Globalization has brought the distance between people with diverse cultural backgrounds ever closer. Colin Bakers states that the ownership of two languages has increasingly become seen as an asset as the ‘communication world’ gets smaller. However, being able to use appropriate language to communicate with native speakers does not mean that we have the capacity to interact with others appropriately in a variety of cultural contexts. Students’ intercultural competence skills have to be expanded in our shrinking world. Developing intercultural awareness is a core element to all IB programmes, clearly reflected in the IB mission statement. Students should not merely acquire cultural knowledge as a series of trivia facts. Instead, educators ought to challenge students to think at a higher level and negotiate meaning to generate culturally appropriate behavior.
When planning language acquisition lessons, teachers should:
Discuss with students what culture is.
In my opinion, discussing with students about what "culture" is in the language acquisition course is essential. One strategy I use is the iceberg approach. Students are shown a model of cultural iceberg and they brainstorm cultural aspects above and below the sea level. Culture encompasses both visible and hidden aspects as shown in the model below. Students need to understand that a lot more "hidden" cultural aspects require us to pay attention to, reflect on, and react to.
Strategies including, but not limited to:
- Establish a safe environment.
- Respect students' identify and hold the judgements.
- Build on students' prior knowledge.
- Use students as resources.
- Select relevant and appropriate topics.
- Use authentic materials whenever possible.
- Allow time for personal reflection with guiding questions.
- Design tasks that require students to conduct interviews from different point of views.
- Have students role play cross cultural scenarios.
- Have students share how they would relate and/or react to a specific situation in their culture.
- Use anticipation guide to help students identify facts or opinions (cultural stereotypes).
- Analyze advertisements or events that caused misunderstanding.
- Ask questions to enable students to explain their interpretation and expand their thoughts.
- Use See-Think-Wonder thinking routine to allow students make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations.
- Teach thinking skills explicitly.
- Ask purposeful questions to solicit responses and interpretations.
- Help students to make personal connections after viewing, reading or listening.
- Provide students with sentence starters to engage them in the thinking process.
- Use Connect-Extend-Challenge thinking routine to help students develop understanding of new ideas based on their prior knowledge and personal experiences.
- Engage students to share alternatives and discuss why someone's ideas differ from their own.
To conclude, I would like to share this great Ted talk video by Derek Sivers that share how things might be perceived differently and we ought to be more open-minded.