jonathon narvey's ESL CENTRE


Monday, March 20, 2006

Canadian culture? What's that?

"Culture? That's what I get from yogurt." - a friend

One of the biggest perks of being an ESL teacher in Vancouver is getting a sense of the myriad cultures that coexist on our little planet.

My students come from all over: Korea, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Taiwan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Germany, Iran...

While in their own countries, the only information some students may have about people from other nations is in the form of rough stereotypes. It can be really inspiring, seeing these people come together to work at the common goal of learning a language. At the same time, they are forming lasting relationships and impressions that they will take back to their own countries.

Of course, many students will be curious about Canadian culture as well. It can be a great topic for discussion and an interesting theme for many kinds of lessons.

Ask your students what sorts of things come to mind when they think of Canadian culture. They might mention maple syrup, clothing for cold weather, Bryan Adams, or hockey. These are all fine examples, but of course there's a lot more to it.

For students in Vancouver, a visit to the Museum of Anthropology or Storyeum can be a fascinating visual introduction to local history, including First Nations culture and a look at the development of the Vancouver region from the first settlements of Europeans to the modern era. Students might not understand all of the English in the exhibits, but testing their comprehension of these interactive exhibits can be a fun lesson. The websites for those places also contain some great information already compiled for teachers.

Those visits might serve as introductions to Canadian culture, but culture is not just something we find in museums. It is an evolving thing, made up of many facets: language, customs, fashion, food, music - basically, anything that human beings create that is distinctive for a particular region.

Other interesting sites with resources about Canada include:
Maps of Canada: pretty much what you'd expect.
Lonely Planet Interactive Map of Canada: lets you click on cities across the country to view city maps.
Lonely Planet Canada Travel Information: includes all sorts of practical information for students planning to visit other parts of the country. Also includes some fascinating facts and a great image gallery.

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