integrating culture to a spoken english class

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integrating culture to a spoken english class

Post by francesen » Wed Jan 23, 2008 6:40 am

I've taught second year English majors oral English for one term now (China). I gave them an end of term questionnaire, to find out what they found useful and what they want to study more of. Many of them (2/3) wanted to learn more about foreign culture(s) and everyday life...

However, this is a spoken English class, which raises many problems. Firstly, studying foreign culture requires a large amount of content input. I'm sure the students don't want to listen to me basically lecture them. Also this is a passive activity and doesn't afford them a chance to speak. Learning about culture needs a great amount of input, but how do the students use this for speaking?! How do I teach culture in a way that the students spend most of the time speaking? Also, where do I begin?! I'm not sure which aspects the student's are particularly interested in, nor what they already know...

The only idea I have so far is to do a sort of 6 week course. For every part of the lesson dedicated to this the students will work in groups of 6. Each week one student will be the 'leader', and will be responsible for reading out an article on an aspect of foreign culture (practicing reading aloud skills, intonation etc) and will lead the discussion, (ensuring turn taking etc), finally this person will report back to the rest of the class. The course will last 6 weeks so every student has the chance to be the leader once. Does this seem like a good idea - to get content and information to the students, while they are primarily in control and have a chance to talk...

Does anyone have any other ideas for introducing culture to spoken english classes?

Another common request from my students is for them to learn how to 'express' themselves... they often feel like they don't know which words to use, or don't have the appropriate word and cannot fully express their opinions and feelings. Now I feel that a spoken english class is not the correct time to introduce vocab (altough a lot of the students would like more vocab), so how can I help them to feel like they are expressing themselves fully? Any thoughts on this (rather vague) question would be much appreciated...

Thanks in advance!

Sally Olsen
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Post by Sally Olsen » Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:50 am

Your ideas sound great. I would enjoy being in a class like that. I find the social practices discussion are endless in our class. They always want to know what we do in situations that come up every day - getting sick, someone in the family dying, how much overtime we do in our jobs, what we have to do to please the boss, celebrations and holidays and on and on. If you look at social practices as built into the language, then it is even more pertinent to learning English. The students can take the article and raise or lower the register so it is easier to understand by teenagers or has a higher level of an academic paper. I think it is OK to write in a conversation class as long as they are talking about the writing so they could rewrite the article from the point of view of an older person, someone from a particular job relevant to the social practice such a doctor for getting sick and so on. You can do it in dialogue form as well and practice a little play among your group. You can also hand out different coloured cards - the person with green has to think of creative ideas about the topic - perhaps making up a new culture that does something completely different with the social practice, a white card - the person has to state the facts about the social practiced in their own country, a black car - that person has to state all the negative things about the social practice, a yellow card - the person has to state all the positive things about the social practice, a red card for expressing the emotions that would be occasioned by the social practice and a blue card - this person facilitates all the other colours and makes sure everyone gets a say.

You can record vocabulary on the board as it comes up in the final discussion and ask for further development, synonyms, antonyms and further analogies, idioms that would be appropriate, grammar structures, and so on.

I make posters of different topics and the students can add words as they say them. You can get a student to type out the words under a topic as well and keep these in a file for students to access and translate if they want.

Then you can have contests to see who knows more words under each topic - how many words can they write about being sick in 10 minutes and so on.

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Post by fluffyhamster » Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:48 am

Have you seen the Culture Shock! series? ... 1558689265

The 'Cultural Quiz' sections could be useful for a start. I have the China, and Japan, ones, and although this sort of book might not strike every native as being 100% accurate or particularly deep, at least it's not going to be too difficult for English learners. Or more generally you could maybe play a 'Scruples' type of game (do a Google search for 'scruples game').

Kate Fox's Watching the English is interesting; ... 4398#24398

Then there are the cultural entries on the CD-ROM version of the seventh edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (or in the separately published guide to English culture book) - might act as a catalyst for further thought and chat.

Remembered this (but it's also a bit vague): ... 6655#26655 (is there a need to teach cross-cultural pragmatics in depth and/or independently of a balanced and representative language course; thread on irony link is at bottom of the linked thread there, as well as mention of the 'Teaching Bad Language' thread on the Business English forum (do a search for 'swearing').

You could also consider connotation (versus denotation) of words/concepts (mental associations are a good way to get personal responses and anecdotes flowing), simile, metaphor etc.

And what about proverbs:

Or folk tales (archetypes), urban legends etc etc. (link originally mentioned by Andrew Patterson somewhere here on Dave's) (Search also for 'Darwin Awards' on Google)

Or funny news items: ... 4751#14751 (thread about discussions for classes)

If I think of anything else I'll post it. :wink:

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