How to Fill the Role of a Cultural Ambassador
As an EFL teacher, you often find yourself sharing not only your language with your students, but your background and experiences as well. It is important to know how and why sharing our culture improves our language teaching. Enrich your lessons by offering your students the opportunity to go further in their understanding of English. Follow these five steps and learn how to be a cultural ambassador in the classroom!
Present English as a Living Language
When you share your background and experiences with your students, you present English as a living language. Oftentimes students only learn English from a textbook; it is simply another dry school subject, not a means of communication that can open the doors to unlimited possibilities. When we speak in our natural accent, or talk about dialect or slang, we present English as a way to connect with other people, a language real people speak which opens a gate to understanding new cultures.
Be Proud of Your Culture
Being proud of your culture and country makes a big difference in your effectiveness as a cultural ambassador. Enjoying your country’s pastimes, culinary tradition, sports and cinema or knowing about famous celebrities from your country always creates interesting discussion points for class. What being proud of your culture doesn’t mean is always agreeing with your country’s government or political leaders. Politics is a touchy subject and, as a rule, not a topic for an ESL classroom.
Be Knowledgeable About English Speaking Countries
How much do you know about your home country? Who were its greatest contributors to the arts or philosophy? Learn about the history of your country and how it shaped the modern society. Being able to field questions from curious students is always important to keep the lesson flowing. Be aware of other English speaking countries as well. Your students may be huge fans of US pop culture, but know very little about England and its various football clubs. Students will be interested in the range of English speaking cultures and may not be able to differentiate between them at first.
Be Culturally Sensitive
Showing cultural sensitivity is a vital part of being a cultural ambassador. Being a representative of your country does not mean only viewing the world through the lens of your culture. Understanding the values of other cultures and how they differ from your own is integral to leading a cultural dialogue in the classroom. You can’t go wrong by having an open mind and an understanding of the culturally diverse world we live in today.
Learn From Others
One way to increase your cultural sensitivity and effectiveness as a cultural ambassador is to learn about other cultures, specifically the culture of your host country. Studying the traditions, customs and religions of other cultures can help you understand the values that specific population holds and can help you communicate with that culture more effectively. Knowing about your host country’s culture will not only help you relate to your students but also connect the concepts they are learning to concepts they already understand by drawing parallels and contrasts. Keep your students engaged and interested in learning a new language by presenting it as a gateway to a new culture. Learn more about how we celebrate Austrian culture at the English Teacher Training College!
We hope these steps help you enrich your lessons and engage your students on a deeper level. Travelling the globe sharing your own culture while learning about your students’ is one of the biggest benefits of being a TEFL teacher. Let us know in the comments what being a cultural ambassador means to you!
Written by Caitlin Fitzgibbon