Language and Culture

Language and culture are inevitably and intricately intertwined. When students start to learn another language they will always be taking in different parts of that language’s culture. As teachers, it’s important that we can incorporate various different cultural lessons during our teaching.

Childs drawingWhen teaching a second language we are also teaching other cultural customs, practices, and ways of thinking. These ways of thinking become visible after understanding a language. For example, Japanese has a multitude of formalities in the language depending on who you are talking to – this stems from their cultural history.

American English uses many slang words that stem from Hollywood and popular culture. The following article will detail a few ways to approach and incorporate culture in your daily teaching routines.

Avoid Negative Comparisons

It’s important for students to understand no one culture is better than another. Creating a mutual understanding between your culture of the language you’re teaching and the language of your students is of utmost importance.

Create Cultural Games

Having lessons that introduce new vocabulary pertaining to culture will enable students to both learn new material and understand another culture. The deeper a student can understand another culture the more interest they will find with the language.

For example, a lesson about sports or hobbies in another culture could bring the comparison of American sports culture into the classroom. Having a discussion of American sports stars and the different sports organizations will help students understand the importance of sports in American culture.

Asking students to compare and contrast these types of issues in the target language can really help language acquisition.

Screen Culturally Offensive Material

Discussing various cultures’ customs and practices can be a tricky business. Teachers walk a fine line between offending students’ native culture while teaching their own. Be careful to choose lessons that will inform students about your native culture while remaining sensitive to their own.

What We Take for Granted

Being born into a certain culture will natural habituate us into its customs and rituals. It’s important that we can take a step back and realize what we take for granted within our own culture. Something we think is simple and mundane may actually be wonderful and unfamiliar to our students. Often these mundane habits stem from deeper issues.

Take America’s driving culture for example. Americans love their cars. It’s part of the culture. We use cars to take us everywhere and often live out of our cars. This stems from the massive land size in America and our desire to expansionist history.

Countries with extremely developed cities and mass transit options may not have this type of culture and it’s worth analyzing and explaining in the classroom.

This is of course just one small example of a difference in culture. Taking the time to analyze one’s own culture and the effect it has on the language is an important step in the language learning process.

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