Teaching Tips from AE – Intercultural Language Teaching

Teaching Tips from AE – Intercultural Language Teaching


American English Teach and learn American English In this Teaching Tip topic, Tabitha will explore the concept of intercultural language teaching and how to help students develop a deeper cultural awareness. Welcome, Tabitha! Hello, I’m Tabitha and today I’d like to talk to you about some techniques for raising your students’ cultural awareness in the English language classroom. Let’s get started! Today, we’ll explore the concept of intercultural language teaching and I’ll share some ideas to help you develop your students’ personal community level and global cultural awareness. So, what is culture? A lot of people think about the clothing, food, festivals, or music of a certain country. This is called surface or visible culture. Studying surface culture can be very interesting and motivating to students, but they also need to learn about deep culture to be able to effectively communicate with people from different cultures. People often discuss the difference between deep culture and surface culture by using the metaphor of an iceberg. An iceberg is a floating mass of ice. The visible part of the iceberg represents
the surface aspects of culture like dress, art, and music. The part of the iceberg that is underwater represents the less visible aspects of culture, aspects like humor, communication patterns, and respect for authority. Despite the fact that these aspects of culture are invisible, they are the bigger source of cultural difference and the bigger impact on people’s day-to-day life. This video will share some teaching ideas that help you teach about both aspects of culture. A good starting point is to have students create their own cultural iceberg for that activity. Ask students to list elements of their own culture for each level. At surface level, they might list foods and holiday traditions, while at the deepest level, students might list values and attitudes related to friendship and familial patterns. As students develop their own cultural awareness, you might have them return to their cultural icebergs to continue adding to them. The cultural iceberg activity is a good place to begin because it helps students explore their own culture. We should always start with what is familiar to students, so it’s best to start with activities focused on your students’ own cultural awareness. Then you can move on to activities focused on students’ communities and on global cultures. That’s the pattern we’ll follow in this presentation, too. The “What’s Weird” activity helps students think critically about their own culture. For this activity, find a guidebook about your country, in print or online, and have students read the section where the author explains your local culture. It can be really eye-opening for students to think about a newcomers perspective on their culture. A possible source is Wikitravel.org, an open-source website with information for travelers. A follow-up activity could be for students to develop a brochure or website explaining aspects of their local culture to visitors or newcomers. The “Changing Rules” activity helps students develop an awareness of the cultures of various communities with different cultural rules for this activity. Students invent alternatives for everyday actions. For instance, instead of shaking hands with someone when you meet, you might jump three times. Then students create skits showing the use of the new action and the class guesses what the new action means. What’s important here is that students understand that any gesture or movement can mean anything as long as the people using it understand the meaning behind it. Looking at photos from around the world is a good way to help students learn about global cultures. For the “Questioning a Photo” activity, give students a complex photo from another culture and ask them to write down the questions they think of, then generate a list of questions of the class and use those questions to start a discussion about culture. Let’s practice this activity together. This is a photo of a garage sale in front of a typical suburban American house. On Saturday mornings in the spring and summer, you often see people putting their belongings in front of their house to sell. What questions come to mind when you look at this photo? You might ask “Why are they selling their belongings?” “How many people live in the house?” “Who keeps the money from the sale?” These questions would all lead to rich discussions about this tradition and the cultural meaning behind it. Summing up, today I talked about the concept of intercultural language teaching, and shared some ideas to help you develop your students’ personal
community level and global cultural awareness. I hope you found these Teaching Tips useful, and that you and your students will enjoy the activities I shared today. Thank you for joining me. To check out other great Teaching Tip videos, be sure to subscribe to our American English YouTube Channel. You can find resources for teachers on the American English website, and if you haven’t already, be sure to “like” us on the American English for Educators Facebook page.

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