Language & Education (9)

 

 

GLOBAL EDUCATOR DAVID NUNAN

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Transforming Education Through the Virtual Classroom

"...learning can, and does, occur wherever we happen to be."

THE title of this column is "David Nunan's Global Classroom." But what does this really mean? How can a classroom be “global?” Before we address this question, we need to decide what the word “classroom” really means. To paraphrase the dictionary definition, it refers to a room, typically in a school, in which a group of students are taught. If this is the case, then adding the adjective “global” before “classroom” would seem odd, or even downright contradictory. In this article, I want to argue why we can no longer think of a classroom in the traditional sense as a space simply defined by four walls, a ceiling and a floor, inhabited by a teacher and students, and created for the purposes of acquiring knowledge.

Instructor or Educator

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David Nunan's Global Classroom

Instructor or Educator: What’s the Difference?

Think of all the terms that are used to describe someone who works in the world of learning: teacher (the most commonly used term), instructor, tutor, demonstrator, professor, educator... The list goes on. In this article I want to explore the distinction between “instructor” and “educator.” Let me begin with a story.

Third-Culture Kids

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David Nunan's Global Classroom

Third Culture Kids

My two children were born in Australia and grew up in Hong Kong. The elder went to university in England, where she has lived ever since. The younger graduated from university in the United States, where she lived for five years, before returning to Hong Kong to live. Between them, they have studied a range of languages other than their native English including French, Mandarin, Spanish and Cantonese. Both of them are global citizens, comfortable inhabiting different cultures, and living, studying and working in different countries around the world. They also fit the definition of the ‘third culture kid.’

How I Speak is Who I Am

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How I Speak is Who I Am

EVERY now and then, I have a conversation that goes something like this:

New Acquaintance: So, where are you from?
Me: Australia.
New Acquaintance: And How long have you lived in Hong Kong?
Me: Around 20 years.
New Acquaintance: Wow! And you haven't lost your Australian accent.

I'm never quite sure how to respond.

My Language Creates Me

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My Language Creates Me

By David Nunan

I’VE never met Costica Bradatan, but I would like to. I recently came across a newspaper article he wrote in the International Herald Tribune. I like the International Herald Tribune even though I usually only get to read it when I come across a copy left in a coffee shop or when it is distributed for free on an international flight.

On this occasion, I was flying from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. The flight attendant handed me a copy of the International Herald Tribune and I began leafing through it while waiting for the in-flight movie to begin. But then I came across an article by this man I’d never met or heard of and I immediately forgot about the movie. The article was called “Born Again in a Second Language.” In it, Bradatan talks about what it is like to write in a second language. He begins his article by quoting a French philosopher, activist and writer who wrote: “For any man [or woman] a change of religion is as dangerous a thing as a change of language is for a writer. It may turn out to be a success, but it can also have disastrous consequences.” He goes on to argue that a language is a way of experiencing the world. “The world reveals itself in a certain manner to the Japanese writer, and in quite another to the one who writes in Finnish.” A writer’s language is more than just a tool. It’s a part of who they are. The implication here is that in order to write in another language you have to become a different person.

Nelson Mandela

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Mandela Reveals the World’s Most Powerful Weapon

By Dr. David Nunan

SOME of the best teachers are not professional educators. On the surface, this statement might seem a paradox. Educators are defined by their work as teachers. I’m not trying to suggest that the many people who make their livings as educators aren’t great teachers. It is that some of the most instructive lessons I have learned about living and learning haven’t come from people with formal teaching qualifications nor from people who have worked as teachers, but from people who have nevertheless changed the world. One such person is Nelson Mandela: a great teacher, a great leader and one of the most powerful people of the modern era. Mandela valued education above all else. He once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In an interview, when asked what is the single greatest problem facing the world right now, he replied at once, “Poverty and lack of education – these two problems combined. It is important for us to ensure that education reaches everyone.” (Interview in the Reader’s Digest, July 29, 2013.)

Dispelling Myths

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Dispelling Myths

By Dr. David Nunan

ONE of the things that I enjoy doing is dispelling myths. My chosen field, TESOL, abounds with myths such as “You can only boast that you speak a language if you sound like a native speaker” or “You can never learn to speak a language to a high level of proficiency if you don’t start learning at an early age.”

The myth that I want to dispel here is common in Japan, and one that I come across time and time again. This is the notion that Japanese are somehow genetically predisposed not to be able to speak languages other than their own with any degree of proficiency. A related belief is that foreigners can’t learn Japanese.

GLOBAL EDUCATOR DAVID NUNAN

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Educating Sanjay

ALL of the tables in the coffee shop were taken. I looked around and saw an Indian man in his early thirties at a large table near the entrance. I raised an eyebrow, and he smiled and nodded, so I slid my tray onto the table and took the seat opposite him. A large handbag was hooked over the edge of the table. He noticed me looking at it and laughed.

“No,” he said, “it’s not a man-bag. It belongs to my wife.”

“Oh, I hope I’m not…”

“No,” he said. “She’s gone to pick up my son from the school bus.”

He introduced himself as Kapil, as in Kapil Dev, the great Indian cricketer. “But call me Kap. Everybody does,” he said. He told me he was a banker, adding that he is ”between jobs.” That’s like a lot of bankers in Hong Kong during the global financial crisis that never seemed to end. He had a British accent of indeterminate provenance, and I asked him where he was from. “Harrow,’ he said. “Just outside London. I was born and raised there but have spent most of my working life in Asia – Singapore, Tokyo and now Hong Kong.”

I finished my coffee and was about to depart when Kap’s wife appeared with their four-year-old son. The boy rushed to his dad for a cuddle, and then produced a painting from his backpack. He pushed it across the table for Kap’s approval.

GLOBAL EDUCATOR DAVID NUNAN

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World-acclaimed linguist and language educator Dr. David Nunan shares his own personal learning experiences from his 30 years in the classroom.

Only connect

ONE of the joys of being an English language teacher for non-native English speakers is the opportunity to meet a diversity of individuals from different cultures and walks of life. Over the years, I have taught (and learned from) thousands of students of all ages and backgrounds. Occasionally I bump into former students and listen eagerly to the stories they tell me about their lives, from their successes and failures to their triumphs and tragedies. Once or twice at the end of a conversation, a former student has said, “Thank you for teaching me. You changed my life.” Hyperbole, perhaps, but for a teacher nothing is more rewarding than that from a former student.



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