A perspective that might surprise you …

IMG_20160806_161753If you ask Czech students to talk about their own country, they won’t normally jump in excitement. One of the reasons is that students are convinced that it’s not important to talk/learn about the things (they think) they already know. Also, Czechs often see their native land as totally boring; they tend to show negative attitudes towards Czech culture, politics, and people and their lifestyle in general. However, I believe that being able to talk about one’s country unbiasedly is one of the essential skills a language learner should acquire because, after all, one usually uses English to talk about their country with foreigners (i.e. potential visitors, customers, investors, etc.). So, for one, it’s bad publicity if you defame your country (no matter what Oscar Wild declared about bad publicity). Also, and more importantly, when you only focus on the negative, you’ll inevitably end up out of ideas very soon (not good for a potential examinee, right?).

I should stress that this post was inspired by the following bit from another post:

A final podcast recommendation is a site that is not very active at the moment, but has great potential, Bomb English. This site is two (very well-educated) foreigners living in Korea. They are both fluent in Korean and Korean culture, but they are native speakers of English. They offer a perspective on Korea that might surprise you.

For some reason, when reading Mike’s post, specifically the red bit above, I suddenly remembered a YouTube channel called Geography Now, which my students love watching as an addition to the materials they are required to study when preparing for their final state exam in English.

On this channel, they cover lots of countries, but in the lessons, we usually focus on the English speaking ones. However, they recently included the Czech Republic too. As the Czech Republic is one of the final exam topics, we decided to check it out as well. And it was a huge success. I myself found this video much more engaging than the ones about all the foreign countries. Why?

Well, probably because I was on the lookout for the things/places/facts I

  1. already knew
  2. didn’t know (and was surprised by)
  3. had forgotten and remembered again
  4. could agree with
  5. wanted/had to disagree with.

But most importantly, I was curious about the way foreigners present the Czech Republic and particularly, and this is the funniest part, how the native English speakers pronounce all the difficult Czech names (spoiler: they did really well!).

This, obviously, inspired a lot of interesting discussions in class and opened new horizons for many students, myself included.

Well, there are always perspectives that may surprise you…

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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8 Responses to A perspective that might surprise you …

  1. Hi Hana,
    A fascinating post. I often encounter similar issues here in Slovakia which is the Czech Republics closest neighbour due to history. It appears to me Slovak people can wax lyrical about the High Tatra mountains, national food and drink but lack positive things to say about each other or other lesser known facts about the country. I think that is for me what makes ESL so interesting because we get to see these perspectives from people. When I talk about my country, the UK most Slovaks tend to assume it’s much better than SK but being a native Brit I don’t agree. Essentially much needs to be done in Slovakia to improve life standards for all but I believe time will improve this country. However the better things become and the more my students learn to market themselves then the more prosperous a county can be. Slovaks have a real hard time with presenting themselves and most foreigners I know remark on how reserved Slovak people can be. There are a number of reasons for this for which I hope a positive future may help resolve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Hi, Jonathan.
      Yes, I think we still have a lot in common with the Slovaks. Although we are two separate states now, we spent a long time together and I still see them as brothers/sisters rather than foreigners. 🙂
      Anyway, if you ask a Czech to name a few places to visit over here, they usually end up listing Prague’s famous sites. But there are other beautiful places that are worth mentioning. An Australian guy who’s been living in the Czech Republic for some time now constantly raves about the beauties of the Czech Republic. I think he can spot all the beauties we Czechs can no longer appreciate.
      Well, I agree that we have to learn to market our country better. And I share your positive attitude regarding the future.
      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      Like

  2. swisssirja says:

    Dear Hana, Long time no see 🙂
    Yes, definitely! Talking about your own country is such a great language practice, eye-opener, occasion to figure things out etc. I added this into my language lessons only two years ago, and find the topic exremely fruitful and very useful.
    One activity that work really well is organizing a tour for young visitors. Students work in pairs and have to prepare a three-day trip in Switzlerland for their peers from another country. They then present it with the aid of images (e.g. powerpoint presentation) I ask them to talk about places to go, activities to try, food and drinks to taste. They also need to justify their choices. It’s such a vocabulary booster, too!
    And one more things, Swiss students tend to be very positive about their country. At least the ones I’m working with – they really do see the beauty and understand how lucky they are to live in such a country 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Dear Sirja,

      Many thanks for stopping by. The idea of organizing a tour sounds great. To me, it sounds like a long-term project rather than a 45-minute activity, but I believe there’s plenty of space to try this in my context. I think this could fit best into the after-holiday period when students still remember the details from their travels. As each student visited a different place, putting their ideas together would create a wonderful map of places worth seeing. The best thing is that it’s a complex issue including topics such as time management, means of transport, accommodation, etc.

      Anyway, I’m happy to hear your students are proud of Switzerland. As I said, we yet need to learn to be proud of our country. 🙂

      Like

  3. Thank you for the recommendation. I didn’t know about the “Geography Now” channel, but I think that some of my students will enjoy discussion-based activities based on some of the videos.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Zhenya says:

    Hi Hana

    Yes, a great post – and a cool idea, fantastic site! Hope that Ukraine section will appear there soon – so many similarities with what you are writing about in your country 🙂 A lot to think about!
    Zhenya

    Liked by 1 person

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