Does learning about English mean learning about American culture?

 Photo from Creative Commons user Karen Mallonee.

Photo from Creative Commons user Karen Mallonee.

This is part of a series of short posts framing adult English language learning experiences for volunteers at a local English class in my city. 

Finally there is a question about whether learning English also means that you should be learning about American culture. As Diane has mentioned in the trainings, it is important to teach your students the language of real life. We want to give our students practice using language that will be relevant to the places and contexts in which they will use English. and because they are living in the United States, they are going to be using English in American contexts. In this sense, it may be important to teach about the practical aspects of what we might call ‘American culture’ – like how to use English phrases that are necessary to ask questions about library memberships, or to set up a bank account in the United States, or to wish a coworker a happy birthday or a good weekend. However, we don’t need to feel the pressure of teaching them every aspect of how to celebrate Thanksgiving or the names of all of our favorite American foods – because their life in America, and the contexts in which they work and live and use English, may be very different from ours. In this way, sharing about those aspects culture may be more related to student and teacher learning about one another, rather than a feeling of pressure to teach American culture as part of teaching English.