Will the world ever live as one?

“We live in a world we have not yet learned to look at”

Marc Augé

(Photograph taken at The Beatles Story, Liverpool) 

We are living in a world in which we are being constantly bombarded with information about everything, from funny memes to world politics. We are often under the impression that we know and understand the world we live in. It’s just an impression. The world out there is far more complex than right-wing or left-wing; it’s not either this or that. People’s minds are just as complex.  Yet, we find ourselves wishing people would think just like us and we end up putting them in boxes according to how we perceive them. This binary thinking may pervade our classroom practices, mainly the discussions and debates we carry out with our students.

That said, I’m not arguing in favor of a neutral, bureaucratic ESL environment focused only on grammar and vocabulary in a  world where people live as one. Ultimately, it’s impossible to ignore the world out there and bringing up both global and local issues not only enriches our teaching, but it also enhances the role of language as a tool for communication and as a vehicle for social change. However, this is not to say that class discussions involving current issues should be an end in itself.

As language teachers, our primary goal is to teach language so that learners can talk about the things they want to talk about. Therefore, we should equip our students with the grammar and vocabulary they need and scaffold them, so that they can hone their speaking skills and use English to defend their own positions, counter argument, and most importantly, reach compromise, not only in classroom discussions but also in their everyday interactions.

What I’m saying is that we should create a safe environment in which learners can express their own ideas if they wish to do so. Some learners may not want to voice their opinions and it’s all right because, as English language teachers, our role is not to lecture others on what they should think, say or do. Rather, our role is to promote diversity, inclusion and understanding through  language. In order to do so, first, we must accept the fact that we have but a limited understanding of people and world events. Will the world ever live as one? Maybe, but in the meantime we can and should create an accepting environment in our classes through language.

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Teresa Carvalho

Teresa holds a Master's Degree in Language Studies from PUC-Rio, a B.A. in Linguistics from USP, and Delta Modules 1 and 2 Certificates. She has been teaching for over 30 years and has presented at webinars and at both local and international Conferences, including ABCI, IATEFL, and the Image Conference. She also holds a Specialization degree in English Language from PUC-Rio. She is interested in Systemic-Functional Linguistics, identity studies, visual literacy, and in language development for teachers of English as a foreign language.

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