06 Jul The Importance of Culture in Language Learning

I was delighted to attend an English Quiz night for learners this week, hosted by some of our English instructors. The idea was to allow students practise their English in a fun, authentic way, at the same time as learning some interesting facts about English speaking countries, such as the UK, South Africa, and Australia etc.

As teachers, we sometimes get caught up with making sure that the grammar and vocabulary for that level is covered, using course books that dictate the content on a lesson by lesson basis. A recurring question from teachers in my department is:

”Do we have to stick to the book?”

My answer is always the same; the content i.e. the grammar and core vocabulary must be covered but if you feel there is a more appropriate topic for your class, then adapt some of the tasks in the book to reflect this. It’s important to keep the book as the base as students have paid for it and worry if we leave huge chunks out. However, a quiz about countries is just as relevant as a gap fill or labelling a map and you can then add in some trivia about the countries themselves.

Cultural context and anecdotes bring the language to life and make it more memorable. Using directions to get to a famous landmark in London is a lot more fun than using a made up ESL street map; this can then be repeated with landmarks local to where you are teaching to personalise. This means we still cover directions as per the course book page but stimulates students to talk more authentically as they will invariable ask each other if they have been there to London etc.!

Practically any ESL topic can be given a cultural twist:

Recipes: Clip or copy of recipe by Jamie Oliver / Nigella Lawson e.g. the Great British Sunday Roast

Shops: Oxford Street or Harrods

Proper nouns: Cities in the UK / Famous People

Present Continuous: What famous occasion are people preparing for in the UK at the moment?

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