Studying a Second Language is a Passport to Global Citizenship
Learning a foreign language is a passport to global citizenship. The commitment to learning a new language demonstrates an interest in broadening one’s view of the world and the desire to understand other cultures. As a language learner’s worldview expands, so should knowledge and interest in global issues.
Wider View of the World
The acquisition of a second language and the acquisition of socially responsible behavior are similar in that they are both processes that affect a person’s view of the world and foster the development of a global mindset. As a person’s view of the world expands, it becomes easier to understand how global issues transcend political and cultural borders. Addressing those global issues and planning sustainable global development require communication among all members of the international community. Therefore, people learning a second language have the opportunity to become ambassadors for peace, equality, human rights and the environment.
The Role of the Language Teacher
The language educator’s role is to begin the process by providing access to knowledge that will raise awareness of issues. Increases in knowledge and awareness inevitably lead to a change in attitude about how a specific issue is perceived. Language classes that focus on higher levels of language production such as writing or debate courses that encompass rhetorical skills in cause and effect analysis or evaluative ability naturally help to develop students’ critical thinking skills. Using global themes in such courses will also help to provide those students with the opportunity to develop the skills to take action and participate as global citizens for the betterment of the global community.
Pedagogical Reasons for Using Global Issues as Lesson Themes
Although the major goals of introducing global issues into language lessons are to raise consciousness and to promote socially responsible behavior, there are also several pedagogical reasons as well. Lesson materials for using global issues themes in a language classroom can and should be authentic. That is the lesson materials represent real-world issues using common vocabulary and rhetoric. The use of authentic materials in second language teaching intensifies the meaningfulness of content. Meaningful content can be a factor that facilitates the acquisition of language in content-based instruction because meaningful learning increases retention of new knowledge and information.
- Use Authentic Materials
- Integrate 4 skills
- Communicative Approach
- Active Learning
- Content-Based/Theme Based Instruction
- Inspire Independent Learners
Tips for Teachers
Perhaps, a pressing question might be, “How should a language teacher select a particular global issue for a lesson theme?” The answer to this question depends on the answer to two other questions: Who are the students? And, what are their needs?
Since the primary focus of this discussion is on language teaching, it is essential to first consider the needs of the language learner. Therefore, before selecting a global issue as a theme and before designing materials for a lesson, the language teacher needs to consider the following assumptions:
1) The younger the students are the less likely they will be able to understand abstract concepts and intricate cause-and-effect relationship involved in the detailed explanations of global issues. The teaching implication of this is to keep the content material about a particular global challenge simple and within the realm of understanding for children and young teens.
2) The lower the proficiency level, the less likely students will be able to use intricate language patterns and high level vocabulary to express opinions and ideas about global issues in the target language. The teaching implication of this is to focus more on receptive skills (reading and listening) and use materials that provide scaffolding of target language structures. It would also be useful to include visual media (pictures and videos) in order to maximize the comprehensibility of new vocabulary.
3) The greater the social distance between local issues familiar to a language learner and a global issue introduced into the language classroom, the more difficult it will be for the language learner to understand. Additionally, a lack of understanding for a lesson theme may result in a lack of interest and motivation for the language lesson. The teaching implication here is to try to connect content material about global issues to students’ lives or to local issues that are familiar to them.
4) Students do not need to understand all the intricate connections of a particular global issue to benefit from using the issue as a theme in the language classroom. The primary goal of incorporating global issues as themes into language lessons is to begin to raise students’ awareness.
KEEP IN MIND
- Try not to be judgmental.
- Try to avoid over-generalizations.
- You don’t have to be an expert.
- Try to avoid an “us” vs. “them” or “we” vs. “you” tone.