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How can our lessons be even more intercultural?

Most contemporary ELT materials and resources used by schools and teachers these days have been quite effective in bringing a diversity of topics about various different cultures from all over the world into the classroom. They successfully provide lessons with interesting texts and recordings, beautiful pictures and videos, with subjects ranging from colourful festivals in Peru or fascinating Māori traditions to recent scientific discoveries or important historical events. All this is amazing and really helps us to use our teaching to widen students’ views of the world by bringing them closer to realities that may be very different from their own. But we can always do more.

For example, if your lesson is about food – no matter if the central subject is Indian or Japanese food, or just a simple supermarket shopping list – select one type of vegetable or meat or ingredient, and gather some information about how it is cooked in at least three other areas of the world. You can show photos or videos of people from these places either preparing or eating that type of food, so students can see how diverse people and tastes are. A good example of this difference is how avocados are eaten in Brazil – with sugar in desserts – and in the rest of the American continent – in savoury dishes. Another alternative is to assign different countries or cultures to groups of students so they do the research themselves and bring the information to class. It is possible to do something similar with clothing, toys and games, celebrations and holidays, pets and animals, family members and relations, etc.

At more advanced levels it is possible to choose, for instance, a historical fact or a news item, and search the web for alternative narratives and points of view from different countries or regions, so the students can understand and discuss how cultural backgrounds will also influence the way people understand an event. For example, when teaching about sports, choose an international game – say, a FIFA World Cup Game – and show how the comments about the same game are delivered in different ways according to the country. If the topic is the cinema, you can have students research how well a particular film did in different countries and places, and consider how local culture may have impacted its success or lack thereof.

At more advanced levels it is possible to choose, for instance, a historical fact or a news item, and search the web for alternative narratives and points of view from different countries or regions, so the students can understand and discuss how cultural backgrounds will also influence the way people understand an event. For example, when teaching about sports, choose an international game – say, a FIFA World Cup Game – and show how the comments about the same game are delivered in different ways according to the country. If the topic is the cinema, you can have students research how well a particular film did in different countries and places, and consider how local culture may have impacted its success or lack thereof.

These are only some simple ideas you might find helpful to make your lessons even more intercultural. What is important is to keep in mind that whatever topic you are teaching, you can always consider other cultures and find ways to raise students’ awareness of them.

About author

Ricardo Sili has been in ELT for a long time – teaching, training teachers, designing and managing courses, and writing and editing for Learning Factory and Richmond, and a few others. He is especially interested in pronunciation and developing listening comprehension skills. Ricardo has an MA in ELT, and an RSA Diploma. He is currently living in Portugal.
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