Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Teaching English as a Second Language and Social Justice

I find teaching English to speakers of other languages exciting because I understand the importance of what I am introuducing to these students. It is not only just a superficial language that is being taught to these young students, but the culture that comes along with it. Every word in every language, and especially every phrase in every language carries with it a special, cultural meaning that can only be fully 100% understood when it is placed within a context of that culture, or learned from within that culture. For example, "raining cats and dogs" is a phrase that would hardly be understood by people learning English as a second language. Of course, other languages have phrases that mean the same thing, which is something along the lines of "It's raining really hard.", and they too may or may not be idiomatic in nature. Often times these idiomatic phrases are anecdotal phrases that are funny, or rhyme, or are simply a metaphor that became permanent. The thing about them is, that they must be taught as a whole idea, within a context, much like individual words.
In relating these ideas to promoting Social Justice, I find it to be very easy to introduce topics which are relevant to Social Justice while teaching English as a Second Language. The field offers an unlimited number of topics. As long as it contains the target language than it is relevant to the subject. As a teacher of ESL, I must always include literacy and content area standards simulatenously, given that I am teaching a lesson in something other than English. For example, a history lesson taught to English Language Learners must contain Social Studies and Literacy standards. This I believe, provides me with an excellent opportunity to greatly vary my approach to these students, so that they may learn a new language while being taught content and culture.
The article that I am handing out on the Novemeber 7th class is a great example of this. The article itself is derived from a ESL lesson, but it contains interesting information on cultural understanding and geopolitics. Promoting cultural understanding, which is key to understanding a foreign language, is just one of many ways to promote social justice within an ESL classroom. (AI)

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