CSC – Teaching English through the student’s own culture.

I am of late, a very big fan of culturally specific content. What I mean is English teaching material that uses the student’s own culture and environment as the backdrop and “content”. I live and teach in Korea right now, so I have been using a lot of Korean subjects and Korean culture by which to create materials / activities and get students speaking English.

In an EFL context, I think we need to emphasize more the local culture/world and less so the “English” world. For a few reasons. 1. The media already does a good job of this. 2. Respect. Why should we be cultural imperialists? 3. The development of world “Englishes” and the spread of English around the world means that there is a devolution in terms of “English culture” – this should be reflected in our classrooms and approach.

In an ESL context (when teaching English in an “English” country – this is sometimes done but most often not. Most schools and governments deliver all the content through a “cultural” prism – teaching the students about the new foreign culture. In some respects this is necessary but I really think that if you want students to acquire language quickly and most importantly “deeply” [for language grows and it is up to us teachers to get the roots to set deeply] — you have to teach through the two most important doorways a student has > their ego and their culture/world.

See my training site for a nice place full of “Korean” specific content. Here and Here. See below an example for higher level learners. Much more like this in our Current Events area. What is something you have for the culture/country in which you teach, to share or suggest?

Why use CSC?

1. The students have context! Context is one of the most important aspects of language teaching. It provides students with the backdrop and ability to understand and link their own language/culture and that of English. When students talk about their own club / community / city country/ culture (my own concept of the 5 ever widening circles of “world”.), they have a lot of prior knowledge upon which they can speak. In a nutshell – CSC LEADS TO MUCH MORE SPEAKING AND COMPREHENSIBLE OUTPUT. Also, there is less “interference” and culture that has to be translated – this leads to better teaching. Further, there is a necessity and compulsion to speak – which is the most important thing for a language learner. If there is a will, they will find a way……

2. It’s interesting. We are all more interested in our own world (celebrities / economics / people / events) than that elsewhere, all things being equal. You will see an increase in student interest if you use CSC.

3. It teaches more than English. Let’s face it. Our students overseas will most likely be living in their own country for the rest of their lives. It is encumbent on us teachers to teach not just English but to prepare them for their own future lives. We can do this better by teaching them with content that involves their own future.

4. The teacher learns! Yes, as our motto suggests, it is much better when two learn instead of one. The teacher as an involved participant and learner can only help the learning/classroom culture. Also, it will make the teacher’s life in the foreign culture, just that much less daunting and trying…..


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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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3 Responses

  1. Amazing post. I am simply thrilled by the idea of CSC. Its been almost 6 years or so I have been teaching English abroad but I never come up with this kind of teaching techniques. This will certainly help the students to learn in a much easy way. Students will not hesitate at all while speaking about their own city, club, town, friends. It seems that I should regularly follow your blog for further updates in this regard.

    Steve Brown

  2. ddeubel says:


    Really appreciate the comments and that you understand how teachers have to change up the curriculum (where possible – many don’t have the freedom) to suit a more local cultural and linguistic context.

    I don’t think we should talk about “Globlish” or ISE – International standard English but about local Englishes. That’s another development that is pushing a more culturally focused curriculum.

    Thanks for the comment. It is as simple as you suggest.


  3. tefl says:

    It becomes very important for a teacher to know native language if he/she is teaching english as a secondary language to students. Knowing native language helps in initial stages of learning. Once the concepts get clear teacher can focus on hard core english teaching. 🙂

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