Cultural sensitivity is integral to a foreign language teacher
's understanding of the students they are teaching. The following will attempt to explain the concept of cultural sensitivity but will also explain the need for teacher
s to recognise that their own understanding of cultural sensitivity is based on their own preconceived ideas about culture. The following will attempt to explain some concepts necessary for a teacher
to question their own understanding of cultural sensitivity.
Most people living and teaching in a culture foreign to their own have at least some knowledge of the differences that exist between their own culture and the new culture they are experiencing. Cultural sensitivity means being aware that cultural differences and similarities exist and have an effect on values, learning and behavior (Stafford et al, 1997). It has long been recognized that a failure to consider cultural sensitivity may result in an ethnocentric views of cultures. (Anderson & Taylor, 2006) Such a view would make teaching a multilingual or monolingual very difficult where there is a constant need to consider the actions of learners. For example teacher
s from australia
may believe that they are culturally sensitive because of their education and personal experiences with different cultures. An australia
starts teaching in vietnam
and tries to ask questions
in the classroom about the government but notices the students are not responding. The teacher
is frustrated and can't understand why the students will not respond to the question here but students in australia
most certainly would. Perhaps the teacher
has ethnocentric views without even realising. Therefore even with the teacher
's own education and personal experiences of dealing with cultures different to their own, it is always important to question one's own understanding of cultural sensitivity.
Anderson (1984) points to the reasons why there is a need to recognise one's own ‘schema'. The author describes a person's schema as their "organized knowledge about the world" which depends on a person's social location. This may include a reader's age, sex, race, religion, nationality, and occupation, amongst other factors. Considering a schema determines how people understand, interprets, and analyses everything in their world.
featured in the example above would benefit from considering their own ‘schema'. A consideration of a person's ability to speak in public about certain political issues and the government in one's own culture and other cultures would be an example of questioning ‘schema'. A consideration would lead to a much more effective method of teaching other cultures and would be less frustrating to the teacher
. A teacher
therefore needs to be aware of their own ‘schema' when teaching other cultures different to their own.
An understanding about cultural sensitivity based on a teacher
's education, personal experiences or other factors can only go so far as to cease ethnocentric views of other cultures in the classroom. Knowledge of a teacher
's own ‘schema' is integral to bringing cultural sensitivity into the classroom.
Andersen, M.L, Taylor, H.F (2006). Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. Thomson Wadsworth.
Retrieved on the 22nd of June 2011.
Stafford, J. R., Bowman, R., Ewing, T., Hanna, J., & Lopez-De Fede, A. (1997). Building cultural bridges. Bloomington, IN: National Educational Service.