The English language is a fascinating mix of regional dialects and unique slang, shaped by centuries of history and cultural influences. Throughout its long history, the UK has had many invasions and visitors. From the Romans in ancient Londinium to the rolling hills of the Saxon heartland, and from the Viking raiders of the north to the Norman conquerors of the south, each wave of historical influence has shaped the dialects of the UK. Each region of the United Kingdom has its own distinct flavor of language and accent. Today, we embark on a slang tour to explore some of the expressions from different regions.
5 ways to bring cultural diversity into your classroom
Bringing cultural diversity into the classroom is becoming increasingly important. Our young learner and teen students are exposed to different ideas, traditions and voices from all over the world. This is thanks to social media platforms like YouTube, SnapChat, TikTok, and Instagram – among others.
This is a hugely positive advance because greater cultural understanding increases opportunities for studying and working abroad. However, with so many online contradictions, the world can also seem confusing. It’s our job as teachers to show students how to navigate and cope with the information they find.
By talking about cultural similarities and differences – and rejecting stereotypes – we help our students understand that the world is an extremely diverse and exciting place. In turn, this will encourage them to be more understanding and tolerant of others in the classroom, helping them to thrive in the future, if they enter an international working environment.
So here are five exciting ways to bring cultural diversity into your classroom using maps, reading materials, and images.
1. Use a world map
World maps are excellent classroom resources. You can use an online version projected on the whiteboard, a poster-sized one from a school supplier, or one that you build on a bulletin board with A4 printed sheets.
Having the world at your fingertips suddenly makes a huge planet seem much more inviting and exciting. It’s not just the places themselves but the distances, geography and diversity that can be displayed on a world map bringing new information and connections to the learners’ attention.
Build on your map throughout the year. Encourage students to add information to the map to increase their knowledge of the world as you cover different themes. Add cultural details relevant to where you teach and new places students are learning about in class.
If you create a yearbook, add a snap of the final map to show students the world they have discovered over the past year.
2. Build a background
Build on a theme or topic covered in your coursebook by including photographs and/or commentary from students of a similar age from around the world. You can find authentic materials online using resources like Teacher Tube (a school-friendly video platform), or search for images or articles online. Themes you could cover include; musical instruments, animals, festivals, places of interest and sports.
Then you can encourage students to share their traditions or thoughts on how their experiences relate to those you have introduced. It’s also a good idea to bring in items related to the theme that they recognize and talk through why they are important in their culture.
For example, if your theme is related to music, find a video or a set of images of children around the world playing (or talking about) traditional instruments. Bring in an instrument or two that your students would easily recognize. Ask them to share how the instruments are played and their cultural significance. They can then add their ideas to the map in the form of stories, photos or drawings.
3. Highlight similarities
Sometimes when we mention culture, the outcome can be to highlight differences, but we can highlight similarities too. Students can often be interested and even amazed at how similar lives across the world can be. Below are some example activities:
- Who are the people who help in your community? Possible answers could include nurses/doctors, the police or fire service, teachers, bus drivers, etc. Compare images of these occupations from around the world and have students identify/discuss why they are similar.
- What is your favorite way to celebrate? Look at what items (food, clothing, gifts) mark celebrations in different cultures – why are some things, like New Year celebrations and birthdays, universal?
- What makes a good friend? Ask students if distance changes these characteristics.
Use string to link the countries to an image or word-list of similarities and add to this, as topics increase.
Note that while it’s also important to show there are differences, you should be wary of stereotypes. If you are using a coursebook, look and see how many stereotypes are included – you might be surprised. Are the Inuit only shown living in igloos? Does everyone in Mexico have a sombrero? Is the most pasta eaten per person in Italy? (No, it’s the USA).
Does the stereotype give the learner a better understanding of a country or culture? How can we present a balanced view?
4. Share a story
Most cultures are rich in storytelling tradition. This means asking students to share a story should be stress-free. Nevertheless, they may need help with the English words, so how do we prepare children to share their stories?
This can be an excellent opportunity to build a home/school link. Help students to think about a story they want to share:
- What words do they need to tell that story?
- Can they act out parts of the story?
- Could a picture, a clip of video, a piece of music help tell the story?
Give the students time to prepare so they can bring in photos, realia etc. from home. In some situations, it might be an opportunity to invite in parents/grandparents to help with the story.
If you have tablet computers in your class let a small group of students take turns to record the stories. Have other groups create a poster for each story to add to the world map.
5. Use culturally diverse reading materials
Providing diverse reading materials is an excellent way to introduce your students to cultures, ideas and traditions from all over the world. So perhaps it’s time to review your class library. If you can’t find authors from every continent, it might be time to update it.
While printed books are a nice resource to have, you are restricted by your shelf space. Digital readers, on the other hand, can help you solve that problem. With so many great titles available, there’s no need to limit what you have available for your students to read.
Focus on one area of the world at a time and read adapted versions of books by authors from this region. Then ask students if they have a similar story in their culture.
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Language is not only a tool for communication but also a means to explore and comprehend diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Europe, with its vast array of languages, is a prime example of this linguistic diversity. Each year on September 26th, Europe observes the European Day of Languages, which is a day solely dedicated to celebrating and embracing this linguistic richness.
Europe is a magnificent tapestry of languages, with over 200 spoken throughout the continent. This diversity is a symbol of the rich cultural heritage of each nation and reminds us of the intricate historical, social, and linguistic elements that mold our identities. The European Day of Languages inspires people to cherish and honor this linguistic heritage.
Why September 26th?
September 26th marks an important date for celebrating linguistic diversity and promoting multilingualism. This day commemorates the adoption of the "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages" by the Council of Europe in 1992, a crucial document that recognizes and safeguards the linguistic rights of minority languages spoken within European countries. By celebrating the European Day of Languages on this date, it renews our commitment to supporting the rich diversity of languages and cultures that make our world a more vibrant and fascinating place.
What type of events happen?
The European Day of Languages offers language learners a chance to participate in language exchanges, which is an exciting opportunity. During such exchanges, learners from diverse backgrounds partner up and teach each other their native languages. This not only helps improve language skills but also promotes intercultural understanding.
Various European cities offer language workshops led by enthusiasts and experts, providing an introduction to different languages.
Storytelling is an incredibly effective tool for learning languages. Libraries, schools, and cultural centers hold multilingual storytelling sessions, where stories from different cultures are shared in their original languages. This helps both children and adults to better understand and appreciate the beauty of linguistic diversity.
Cinema provides a wonderful opportunity to explore different languages and cultures. Throughout Europe, foreign films are often shown with subtitles, enabling viewers to fully immerse themselves in new linguistic worlds.
Museums often showcase exhibitions highlighting the linguistic and cultural heritage of various regions, providing insight into the history and traditions of different languages.
Cafés and restaurants might offer special menus featuring diverse cuisines and multilingual staff – a delightfully tasty way to explore languages and cultures.
Games and Competitions
Language-based games and competitions, such as crossword puzzles and spelling bees, are organized in schools and communities to provide a fun and educational way to celebrate language.
If you are a teacher hoping to celebrate this occasion make sure to check here for ideas on what to do.
Check out what events are happening near you here.
Just like the European day of Languages, we at Pearson Languages are fully committed to empowering and celebrating language learners and educators alike. That's why we are now supporting French, Italian, and Spanish language learning with the Global Scale of Languages (GSL). With these new language learning frameworks at your fingertips, you can confidently design curriculums and personalize learning pathways to help fast-track your learners’ progress and help your learners be themselves in French, Italian and Spanish.
Whether you're a teacher, a language learner, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of languages, the European Day of Languages and the GSL provide exciting opportunities to explore, learn, and enjoy the rich tapestry of Europe's linguistic heritage.
Can we play a game? How many times have you been asked this in class? And how often do you say Yes? Young learners love to play games, and if you choose the right ones, they can have a hugely beneficial impact on their learning.
As well as being fun, games can provide learners with necessary language practice, as well as lowering the affective filter (i.e. anxiety, fear, boredom and other negative emotions that can all impact learning). Games also foster a positive, relaxed environment.
So are you ready to play? Here are a few tried and tested games that work especially well in the primary classroom. Each game is designed to consolidate and review the language students have been learning, and take from 5 to 15 minutes. The games are flexible enough for you to adapt them to different levels, age groups and skills.