One of the obvious advantages of studying abroad is immersion, yet many students struggle to take advantage of the English environment in order to speed their learning. Integrating lesson plans with daily life so as to make this connection explicit can be helpful in nudging students toward seeking out more opportunities to practice outside the classroom. For this reason, it is worth investing time into lessons that teach students the skills they need to cope in their interactions with Canadians.
The second part of the Cultural Considerations series will focus on (Inter)cultural dynamics in the Canadian ESL classroom. ESL teachers in Canada have to be aware that while many students look forward to the prospect of meeting and learning alongside students from other countries, different approaches to study that arise from both personality and culture need to be addressed. Stereotypically, students of East-Asian origin (Korean, Japanese, Chinese, etc.) have a strong desire to improve their communication skills but feel overwhelmed and overpowered by students from a South American or European background, for whom fluency typically comes more quickly. It is up to you to establish a strong precedent of equitable patterns of participation in your classroom, and this may initially require explicit discussion about how ‘quiet’ students can make space for themselves, and how dominant students can ensure their less fluent classmates have the opportunity to be heard.
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Teaching English in Canada can be significantly different from teaching in other countries, particularly those which are non-Anglophone. If you land a TESOL job in a private language school, it is likely that the majority of your students will be visitors to the country, studying full-time for a period of 1-12 months.
The majority of ESL students will be learning English primarily for the purposes of work or study and are studying at great personal and financial expense, so stakes and expectations are high. At the same time, these students are also generally open to new experiences in a culture different from their own, so learning to strike a balance between rigorous study and fun is a necessary skill. What can new teachers do to take advantage of cultural factors and give their students an excellent experience studying English in Canada?