An Introduction to Another Culture

by AnnitaWard

Within the mountains and valleys of West Virginia are many children who rarely come in contact with people who speak a language other than English. In contrast, on the campus of Salem-Teikyo University, about one student out of four speaks English as a second language. In fact, the percentage of second language students is so great that sometimes they have trouble searching out conversation partners with whom to practice.

The insular nature of West Virginia sometimes limits the opportunities of its people. Those who rarely have contact with people of other cultures may feel afraid when such contact does arise, and thus they may seek to avoid such contact. In a global economy, such avoidance could stifle an individual's opportunity for success, for self-development, for knowledge, and for personal pleasure.

Likewise, ESL students at Salem-Teikyo, if not provided wide opportunities for practicing English, may find themself limited in chances for self-development, for the pleasures of friendships across cultures, and for learning about life in America.

The English Studies Department has taken a small step to solving both problems, acquainting West Virginia public school students with international cultures and providing greater opportunities for ESL students to communicate in a meaningful way with English speakers. In 1997 the department established "An Introduction to Japan," a program partially supported by a NAFSA Cooperative Grant.

In the first year of the program, ESL students from Japan taught Japanese language and culture to approximately 350 fifth grade students in four Harrison County schools. In weekly sessions, the university students presented lessons in language, calligraphy, games, origami,and food. The response from both the public school teachers and the students was enthusiastic.

In its second year, '98-'99, the program was expanded to include other languages and cultures. The "Introduction to Japan" program was featured in Clarksburg newspapers in February, 1998. The organizers presented a report on the project at International TESOL in New York in 1999. The project was chosen as a featured project at the Cooperative Grants 25th annual poster session of NASFA because of its "original success and continued impact on its campus and surrounding community."

Annita Ward

Professor of English Studies, Salem-Teikyo University


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W VTESOL Newsletter Editor: Linda Yoder

Salem-Teikyo University


Copyright 1999 by WVTESOL

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