One unique aspect of a tefl
class compared to your average class is the ever-present gap between the culture of the teacher
and the culture(s) of the student, particularly for the teacher
living and working abroad and in a monolingual class. This can create unique problems for understanding and communication, and greatly increases the chances of accidentally upsetting someone. It is the responsibility of teacher
s and students to find a way to bridge this gap. One of the best ways to do this is through cultural learning. It is generally accepted that language is a cultural phenomenon, and that it cannot be separated from its culture. In order to be able to fully grasp the language that they are learning, students need to have an idea of its cultural context. This presents itself in second language classrooms commonly in canada
; in any language class I have ever taken there was always some kind of cultural background provided. In classes in canada
, this serves the purpose to facilitating understanding of language first, and has the secondary function of teaching culture. In efl
classrooms, giving cultural backgrounds serves these purposes as well providing some information to the students about the teacher
Cultural sensitivity is also important when teacher
s are picking subjects for lessons. Some subjects are not appropriate to discuss in some culture that a tefl
may find themselves living. Politics, for example, is not an issue that is always smart or safe to talk about within a classroom. I was a volunteer teacher
for a group of Tibetan medical students in western china
and I had been warned to stay away from any political topics as there may be a risk not only for myself, but even more for the students. This was a concept that was new to me, as many of my teacher
s had actually made a point to encourage us to develop critical political perspectives. This was a perfect example of how different cultural contexts can be and how greatly it affects what happens in the classroom. teacher
s need to keep in mind that a different country will have different rules, and even if they do not necessarily agree with the rules, they need to abide by them as long as they hope to live and work in that country.
It is also wise for teacher
s to adjust their expectations of students to what cultural norms may be. For example, students in some cultures may not be quick or enthusiastic to get involved in any debate or opinion giving activity. In many Asian cultures, it is very rude to call a person out on their mistakes or wrongdoings, particularly if there is an issue of status or hierarchy. It is custom to allow the person to 'save face'. Thus, it would be unrealistic to expect students within that particular cultural context to be comfortable in any kind of confrontational activity, even if just for fun.
Some efl teacher
s have found that when students and teacher
s reach the point of acceptance and adaptation they can begin to get over the difficulties of cross-cultural barriers to communication (Cartlidge, 2006). Through accepting that there are differences between cultures and adapting behaviour, strategies and lessons to suit everyone, teacher
s and students can reach a point of understanding.
Cakir, I. (2006) Developing Cultural Awareness In Foreign Language Teaching