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This is how our TEFL graduates feel they have gained from their course, and how they plan to put into action what they learned:
Eleven months ago these seemingly unabashed and illogical comments were befuddling to me. They came from a range of low level to high level (or not so high level as the Korean teachers liked to joke) students. Where did these students get this language I often thought and who taught them to think or even communication like that in english! Terrified is the only emotion I could use to describe my sentiments every day I stepped into my monolingual class of students in the beginning. It wasn't until I started doing more research on to incorporate culture into classroom lessons that I became more aware of where cultural sensitivity fits in this sometimes confusing world of efl/esl teaching. Cultural sensitivity in the classroom is such an elusive topic in the efl world but yet I find it to be one of the most important markers of determining one's progress with their english language ability. Teaching
in South Korea has taught me that solely focusing on english grammar and sentence structure does not guarantee that your students will effectively be able to communicate in english. Well what do I mean by this exactly? Dimitrious Thanosoulas wrote in his thesis “The importance of Teaching Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom that, “we cannot go about teaching a foreign language without at least offering some insights into its speakers culture …we cannot go about fostering “communicative competence” without taking into account the different views and perspectives of people in different cultures which may enhance or even inhibit communication.” My Korean counterparts assured me that the best way to teach their students would be to be to give them words, phrases and sentences to memorize for future conversation. Devoid of all feelings, proper intonations, pronunciation and emotions, these sentences, words and phrases were to be memorized and recited. Essentially it's to be said that if we teach “Minsu” Good morning, how are you doing, when Minsu, is met in future conversation with an english
speaker, he will know and understand “Good morning, how are you doing?” But what if the english speaker says a different expression of greeting that Missu has not been taught nor has studied or memorized? How will he effectively be able to communicate with said english speaker? If we look a little further into Minsu's native language Hangeul, we can see that the most formal greeting Romanized is “Chal chin ney say yo” in both question form and as a statement means “Good morning (depending on the time of day) how are you doing”? This one statement in his language is used to express how one is feeling or doing and to ask how one is doing or feeling. This formality, if understood by the non-Korean english teacher, would allow for a better approach or explanation to Minsu when learning other forms of greetings and expression that can be used in english. To effectively teach
english as a foreign language it's important to remember that, as teachers we also need to be students of our host countries and become sensitive to the cultural norms and practices. We need to try and learn the customs and values that our students uphold as well as how they view different situations in their culture in their own language. Only then can we truly teach students how to communicate, think and feel in english.
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