It is common knowledge that learning a language is not an easy thing to do. Very often secondary school students find it hard and boring to get a good command of English. A persistent problem faced by many teachers is the attempt to sustain students’ genuine interest in continuing to learn the English language, to increase their motivation.
Therefore, the goal of a teacher is to make the process of studying the language as enjoyable and interesting as possible. Teaching a foreign language through culture helps fulfill the task.
We have been working with specialized classes in our school for more than 20 years and we have faced the problem of students’ low motivation many times. As learning, a language is something that can take place inside and outside the classroom; we use the opportunities for teaching the language and culture outside regular school hours and encourage our students and their parents to participate. We involve our students in culture-based outclass activities that give them an opportunity to have an exposure to culture in nearly real-life situations. As the cultural experience of secondary school students is usually based on the reproduction of pieces of cultural information learned by heart we try to form their cultural awareness through their personal experience of cooking authentic holiday dishes, practicing dances, participating in parties and games, etc. the way native speakers do.
Organizing this or that culture-based event we involve our students’ parents in preparation and very often ask them to participate. We design special activities for each event and ask parents to help. If it is a Halloween party they and their children design costumes, cut faces in pumpkins taking part in ‘The Best Pumpkin’ contest, cook a pumpkin pie, become ghosts in the “Haunted House”. At Christmas party they take part in mimes (older children do it themselves), prepare Christmas pudding. For St Patrick’s Day parents help their children learn and stage the Irish river dance, make costumes, draw leprechauns, etc. If it is Pancake Day they organize a pancake race and even take part in it. Very often we ask parents to judge the contests.
Thus, meaningful interaction between parents and students, students and teachers, teachers and parents enhances students’ motivation to learning. Students enjoy studying culture creatively. They acquire skills necessary to understand a foreign culture and interact successfully within it, which helps develop our children as global citizens. Engaged in the schooling process of their children parents benefit as they become aware of the importance of their children’s participation in the activities, which help them achieve cross-cultural understanding. Parents learn to understand that our goal is not to overload students with Western culture, but to motivate our students to understand culture while learning English and to sustain their genuine interest in learning a foreign language.
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