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Teaching English in KSA sans Western cultural components
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Posts: 1368
Location: KSA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bulgogiboy wrote:
I really didn't feel like I had to tip toe around the more controversial aspects of my culture. In fact, I found most young Saudi lads were very interested in western culture, especially Anglo-American pop culture. They all seemed to know and love music by Eminem, Lady Gaga, 50 Cent,etc. If I suggested watching an ESL learning video on Youtube, on the smartboard, they would always ask to watch a western music video instead. Also, a large percentage of my Saudi students displayed a lot of enthusiasm for starting discussions on subjects like drinking whisky, dating girls [b](replace the word 'dating' with a stronger gerund), smoking certain substances, etc.[/b] For all their faults, I didn't find male Saudi college students to be uptight or prone to 'righteous indignation' at all.


If I sounded over the top and judgemental it's due to the fact that you did not in any way state that you disapproved of this type of 'enthusiasm'. You mentioned the students "...starting discussions..." but didn't read anywhere that these conversations were stopped. This made me wonder just how long students were allowed to carry on with their enthusiatic conversations before you shut them up. How you were able to gain such detailed insight into their interests in said topics. After reading your post, I was left with the impression that there was alot of conversation exchanged to garner such insights. Nevertheless, I am now relieved that you clarified-defended your stance as a professional teacher. You can now remove your asbestos underwear Cool


Last edited by cmp45 on Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:41 am; edited 2 times in total
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12292
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear cmp45,

Professionals are the ones that get paid for what they do, right, like, say, professional lady escorts Very Happy?

Regards,
John
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Posts: 1368
Location: KSA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

johnslat wrote:
Dear cmp45,

Professionals are the ones that get paid for what they do, right, like, say, professional lady escorts Very Happy?

Regards,
John


I'll let that one pass as a rhetorical question... to address the OPs topic of western culture in KSA educational system. It is disturbing that so many young Saudis focus on such things as rap music, sex, booze and drugs when they think of western culture. Surely there is more to western culture than this! Perhaps, the Saudi religious authorities could be somewhat forgiven for trying to stem the tide of such "culture". Shameful really... that this is what we are known for when Saudis think of western culture. Western society's freedom of expression means dumbing down the notion of culture with trashy Reality TV shows; sensational news stories -talk shows that focus on every lurid aspect of people's lives, glamorizing sex, violence, booze and drugs through rap lyrics! Evil or Very Mad Seems this fascination with (western) trash culture is endemic throughout the world.
I supose...one person's idea of trash is another's treasure.
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fledex



Joined: 05 Jun 2011
Posts: 295

PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's see; Teaching English sans western culture. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes for ESL teachers: "I'm afraid we can't get rid of god as long as we still believe in grammar." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
Chomp on that one Chomsky. Is it all in our genes: God, culture, grammar and so on, that is?
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12085
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We live in a structured Universe. There is Grammar - whether we understand it or not. Make of that what you will.
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fledex



Joined: 05 Jun 2011
Posts: 295

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

scot47 wrote:
We live in a structured Universe. There is Grammar - whether we understand it or not. Make of that what you will.


But is that just a genetically bound perception, or is it something external to ourselves? Or is there even a difference?
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 15853
Location: USA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd say that grammar is genetically coded in the human brain... not "a" grammar, but we are pre-wired to pick up the language that we are born into...

VS
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goodooga



Joined: 11 Nov 2010
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:58 pm    Post subject: Headway Pre Int Reply with quote

My male students love p. 93 bottom right corner of Pre Int Headway. Whole lotta culture going on there.
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jaffa



Joined: 25 Oct 2012
Posts: 331

PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:34 am    Post subject: Re: Headway Pre Int Reply with quote

goodooga wrote:
My male students love p. 93 bottom right corner of Pre Int Headway. Whole lotta culture going on there.


Very Happy Any service, teacher?

Joking aside, I can get a 2 hour lesson out of that page.
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fledex



Joined: 05 Jun 2011
Posts: 295

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

scot47 wrote:
We live in a structured Universe. There is Grammar - whether we understand it or not. Make of that what you will.


A universe of interrelations, yes. And I don't think we understand it.

A structured Universe? No, sorry, I just don't see the evidence for it. It's not about not understanding it, just that it's probably a fallacy.
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bamshaheed



Joined: 04 Mar 2013
Posts: 3
Location: Washington State

PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:19 pm    Post subject: Culture and Language Reply with quote

I've been registered with this site for approximately 2 hours, and I've only been seriously considering teaching English abroad for 1 month, so I'm the textbook definition of a "newbie" when it comes to the ESL world.

However, I'm a 36 year old American convert to Islam with a BA in Religion from Whitman College (Walla Walla, WA) and have a substantial amount of extremely diverse life experience. So, I'm not a "newbie" to life or academic analysis.

Being an American convert to Islam and having lived over half of my life firmly embedded within all aspects of American culture (the good, the bad, and the ugly) cultural exportation and assimilation has been an important subject for me, and seems to also be an important subject within the ESL world.

I think we have to recognize that there are multiple cultural elements that comprise any single culture. There are the social, "pop culture", familial, religious, environmental etc. No single element, in-and-of-itself, should be considered to be reflective of the entirety of the culture.

In the context of teaching English, I'm sure we can all agree that there are certain elements of culture that do not need to be integrated with English language instruction, and certain elements that do indeed need to be integrated with English language instruction.

Without delving into a comprehensive analysis, I would think that "pop" cultural elements aren't a vital element in English language instruction and comprehension. If, or when, the student becomes proficient in the English language it is his/her decision how to apply the knowledge of English they have obtained. If they choose to pursue American "pop culture" with their English language skills then that is their decision.

On the other hand, I believe it's vitally important to teach students about what may be considered culturally offensive in the application of their language skills. I have run into this issue with my wife. My wife is an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, and as is common with foreign speakers, she can sometimes say things in English that can come off as offensive within the American cultural context, yet translated into her language and within her culture they are common and completely acceptable.

On another note, I think that most of us can agree that America's largest and most popular export is indeed American culture. One can also certainly argue that culture has become the new weapon of modern day colonialism. There is no need for weapons of war any longer to conqueror a population. In fact, warfare often produces the opposite effect and revolt is almost certain. However, cultural colonialism is often much more subtle and appealing to the population, and is also much less logistically complex than sending over hordes of armed soldiers. Cultural colonialism can be accomplished though radio and satellite signals, internet connections, books, and the "miracle" of television, all from the comfort of your own home.

We should not begrudge a population from trying to protect itself from cultural colonialism anymore than we should look down upon a population for defending itself from a foreign military invasion.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12292
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear bamshaheed,

One must wonder, however, whether it's "a population trying to protect itself" or mainly those in power doing so.

I mean, all "a population" would have to do to "protect itself" is reject such "cultural colonialism."

Or is it the case that "the population" needs to be "guided" as to what to accept or reject?

Regards,
John
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mashkif



Joined: 17 Aug 2010
Posts: 129

PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cmp45 wrote:
It is disturbing that so many young Saudis focus on such things as rap music, sex, booze and drugs when they think of western culture. Surely there is more to western culture than this! Perhaps, the Saudi religious authorities could be somewhat forgiven for trying to stem the tide of such "culture".






And perhaps it is the Saudi religious authorities who are encouraging such perceptions. Not that I've done any kind of meaningful research into the matter, but anecdotal evidence suggests that "the pious ones" zero in on the supposedly "decadent" West but skillfully neglect to even hint at our astonishing contributions to the fields of natural and human sciences, art, economic development, etc., particularly seeing as they have made next-to zero progress in any of these areas for literally hundreds of years.






cmp45 wrote:
Shameful really... that this is what we are known for when Saudis think of western culture. Western society's freedom of expression means dumbing down the notion of culture with trashy Reality TV shows; sensational news stories -talk shows that focus on every lurid aspect of people's lives, glamorizing sex, violence, booze and drugs through rap lyrics! Evil or Very Mad Seems this fascination with (western) trash culture is endemic throughout the world.
I supose...one person's idea of trash is another's treasure.








"More Catholic than the Pope" comes to mind...
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bamshaheed



Joined: 04 Mar 2013
Posts: 3
Location: Washington State

PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 3:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Johnslat,

If I recall correctly, the initial article in this thread stated that several "Saudi families" had made complaints about cultural aspects being integrated into English language instruction. Unless I'm mistaken, Saudi families are members of the Saudi population, as are those who hold political power in Saudi Arabia.

Sure, I suppose we can take the position that it's all a government conspiracy and couple that with the very western assumption that there's absolutely no way a population would ever want to reject American culture, but I think that's a bit narrow minded and naive given the extensive sociological and anthropological literature on the subjects of cultural assimilation, the power of cultural influence, and the phenomenon of cultural exportation.

To bring it back to the subject of English language instruction, again, I think there are aspects of culture that need to be discussed with students, especially when it comes to cultural faux pas. However, there are certainly cultural aspects that are unnecessary to discuss, or include in one's language instruction.

It would be incredibly difficult to argue that second language acquisition is inseparable from cultural assimilation.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12292
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear bamshaheed,

Well, can one assume that "several Saudi families" are representative of all "the population" of Saudi Arabia?

What I am finding hard to understand is this:

"We should not begrudge a population from trying to protect itself from cultural colonialism . . ."

Are you basing your claim of "a population trying to protect itself" on those "several Saudi families?"

And as for protecting themselves, wouldn't a good first step in that direction be to eschew the Internet and satellite TV?

The fact that both the Internet and satellite TV are so widely popular in the Kingdom might suggest that much of the population is not all that avid to protect itself.

Moreover, once the genie (so to speak: i.e. the Internet and satellite TV) has been let out of the bottle, can it be put back in or even controlled? That, I'd say, is doubtful:

"Follow reports on Internet censorship, and the road leads not only to China, Kenya and Iran, where governments have attempted to clamp down on the use of social media, but to Australia, Germany and the United States, where companies develop software to enable such censorship. In such stories resides the illusion that the Internet actually can and will be controlled. This myth of control is perpetuated by many in the old media, some of whom must be hoping, as they tell these stories, that their top-down approach to news gathering and distribution still has a chance against the tsunami of people-generated information that has devastated so many legacy media brands and likely will destroy more in the years ahead."

http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/article/101905/Internet-Censorship-The-Myth-Oft-Told-and-the-Reality.aspx

If it's the population trying to protect itself, then let the population reject the Internet and satellite TV. And if it's the "powers-that-be" trying to "protect the population," well, I'd say those powers are fighting against the tide. Either way, I don't think the population is going to experience much "protection against cultural colonialism."

Regards,
John
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