Cultural Sensitivity in the EFL Classroom Savvidou - Understanding Chinese Names:


Savvidou - Understanding Chinese Names: Cross-Cultural Awareness ...

Diversity and cultural sensitivity are important considerations in an EFL classroom. English is an international language and the numbers of English speakers are growing rapidly. It's important to understand how English translates in each culture and language. There is a growing body of literature addressing cultural differences and the importance of awareness. Our challenge is to meet the demand of student in a manner that incorporates linguistic and cultural competence.

Language is primarily a communication tool. As language teachers it is paramount to help students take 'ownership' of the new language they are learning. H. G. Widdowson,, suggests taking 'ownership' of English as a way of shifting attitudes. After all, English has become an international language. Furthermore, he expressed that 'you are proficient in a language to the extent that you possess it, make it your own, bend your will, assert through it rather than simply submit to the dictates of its form. (Widdowson Henry G. (1994) "The Ownership of English". TESOL Quarterly 28/2 377- 89).

The manner of proficiency is when you are able to take possession of the language, turn it to your advantage and make it real for you.' The important thing is getting students engaged with the language effectively and personally. Allowing learners to be autonomous (to a point), allows them to culturally and wholly identify and engage on a personal level without the teacher imposing their authority or socio-cultural importance.

A rudimentary understanding of the history and culture is helpful to interpret behavior and the pedagogical approaches currently used in the education system. Christine Savvidou underscores this in her article. 'Understanding Chinese Names: Cross-Cultural Awareness in the EFL classroom.' She proposes that increased awareness of the Chinese culture is an essential factor in EFL teaching, enabling teachers to interpret behavior, identify learning styles, and help students make the transition to a western model of education.

She also poignantly points out the importance of being aware of ones own judgments or preconceptions. This is necessary if students are to bridge the gap between language and culture. It is then suggested that successful bilinguals should serve as pedagogical models (instead of monolingual and monocultural native English-speaking teachers) and that local and international contexts which are familiar and relevant to students´ lives should be used (instead of unfamiliar and irrelevant contexts from the English-speaking world) (Cem and Margaret Alptekin).

Our identity is largely defined by our culture and history. History and culture will affect how language is processed and produced. Language is contextual owning to the culture in which it is used. For example, there is evidence to prove there are differences in same gender versus co-ed classrooms. This expressed difference exist throughout various cultural associations, macro and micro; country, gender, workplace, school and so forth. Within each subculture there are cultural parameters that dictate language and the ways of acceptable and effective communication. The following example is an excerpt taken from research conducted at Cambridge University: "We don´t just do war poems and Macbeth, we do Wordsworth too. It´s a challenge, in a way, which Mr J sets us to show the girls we´re capable of doing it, but I couldn´t talk about these things if there were girls there!" (p. 85). ( NASSPE: Research > Single-Sex vs. Coed: The Evidence) It makes a great point about gender sensitivity and differences experienced in an all male environment.

We must be sensitive to the differences and similarities among students and between cultures and the educators. This can be as simple as adjusting lesson plans to make them relative or formal education to learn about the history and culture where you will teach. Encourage student to be a resource or provide resources. Diversity is strength.

ELT Journal 1984 38(1):14-20; doi:10.1093/elt/38.1.14 ' 1984 by Oxford University Press

The question of culture: EFL teaching in non-English-speaking countries Cem and Margaret Alptekin

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VIII, No. 9, September 2002 http://iteslj.org/Articles/Savvidou-ChineseNames.html

Widdowson Henry G. (1994) "The Ownership of English". TESOL Quarterly 28/2 377-89.