwise wouldn't have. The question now is, what can we do to teach our beloved students about culture.
5 Amazing Ways to Help Your ESL Students Incorporate the Culture behind the Language
Learning about the Country's History
When you want to learn about a person, it helps to know about their past, right? Knowing what they have been through, how they grew up and where can give you a great deal of information about that person. Where countries are concerned, it's not much different. Learning about the history of a country tells you a lot about its people. Knowing about significant events, hardships, progress and such is an important aid in understanding why things are the way they are now. This provides students with unique tools not only to communicate but also to build relationships. Historical knowledge is a carefully constructed collective memory. It can both make us wiser and richer.
Learning about the Country's Music
Music is something most of us enjoy. That's why incorporating traditional music in the classroom is not only useful but also fun. It is yet another aspect of culture that is definitely worth learning about. Also, there is no need to stop there. You can provide a list of well known musical artists and even listen to some songs in class. If time is an issue, you can assign songs for homework.
Learning about the Country's Cuisine
While for some music might be more interesting, for others food and drink are one of , if not the most interesting aspects of culture one can learn about. Knowing about the food and typical local ingredients gives students something else to appreciate. Some great activities you can do with your students is read recipes of typical foods and learn about ingredients. If possible, visiting a restaurant where that food is served is an amazing alternative. If you belong to that target culture and if you are up to it, you could prepare some typical food to share with your students.
Learning about the Country's Geography and Landmarks
When we visit a country, we typically go to all or as many of the local landmarks as we can. These places have become popular touristic locations because they are significant in some way or another. They represent that country or local culture and so are worth visiting and learning about for those same reasons. With this in mind, don't you think it might be a good idea to learn about these places in the classroom? Visiting them might be out of the question but the Internet is full of images and videos that are the next best thing. You can even organize a virtual tour of specific locations.
Learning about the People's Habits, Pastimes and Interests
Now that your students have learned about the target culture, it might be a good idea to cover its people. They are quite familiar with the language spoken so now is the time to cover how the people are. Again it's time for teachers to do some research. Find out if there are chat rooms available where students can talk to people from that country. A great idea is to arrange an interview where students could ask someone questions. This could be done in person or online. Interacting with real people is the best option but if it's not possible, you or the students themselves can look for information about the local people, what some common habits or pastimes are and also interests.
Learning about Current Events
Knowing about current events helps us understand what is happening within a country and consequently how these events affect its people. That's why we read the newspaper. Which is precisely what you should do to learn about current events in other countries as well. It simply involves reading the newspaper online and choosing significant pieces of news to cover in class. Students can take turns describing, discussing and, if their level allows, debating about the news.
Though activities such as these can go a long way towards helping students learn about the target culture, remember that culture can't be separated from language.
Language and culture are inextricably linked because language is culture. Languages come with some cultural associations attached. So, by speaking the language, students are automatically aligned with the culture of the language. Remember, language is not dead; it is alive.