Throughout our chat, Mario and Alberto suggested teachers think about how language can be used to address differences in culture. “A language is not just a bunch of words together,” say Mario and Alberto, who teach their classes both in Spanish and in English. “There are many things behind it, like the background of a culture and of a country.”
As an example, the eTwinz shared how a culture in Australia refers to directions. In the United States, we use clear signs to demonstrate direction, (ie., “Can you grab that coffee cup in front of you / to your right?”) while other cultures like the Guugu Ymithirr of the northernmost part of Queensland use cardinal direction (ie., “Can you pick up that coffee cup to the east of you?”).
As an educator, it’s important to acknowledge these cultural differences — if you have a student who is part of the Guugu Ymithirr tribe, he only knows how to refer to directions as north, south, east, and west, and the educator must weave that into her teachings so as not exclude the student! To learn more, check out the Discovery Topic “Languages of the World” as an example.
For more resources on the importance of openly encouraging students to use their home language in class discussions, check out this three-part series from Education Week: “ELL Students’ Home Language is an Asset, Not a Barrier.”