LEARNING ENGLISH AND THE CONTEXT OF STUDENTS.

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Learning a foreign language has become an important issue today at different levels. More and more professionals are exposed to English when they have to do business and communicate with other countries; also, students are required to get information especially from Internet and sometimes web pages in English pop up and even though they can use translation tools to get access to information, it is necessary to read and understand the real message that may be altered when translating a document.

Learning English implies learning the culture in which this language is spoken. This aspect permits students understand language in a better way by using the cultural context of foreign countries in examples in class. The way people celebrate a birthday, the way families have a special dinner or simply what students do in universities are topics that may get students interested in learning a language. This step implies that students need to be involved in a cultural space in order to have a meaningful learning of it.

On the other hand, to understand a different cultural context may not be as simple as it seems because students may not be able to have a clear picture of a context that has many different representations. Students would find hard to understand cultural expressions based in specific circumstances from other spaces. The weather, for example, makes people express feelings and adopt attitudes according to a specific time of the year that is totally different in our country, and make students understand examples from school books related to weather and customs could be a pain in the neck for teachers.

Considering this information, we can say that learning English is now a must in our society, but it is also a big challenge for students. They try to learn English in a context that does not use English and it is sometimes the main reason that makes students feel less motivated to the learning process. Now, the question is WHAT TO DO?

Mixing experiences when learning English is a good alternative in class, in other words, learning from my context and learning from another context. This would be applied when teachers provide students with real examples from their context and expose them to examples from other contexts that would be easy to understand considering they live in a different context. It is like comparing two different cultures in order to find out similar aspects and different aspects. It will help students create a mental picture of what people do in other countries as well as making them visualize that we perform same activities, too. By comparing two contexts, the purpose is not to create a kind of a “competition” between two cultures, but the aim is getting the most significant information from both societies in order to provide students with meaningful activities that will help them learn a different language in an effective way.