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TESL or Cultural Sensitivity Training?
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Sunpower



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 256
Location: Taipei, TAIWAN

PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2003 6:57 pm    Post subject: TESL or Cultural Sensitivity Training? Reply with quote

From what I've seen, it would be more worthwhile for prospective EFL instructors take a course on learning more about the people and culture that they'll be faced with, rather than a TESOL or TEFL certification.

Remember, a degree and TEFL/TESOL training are not a requirement for almost all English teaching jobs in Asia.

On this board, many prospective teachers want to know the value of their TESOL ticket and wether it'll get them that good teaching position at a nice business.

I see lots of unhappy English teachers just waiting until they've honoured their contracts so that they can jump on a plane and leave. Lots don't make it that far.

Learn about the country - people and culture - you'll be living in.

Might even be more valuable than any TEFL ticket you earn.
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1104
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2003 7:35 pm    Post subject: cross-cultural communication Reply with quote

Sunpower,

Quote:
From what I've seen, it would be more worthwhile for prospective EFL instructors take a course on learning more about the people and culture that they'll be faced with, rather than a TESOL or TEFL certification.


The TESOL program offered at our local college has an elective study, "Strategies for Cross-Cultural Learning and Communication" which helps teachers examine their own assumptions about other cultures and the human dynamics in multi-cultural classrooms.

In the last year of my BA, the Arts faculty at UBC (Vancouver) offered two courses that were taught together with a Japanese univesity. Half the students in the program were Japanese, the other half (mostly) Canadian. I chose the Cross-Cultural Communications course, and other students in my program went for the business studies course (course title escapes me now).

There were so many barriers to communication across to both the faculty and the students. First, the profs had certain expectations based on academia in their home culture. Our prof tore a strip of the Japanese students because they didn't know English essay conventions; their prof looked at the Canadians quizically when we spontaneously broke into open discussion within the classroom, something she had probably never seen in a Japanese classroom.

By putting these two schools together, we all had a chance to see where the barriers were and we frequently transcended them. Lots of us made friends and were able to talk about our fields of study and debunk stereotypes on both sides.

I really recommend this kind of experience to new teachers. There are lots of opportunities to learn about cross-cultural understanding but (prospective) teachers need to seek them out. Volunteering in another community is a great way to appreciate the differences, too. Lots of temples, churches and cultural centres in cities can provide this kind of experience right here in N. America and the UK.

Still, those people who go abroad with eyes wide open, regardless of the previous experience they have gleaned at home, are the ones who benefit the most from and enjoy the experience of going overseas to teach. There are lots of people who find working and living in another culture enlightening and enjoyable. They're probably too busy living it up to talk about it!

Liz
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Roger



Joined: 19 Jan 2003
Posts: 9138

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2003 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found Tokyo Liz answer quite helpful. It certainly has a valid point.
I often wonder what kind of people obtain a TEFL cert. It often is people who want to travel at no expense. I don't think one should tour foreign countries and pay for one's needs by tutoring there.
I think teaching is a more complex business than pushing your own mother tongue. It should be done with a full understanding of what is involved in acquiring one's first language and how to teach a second one. Ideally, teachers have had to acquire an L2 themselves.
"Cultural sensitivity" - actually, as Liz showed, it is often our learners that need some guidance before they interact with us. I see the same here in China. My students often ignore simple behavioral rules - how to greet (I frown upon the ubiquitous "hello!", and I also think Westerners do not necessarily all go for first names as don't Chinese!).
Thus, I wish my CHinese colleagues would instill in my Chinese charges more curiosity and more open-mindedness so that my instructions do not meet with disbelief!
Learning a second tongue means acquiring a second persona and a new culture. Let us face it - in former colonies people have sufficient grounding in the target culture and language (visit the Philippines, Singapore or India for instance, and you will see what I mean, elsewhere, go to Africa where the former colonial masters' national tongues are now official languages!).
But in chauvinist East Asia, English will always be a "foreign" language, and the question of acculturation does not get adequately addressed. They learn our vocabulary, grammar rules, yet they think in their own language, act in their accustomed ways and keep their traditional views. Thus the communication gaps.
In a few instances, it can be overcome through the use of English as the medium of instruction for other subjects. However, bilingual schools are still a novelty in China. And yet, that is how the students could learn the way their expat teachers had to learn the various subjects - not by memorising whole pages but by responsibly taking notes and self-study, and engaging teachers in quizzes.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12370
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 8:04 am    Post subject: Cultural Sensitisation Reply with quote

There was time, long ago, when part of your education was to learn a foreign language. These days have now gone and I am amazed at the number of "educated" eople I have met who are absolute monoglots. You can even find people with PhD's in the field of Literature and Philosophy who have never learned another language !!

And in TEFL the number of monoglot instructors is huge. The best training is to learn another language. This talk about "cross-cultuiral training" is a poor substitute.

There was also a time when extended travel in foreign countries was considered part of a liberal education. Is that too now a thing of the past. It seems that many twenty-somethings expect to travel and get paid for it.
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J.B. Clamence



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 25

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 8:37 am    Post subject: Re: TESL or Cultural Sensitivity Training? Reply with quote

Sunpower wrote:
From what I've seen, it would be more worthwhile for prospective EFL instructors take a course on learning more about the people and culture that they'll be faced with, rather than a TESOL or TEFL certification.


I agree that it's important for a teacher to understand the culture of the country in which they are living and working. But I think it's taking it too far to say that this knowledge is more important for a teacher than the knowledge of how to teach. If I were a DOS, and I was given the choice of two applicants: One who knew how to teach ESL and was certified to do so, and the other had no ESL training but had just read a couple of books on the local culture and customs; if I had to pick only one, I would hire the former anyday. Sure it would be ideal if that teacher had a good understanding of the culture, but let's not exaggerate.
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Stephen



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 101

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunflower wrote:
"From what I've seen, it would be more worthwhile for prospective EFL instructors take a course on learning more about the people and culture that they'll be faced with, rather than a TESOL or TEFL certification."


What is more important when teaching, learning how to teach or cultural sensitivity? Learning how to teach. If the teacher cannot get their students to use English then they have failed!

Sunflower wrote:
"Remember, a degree and TEFL/TESOL training are not a requirement for almost all English teaching jobs in Asia."

This is true, but perhaps this might explain why Japan, Korea and Taiwan have such terrible reputations for performance within learning EFL. The standard of EFL teaching in Taiwan is so poor in part because of this reason.

Sunflower wrote:
"On this board, many prospective teachers want to know the value of their TESOL ticket and wether it'll get them that good teaching position at a nice business."

Perhaps, it is not unreasonable that someone who has taken the time and trouble to get some training, and who has gained some experience would want to earn more than the untrained person with no experience.

Also in an EFL class it is students who need to gain cultural sensitivity. Although, obviously an understanding of cultural differences is important in teaching this, the teacher must be able to teach it.
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dduck



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 422
Location: In the middle

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 12:06 pm    Post subject: Cultural Sensitivity Reply with quote

Quote:
What is more important when teaching, learning how to teach or cultural sensitivity? Learning how to teach. If the teacher cannot get their students to use English then they have failed!


Equally, if you alienate all your students because you have broken several cultural taboos then teaching, however good the method, is very likely to fail. In the broadest sense "student awareness" is part of teaching and included in the "awareness" is cultural sensitivity, I believe.

Quote:
Also in an EFL class it is students who need to gain cultural sensitivity. Although, obviously an understanding of cultural differences is important in teaching this, the teacher must be able to teach it.


I agree.

Iain
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dduck



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 422
Location: In the middle

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 12:17 pm    Post subject: Re: TESL or Cultural Sensitivity Training? Reply with quote

J.B. Clamence wrote:
If I were a DOS, and I was given the choice of two applicants: One who knew how to teach ESL and was certified to do so, and the other had no ESL training but had just read a couple of books on the local culture and customs; if I had to pick only one, I would hire the former anyday.


Funny you should mention that, but I've spoken to a DOS, yes a real one. He stated that he'd throw a CV from anyone that claimed CELTA only experience. Shocked He went on to explain that he'd hired a teacher, with good references, from a Greek school to work in his Japanese school. Apparently she came very close to getting sacked and losing the DOS some significant business because she failed to take cultural sensitivity into consideration. Confused

Iain
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1104
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 7:30 pm    Post subject: Cultural Sensitivity Reply with quote

As EFL teachers and cultural representatives, we owe it to our students to be polite and mindful of the cultural expectations of our audiences and teach the students about expectations in our cultures.

I have met so many people who speak my languages, but have no idea about the social conventions that come with the cultures from which those languages originate.

EFL teachers with no cultural sensitivity to their target audience don't have the skills to teach their own cultural (mis)cues to students. Without these important issues we are teaching language out of context. I believe this lack of cultural concern is what cripples Japanese/Korean/Chinese students' ability to communicate.

Sorry if I come off rather upset about this, but it's an issue dear to my heart. I come from a multi-cultural background.
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isotope75



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 1:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunpower is absolutely correct. The rest of you take your jobs too seriously.
It all boils down to personality. Either your students like you or they dislike you and your classes.

Just because you have an MA in some linguistic capacity doesn't make people learn a language. If you people are as boring as you sound nobody will want to pay you to listen while you flap your gums.

What you basically did was waste your life in college to lose potential jobs to some native speaker because you are too qualified. You are the losers who took Latin in high school thinking that Latin opened up doors to the future. Welcome to the future.

Lighten up.
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J.B. Clamence



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 25

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 5:06 am    Post subject: Re: TESL or Cultural Sensitivity Training? Reply with quote

dduck wrote:
J.B. Clamence wrote:
If I were a DOS, and I was given the choice of two applicants: One who knew how to teach ESL and was certified to do so, and the other had no ESL training but had just read a couple of books on the local culture and customs; if I had to pick only one, I would hire the former anyday.


Funny you should mention that, but I've spoken to a DOS, yes a real one. He stated that he'd throw a CV from anyone that claimed CELTA only experience. Shocked He went on to explain that he'd hired a teacher, with good references, from a Greek school to work in his Japanese school. Apparently she came very close to getting sacked and losing the DOS some significant business because she failed to take cultural sensitivity into consideration. Confused

Iain


And if that person has been a DOS for any significant amout of time at significantly sized schools, I'm sure he also has many stories about teachers he has had to sack because they didn't know how to teach, culturally sensitive or not. You have completely misrepresented my post. I never said that cultural sensitivity isn't important. All I said is that if a choice must be made, it should take a back seat to knowledge of teaching. I'm sure culturally insensitive teachers do indeed cause problems for students, I never said they didn't. But for every student I've seen leave a school because of a culturally insensitive teacher, I've seen ten more leave because the teacher didn't know a thing about teaching ESL.
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Paul G



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 125
Location: China & USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 5:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any quality TESOL training course is going to have a section on cultural sensitivity.

Let's face it, learning the major do's and don't's of a culture isn't that difficult.

To suggest that being culturally sensitive is a substitute for knowing how to teach is preposterous. Particularly when you consider that any properly trained EFL teacher will have been taught the importance of cultural sensitivity.

Are there teachers who ignore this? Of course there are. But they are the exception rather than the rule.
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1104
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 7:53 am    Post subject: Why's everybody getting all hot and bothered here? Reply with quote

Sunpower raised a very important issue in the field of EFL/ESL. Many teachers work very hard to keep themselves and their colleagues informed about cultural norms.

Both sides have been argued - TESL comes before cultural and vice versa.

How about personal motivation as the number one thing that comes before either teaching or sensitivity. Face it, you have to have a desire to teach *and* to learn about the cultures in which you find yourself.

Paul G, no offense, but I think you're overlooking some things

Quote:
Any quality TESOL training course is going to have a section on cultural sensitivity.

Let's face it, learning the major do's and don't's of a culture isn't that difficult.


Not all TESOL teaching programmes require cultural sensitivity as either a prerequisite or as a core course. This comes back to personal motivation.

And it's easy to miss cultural cues, and even easier to mess up on etiquette. Learning about cultures takes time, effort and patience.

I often see this in my own students' behaviour, especially in international schools. Asian Student asks about some sensitive topic of South American student, gets rebuffed, told off by S. Am. Student, and does the same thing to the next guy/girl. I saw this with foreign teachers in Japan, too. Some people just aren't sensitive to the fact that things which we take for granted in our home culture are weird or even possibly offensive in another culture.

Isotope wrote

Quote:
If you people are as boring as you sound nobody will want to pay you to listen while you flap your gums.


If you have something to contribute, go ahead. I'm waiting.
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markle



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 1316
Location: Out of Japan

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While there can be no doubt as to the value of cultural sensitivity, etc. There is no need to go overboard. Let's not forget that many institutions hire native speakers for the whole package. Students can learn valuable things simply by interacting with a native speaker taht behaves as they would back home. For example I work in Thailand and people greet each other with a 'wai' (palms together, little bow) I never wai anyone, not even people who 'wai' top me. It's not something I do back home. I come across the odd Western teacher who 'wai' people and I think 'What for?'. Some students 'wai' me and I acknowledge it, others say 'Hi Mark' and say 'Hi' back.
I'm not saying you need to be an insensitive, arrogant boor but there is no need to be something you are not.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12370
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 9:24 am    Post subject: Cultural Sensitivity Reply with quote

This is interesting - about greeting students the Thai way.
Here in Saudi some teachers adapt their behaviour to become super-sensitive to local customs. They greet their students with "Salaam Aleikum" They add "Inshallah" (God willing) to every statement about the future. They sprinkle their English with Arabic expressions in that style known previously as "Macaroni".

Does that mean they have overdone it ? Do our students need to have a teacher who will act like a TRUE BRIT, or a DINKUM OZ or whatever ?
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