Friday, February 23, 2007

Teach culture to English students?

By Pete Marchetto

I've banged on about this many times in the past, but my suggestion is... don't.

It is very easy to get seduced here by the idea that teaching culture is somehow central to teaching international English, but given the fact that English IS international, teaching to one specific culture is self-defeating.

Frankly I am tired of students coming up to me and asking me, as an Englishman, for clarification on some minutia on the history of Liverpool. They are often stunned to realise the only thing I know from the beginning to the end of Liverpool is 'iverpoo' and yet, somehow, I manage not only to survive in my own land, but also to speak the language with reasonable fluency in spite of this yawning gap in my knowledge.

One of the few times I find myself teaching British culture is in the correction of some of the more incredible misconceptions put into students' heads by the local education system, not because I feel the students need the knowledge, but because I am sick and tired of listening to all the nonsense that I can only assume came from the research of someone using a pair of binoculars while hidden in a deep cave somewhere on the planet Mars.

The fact is that if you talk to most Chinese using English in the workplace, very few are dealing with native speakers as the majority of their clients, let alone specifically with any subculture such as that of Australia, the UK or the USA. Students have enough of their time wasted as it is without us adding to the burden.

All that said, I am a great believer in teaching cross-cultural communication where possible on a non-culturally specific basis.

No comments: