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Cultural Diversity in the Classroom

Emily Smith

As a teacher, you have a unique opportunity to make the world a better place. You’re already doing this by educating students and teaching them to speak more than one language, but your window of influence is much larger than that. As a teacher, you have the opportunity to expand your students’ horizon in many ways. One such way is by bringing in the topic of cultural diversity.

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The unfortunate reality of the world we live in today is that racism still exists in almost every part of the world. Whether you teach in South Korea and have students who talk badly about the Japanese or you teach in Germany and hear racial slurs against the Turks, you have probably encountered many different forms of racism. Almost every community and society on earth has its own brand of racism, but it’s all still racism. It may sound like a lot to ask a foreign language teacher to end global prejudice, but you’re in a strategic position to do so one student at a time.

As a foreign language teacher, you are also somewhat of an ambassador, not only for your own culture, but for the global community. Most of the time prejudice stems from a lack of understanding between people. So how do we make this global village one of peace and harmony? We open up the lines of communication and we educate. As a foreign language teacher you are in the perfect place to start those dialogues. You don’t have to restrict your conversation to teaching your students about the country or countries that speak the language you’re teaching; you can teach your students about any country or culture. To make it fit in your lesson plan and subject objectives, all you have to do is use the language you’re teaching. The more people know about other cultures, the less likely they are to fear or hate them. You can incorporate cultural diversity in the classroom in many ways. Here are a few:

1. Country Reports – Have your students write and present reports on different countries. Instead of letting your students pick the countries they research, write a bunch of countries down on pieces of paper and have your students draw them out of a hat. This way your students are forced to explore new places.

2. Discuss current events – Talk about things going on in the world. Have your students express their opinions about different topics which they may or may not know much about. If your students say anything hateful, try to gently present a different side of things, making him/her see a new perspective.

3. International Food Day – Food is a huge part of culture. Pick a day and make your students bring food from around the world. Assign each student to a different country to make sure many different cuisines are represented.

As a foreign language teacher, you are also somewhat of an ambassador, not only for your own culture, but for the global community.

4. Heroes – Study heroes from around the world. Have your students learn about the famous female boxer, Mary Kom, who is not only a woman from a humble economic background, but also from an ethnic minority group in India.

5. International Media – Use literature, TV shows, or movies from all over the world and translate it into the language you’re teaching. You never know; your students may find a new favourite show!

These are just a few things to help your language students broaden their horizons and have a greater knowledge of the world and the people in it. The more your students know about other cultures and countries, the more likely they are to be more accepting of others.

Have you worked hard to break down cultural barriers and increase cultural awareness and diversity in the classroom? Tell us how you’ve done it!

About the author

Emily has taught English to ESL learners in four Asian countries. Although she taught students from 3-60, she has a definite affection for preschoolers and college students. She has also worked as an ESL curriculum writer and is TESOL certified. When she is not teaching, she loves watching and making films.