In Multicultural and Multilingual Classrooms, What Should I/We Do?


ESL: English as a second language

EFL: English as a foreign language

Having been studying at McGill for more than one year, I really enjoy my learning and daily life in Montreal. However, considering my classmates and friends are from different cultural backgrounds, I find that communicating with them is not easy. In particular, I notice that interactions related to cultural issues and sensitive topics can be even more difficult.

  1. Is That My Own Culture? I Fail to Introduce it to My Friends!

I believe that my English proficiency supports my academic learning and some simple daily communications in Montreal. However, introducing Chinese culture to my non-Chinese speakers in English can be very challenging. For example, last semester, we decided to visit Chinatown, preparing our posting assignment. When I tried to illustrate Xian (鲜), one of the Chinese special flavors to my Canadian classmates, I failed to explain it because there is no equivalent word in English. I felt even more stupid when I attempted to elaborate on it by telling them how this flavor could be tasted in some soups. Considering my poor explanation, even I would never try these soups. Furthermore, when I turned to my Chinese students for help, they also found this term really difficult to be clarified. That is why it is really embarrassing when my foreign friends want to learn some Chinese culture but I am not capable of explaining it clearly in a language (i.e., English) that they are able to understand.

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Performing introductions: Speech acts for the classroom.


When I am planning a lesson, I always put time into finding a good “hook” so that I can engage students from the first words spoken. I have never found a foolproof formula and often think of how I could have made the opening better, or bolder, or funnier. I might have been missing the point. According to Jason Rutter, humor as a form of discourse, is quite predictable. He claims that many academic papers describe jokes as “canonical structures” and that audiences respond to them in a “systematic manner” (Rutter, 1997, p. 463).

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A Discussion on Identity and English as a Global Language

Posted by Cheryl Lingjuan Yan (Post #2)

The word “Multilingualism” refers to the use of two or more languages, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers (Tucker, 1999). When I first came to Canada, I found people here in Montreal to be amazing. Most people are at least bilingual and almost everyone can speak three or four languages. People all come from different background, or, to be more specific, have different identities, for instance, Canadian, French, half-Spanish, full-Korean, etc. The reason why Montrealers can speak so many languages derives from the city’s history, and it also may partially be because of its colonial culture. Quebec was founded and colonized by French settlers for a long time. Therefore, French culture has a strong influence on Quebec. In addition, Canada is one of the members of the British Commonwealth. Perhaps these are the reasons people in Montreal are at least bilingual in English and French.

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“You cannot teach me English because you are Asian!”

By Xiaoke Sun

Hey, everyone!

This post is a real story happened lately about myself being Asian and becoming an English teacher in Montreal Chinese heritage school. It happens to correspond with the topic of ethnicity and language learning that we have talked previously. I would like to share the story, and you are more than welcomed to help me to figure out my current puzzle.

For quite a long time, I have questioned what is the fundamental criteria to be an English teacher. There is no doubt that having an advanced language proficiency is necessary. Besides, English pronunciation, as mentioned by Yerim in the previous post, is also commonly judged by people as it demonstrates one’s capacity to express themselves and to be understood. Despite of other factors, such as the ability of curriculum design, assessment, and so on, can it be concluded that one’s ability to exercise a language equals to one’s qualification for being an English teacher? If not, what other factors could influence the way of learning and teaching?

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Taking a stand

Emmanouela Tisizi

This post is inspired by the Telegraph’s article[1] which, based on linguists’ predictions, prepares the readers for the extinction of the ‘th’ sound from English by 2066. Such predictions very often attract people’s attention irrespective of their interest in or familiarity with the field of linguistics. And while reading about something that may or may not happen in the future is intriguing, it is at the same time a safe topic exactly because it refers to the future, and people, especially linguists and educators, are not confronted with the need to decipher what it may mean for their current decision-making in terms of using, teaching and researching language.

Language change, however, happens every day, especially nowadays when English is mostly used by and among people for whom it is not the first language. English is thus used as an international language, or a Lingua Franca. In short, English is now used as a means to communicate effectively and not as a means to demonstrate knowledge of and adherence to the norms of Standard English. In Seidlhofer’s words, English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) refers to ‘‘any use of English among speakers of different first languages for whom English is the communicative medium of choice, and often the only option’’ (Seidlhofer, 2011, p.7)[2].

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My Language Biography of Two Identities

By Wai In Chan

Hello everyone! This is a bit late in the semester, but I still wanted to share my language biography with all of you and hear your thoughts about how I identify myself. I am of Asian descent, born in Hong Kong, China. I speak Cantonese, English, and French (very basic!).

My family immigrated to Canada in order to start a better life when I was two years old, and we have lived here ever since. My mother had gone abroad to Canada as an international student prior to her marriage and my birth. Therefore, she had some knowledge of the English language and completed some education here. Due to these circumstances, I was able to complete my studies here in Canada in English.

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Addition > Division

Geraldine Gras (1):

Je me permets d’écrire ma première publication sur ce blogue en français. Tentative après tentative, je rencontre de la difficulté à m’exprimer tel que je le voudrais en anglais alors je sors mon autre paquet de cartes, celui-ci francophone. Cette envie d’écrire en français est aussi la conséquence d’un évènement survenu lors d’une rencontre avec les parents d’un de mes élèves. Ma partenaire d’enseignement (l’enseignante d’anglais) et moi-même avions rendez-vous avec des parents afin de discuter les besoins particuliers de leur enfant. Étant enseignante dans une commission scolaire anglophone, et de plus dans un secteur anglophone tel que Westmount, la rencontre fut en anglais afin de faciliter la communication. À la fin de la rencontre, la mère m’approcha et me dit : « Geraldine, you are [very] anglophone French teachers ». En premier lieu, cela m’a fait sourire. Après tout, c’est bien sympathique de se faire dire que l’on s’exprime convenablement, sans accent lié à sa première langue, lors de l’utilisation de sa deuxième langue. Puis, ce commentaire m’a tout de suite ramenée au deuxième cours lors qu’on adressait l’idée de l’identité langagière. Suis-je devenue trop anglophone pour mon rôle d’enseignante de français?

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