Saturday, 6 February 2010

Through global lenses

February snow on the ground in Finland and in the background quite a mismatch of a business idea. Possibly an attempt at a global feel with the stereotypical Aussie icons plus the name Sydney, although I suspect this place has nothing to do with Australia otherwise. After all, they serve Italian pizza and Turkish kebabs, washed down with, whatever else than the epitome of globalization - American coca cola.

This is very much the reality in my country, where using English or global references are considered a sign of success. I can well understand the backlash from many Finns, who become very protective towards anything domestic and want to support nothing but Finnishness and Finnish products, language included.

Many of my high school students also feel this way. Although, on the surface, they love travelling, have dreams of spending some of their lives abroad, and seem to prefer many international brands and ideas, when it comes to learning English, their defenses zoom up and they strongly cling to their right to speak and use Finglish - a variant of the global lingua franca with a strong Finnish accent. And, of course, they are welcome to do so. The only problem may be that (as I have blogged before) they may be unnecessarily misunderstood among native English speakers, wrongly considered a little bit dumb perhaps, and not get out of communicative situations what they would like. I wonder if it's all to do with a certain inferiority complex we may, sometimes unconsciously, suffer from. Native English speakers have a clear advantage compared to us, and we find it hard to come to terms with it, especially if we have worked hard for years, and reached a fairly good level in English.

The photo bringing Finland, Australia and America together is very relevant for me right now, as I am just about to embark on a novel pilot project with two teachers on opposite sides of the world, but both in English-speaking countries - one in Australia and the other one in the States. We are going to run a photo sharing project with our students for 8 weeks, in which students upload a weekly photo assignment with a written description in our Flickr group and comment on other students' contributions. It will be very interesting to see how it will all work out, particularly from the language point of view. How will my students feel conversing with native English speakers, and will they be able to be sensitive enough not to label people based only on their limited EFL skills. A lot of intercultural learning opportunities for all participants, I feel.

I must say I am in awe at the efficiency, enthusiasm and initiative my two newly-met foreign colleagues have demonstrated! Setting this project up in such a short time (only about a month!) is potent evidence at the power of online teacher networks for the benefit of student learning.

Map photo by colemama on Flickr


M Coleman said...

We are so very excited to share cultural information - it will be a wonderful chance to get acquainted, as well as to learn/enhance perceptual skills and writing skills! Many of our participating students are Spanish speaking with English as their second language - it will make for a very interesting and diverse project!

susanvg said...

I will be following. Would your students like comments from an outsider in yet another English (and French) speaking country? Wish I had students who could be part of the project. I think it's a fabulous idea.

sinikka said...

Of course, why didn't I remember all the ESL students in America - and I used to teach them for a year! This will definitely be a very interesting project!

Susan, the students would certainly like comments from other places, too. I'm sure Marie and Tania will agree!

Anonymous said...

Una and I are looking forward to the project, and excited already about our collaboration. So much learning has already taken place for me. Once the students begin, I hope their interest in each other and creativity kick in to make it an experience they'll always remember. Interesting also the points you've made about all the students for whom English is a second language.

sinikka said...

I feel very similar thoughts as you, Tania. So excited to see the first student reactions on Thursday!