The Teacher and “Cultural” conflict

One of the things any ESL / EFL / ESOL teacher cannot avoid is “culture”. We deal on this playing field, a classroom/school where cultures meet and collide, even if only our own and the native culture. So it is imperative that we teachers have a sensitive, refined understanding of how culture works and how when cultures meet, they give and take from each other…..

You can take courses in anthropology/sociology or intercultural relations but generally what helps an English teacher most is their own life experience. Using their own experience to have their actions and teaching informed with cultural understanding and respect. There are many ways to see the world and “live” the world. A teacher doesn’t take the short ethnocentric view that one “way” is right and others must “submit” and come around to be/act in certain ways.

I got to thinking about this after reading the following article by a so called “sociologist” , John Huer (and I have great concerns with sociology in general – how it really is a falsely “western centered” subject and really a poor cousin to the proper anthropology). Read his article yourself – I think it reeks of misunderstanding of Korean culture. What culture is ever “normal”? as he suggests other western cultures are. What is “world culture”? How can any culture be “at the margins”? Where does the center hold? There is no normal in the diverse cultural web in this world. But make your judgements….

What I do suggest is that teachers watch this amazing video of the Australian Leahy brothers. In 1930, they went into the highlands of Papau New Guinea in search of gold but also took a camera! The film survives and provides evidence of what the “locals” thought of these first white men who descended from the skies. Even more revealing, the film makers interview these same highlanders 50 years later ! So interesting to hear their comments and description of meeting these strange “white faces”. This is wonderful ethnography and the film itself has important messages to any thoughtful EFL teacher. Enjoy!

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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