Overcoming Barriers in Intercultural Communication

Barriers in Intercultural Communication

Noted linguist David Crystal estimates that there are more than 1.5 billion English speakers in the world1. Only 375 million of those are native speakers though. That means more than a billion people on the planet have picked up English as a second language. For many, the desire to speak English is prompted by business – in a global economy, English has become the de facto language of international commerce. Other non-native speakers have moved to areas where English is the predominant language. And others study English simply because they want to learn a new skill.

There are many reasons why people choose to study English and many different ways to learn a new language, but behind most successful English language instruction programs you’ll find teachers who possess special skills to help people from all different cultures and backgrounds achieve fluency. To prepare teachers for the demands of helping non-native speakers master English, Ashford University developed the Bachelor of Arts in English Language Learner Studies degree program.

The program partly focuses on the demands of teaching a new language to adult learners. Students will study the structure of the English language to understand the unique challenges it presents to non-native speakers. The debate between dual-language instruction versus an English-only immersion approach will be explored. Techniques for assessing and correcting learners, as well as linguistic theories, will be introduced.

Just as important as teaching techniques, however, are skills to overcome cultural barriers. Ashford’s Bachelor of Arts in English Language Learner Studies program places an emphasis on helping teachers communicate effectively with diverse learners.

“Teaching English to non-native speakers naturally involves interaction with people from different cultures,” said Dr. Holly Wilson, Program Chair for Ashford’s Bachelor of Arts in English Language Learner Studies program. “If the teacher is teaching in the United States, it is likely that there are students from a variety of different countries. In this context, the teacher needs to be culturally proficient in order to work well with the students, and also to make sure that the students are interacting well with each other.”

The first step in building cultural proficiency is introducing students to multiple cultures.

“The Bachelor of Arts in English Language Learner Studies program includes readings and activities that address the customs, lifestyles, and beliefs of different cultures, and how these factors can affect the teaching and learning of English,” Dr. Wilson explained.

While the program certainly does not explore all cultures, it does make students aware of other points of view. Students will be able to think beyond their own experiences, which can be valuable when interacting with learners from different backgrounds.

“We teach our students about culturally responsive teaching (CRT), which means being aware of how culture is an important factor in teaching English and various ways in which it can play out in the classroom and outside the classroom,” Dr. Wilson said.

Because it caters exclusively to learners from foreign cultures, English Language Learner Studies stands unique among all teaching disciplines. Learners come to their English language classes with many different experiences, expectations, and biases. Teachers who are sensitive to these differences and realize that learning English is not a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor will be more flexible and better able to meet the needs of their students.

Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education

For more information about on-time completion rates, the median loan debt of students who completed this program, and other important information, please visit http://www.ashford.edu/pd/obaells.

An online degree from Ashford University does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state. If you want to become a classroom teacher, contact your state's education authorities prior to enrolling at Ashford to determine what state-specific requirements you must complete before obtaining your teacher's license. Ashford graduates will be subject to additional requirements on a state-by-state basis that will include one or more of the following: student teaching or practicum experience, additional coursework, additional testing, or, if the state requires a specific type of degree to seek alternative certification, earning an additional degree. None of Ashford's online education programs are CAEP*, TEAC or NCATE accredited, which is a requirement for certification in some states. Other factors, such as a student’s criminal history, may prevent an applicant from obtaining licensure or employment in this field of study. All prospective students are advised to visit the Education Resource Organizations Directory (EROD) and to contact the licensing body of the state where they are licensed or intend to obtain licensure to verify that these courses qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits in that state prior to enrolling. Prospective students are also advised to regularly review the state’s policies and procedures relating to licensure as those policies are subject to change.

* The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the resulting entity from the merger of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

1Crystal, D. (2008, January). Emerging Englishes. English Teaching Professional, (14), 3-6.

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