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IN THE CLASSROOM educating people in an environment of

globalisation. Often this is not a result

of conscious prejudice but, rather, the

consequence of a lack of social contact
because of the difficulties involved in
communicating in other languages
across a variety of cultures. Believe it or
not, this could describe a university or
college environment in modern-day
Japan, where there are now over
115,000 international students studying

and doing research. Most international
university students in Japan are from
other East Asian countries (eg China,
South Korea and Taiwan), but South
East Asians (from Malaysia, Indonesia
and Thailand) are also a sizeable
presence. Within the society at large,
there are also now close to two million

non-Japanese living in Japan, many of
whom are more comfortable using
English rather than Japanese as an L2
for communication.

It is often difficult
for host cultures
Gaby Zanini cooks

he lesson described in this
article is based on peoples to appreciate and
up a multicultural feast eating habits around the world, incorporate cultural
but it could be extended to
of information for her other customs and habits in order to differences from
bring further cultural learning into the
students. communicative language classroom. It
international residents
was first taught in an English class at a
Japanese university with the aim of If we are members of any majority
integrating language and cultural culture, it can be difficult to notice let
learning through the study of the alone appreciate the cultural and
differences in food customs for breakfast linguistic diversity that is all around us.
in Mexico, Germany, Japan and Brazil. This is all the more true if the host
culture is predominantly monolingual.
The background Also, if a member of a minority culture
or nationality socialises mostly with
It is often difficult for host cultures to
members of their own culture or
appreciate and incorporate cultural
speakers of their own language, that
differences from minorities and
persons experience of the host culture
international residents. Diversity is still
can be extremely limited.
too often thought of as a distraction, an
inconvenience or even a threat to the
majority culture, rather than something The lesson
of value for internationalising and This lesson, which can be adapted to a
variety of language classrooms at the
post-secondary or secondary level, has
been designed to create a language
learning and practice situation in which
all the learners can actively express
themselves and learn about differences
through discussion about their eating

habits. Food is a natural first topic of

discussion in many cultures, so it also
makes a very good subject for language
and cross-cultural learning.

18 Issue 49 March 2007 ENGLISH TEACHING professional

These are the learning and language Breakfast brainstorm
practice goals for the lesson.
One way to give the activity lots of This topic is certainly fertile ground
To use English as a tool to access
language support would be to inform for exploring and communicating
information about other social groups
the students that some cultures have a individual differences, but also
and other cultures (eg using the
different style of breakfast. For differences within a modern, westernised
internet or interviewing international
example, while it is commonplace in Asian culture like Japan, and differences
residents of a host culture).
Japan, many westerners would find it across other categories like western
To establish, classify, relate and very strange to eat grilled fish, versus Asian or modern versus
express in a common language the fermented soya beans (natto) or a traditional. One set of distinctions
differences and similarities that exist tossed salad for breakfast. However, within the topic of food culture which
within different nationalities, cultures since Japanese people might well Asian students find interesting is bread-
and language groups (in this case, associate a tossed salad with a eating cultures versus rice-eating
Mexican, German, Japanese and western breakfast, as it does not, in cultures versus pasta/noodle-eating
Brazilian customs regarding
fact, form part of the traditional cultures. For example, most Japanese
Japanese breakfast, this creates a think the Chinese, like the Japanese, eat
To provide linguistic input, revision rationale for more discussion. Similarly, rice as their staple. Some are surprised
and practice related to food, some Europeans might find an to find that in some parts of China bread
beverages, meals, food preparation American-style breakfast (with lots of is eaten more often than rice. Moreover,
and eating habits. sweetened breakfast cereals) different there are many Asians who eat more
To set up opportunities for other from their continental style. noodles than rice.
language expression and Furthermore, at an international hotel in To Japanese students, foreign or
comprehension, such as writing up a Singapore, there might be Japanese international most often means
recipe or reading a recipe someone guests who choose a western-style American, but their understanding of
else has written and trying to make breakfast, but there also could be American culture is often based on
that dish at home. many Japanese who opt to go to the popular myths instead of real
Chinese breakfast buffet. Which would information. For example, Japanese are
Materials the students prefer and why? You often shocked when North Americans
Depending on size of class the teacher might ask students how many have say that they eat potatoes more often
will need to prepare the following: ever eaten Mexican food, to get them than they do bread or that they eat cold
ready to speculate on what a Mexican cereal with milk for breakfast more often
Pictures and realia related to food
and beverages. breakfast might consist of. than toast.

Texts based on interviews (oral or

written, eg in an email) about typical Using simple present tense to describe Write down (in the target language or
German, Japanese, Mexican and habits and routines (contrasting with in bilingual translation) the most
Brazilian breakfasts. simple past tense). common items. Students could be
asked to come to the board to write
Printed copies of recipes (these can be Comparing and contrasting ones own
one or more things they usually have
obtained online, see the links at the habits with those of others.
for breakfast. In an EFL situation
end of the article). For example,
tortillas, German bread, miso soup, Comparing and contrasting the where the language level of the
customs of ones own culture with students can range from absolute
fub cake.
those of others. beginner to lower intermediate (and
beyond), it might be appropriate to
Warm-up discussion ask students to write both the English
This lesson can be used with beginners
and above, at secondary or tertiary Introduce the topic of breakfast to word and its translation.
levels. In university English classes in the students by asking some of them
what they had for breakfast today. Language activities
Japan, students are often not placed
Vocabulary could be further
according to proficiency, interests or Make notes of their answers on the systematically presented and practised
motivation levels, so it is absolutely board. through the use of semantic map
essential for the teacher to try to set up
Then, conduct a survey across the organisers, with topic clusters and sub-
interaction schemes that most students
entire classroom by asking What do clusters grouped around the main topic
can participate in with a sense of
you usually have for breakfast? word Breakfast. With careful planning,
sharing, competence and achievement.
more advanced-level vocabulary (such
This elicits the use of the simple as that required for tests like the TOEFL
Functions and structures
present tense for describing habits, or TOEIC) could be taught, with
The lesson focuses on the following
and contrasts with the previous use of organisation schemes around sub-topics
functions and structures:
the simple past to relate what they like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre,
Describing daily habits and routines. had for breakfast this morning. vitamins, minerals, nutrition, food pyramid, ENGLISH TEACHING professional Issue 49 March 2007 19

Making Actual texts from some cultural informants

a Hello! My name is Paulus and have cooked rice and miso

culture Im 30 years old. I am a student

and I come from Germany.
Usually I have bread with
soup for breakfast. Sometimes,
I also have western style
breakfast but I like the
cheese and coffee or tea for Japanese style one.

a Oi! My name is Gabrielli and Im

breakfast. On weekends I
sometimes also have yoghurt
29. I am an English teacher and I
with fruit. b live in Quatigu, Brazil. I usually
 balanced diet, etc. One way to do
vocabulary work more comprehensively
a Hola! My name is Arturo and I have coffee and bread with butter
for breakfast. Sometimes I also
am from Mexico City. In Mexico,
is to complete a vocabulary task on the I sometimes have for breakfast have some cake. My favourite one
board before the main activity and then
go back and revise and expand after the
Chilaguiles. Chilaguiles is a dish is Fub Cake. b
prepared with tortillas and a
main activity (so long as both teacher Hello! My name is Maren and I
and students keep careful notes). spicy sauce, and a tortilla is a
am from Hamburg in Germany.
Before breaking up for the group kind of very thin hot-cake made
Im 29 years old and a student
task (below), there are many other of corn. b of Japanese. Usually I have
possibilities for whole-class discussion
and warm-up activities. a Konnichiwa! My name is Yuki bread with jam for breakfast but
sometimes I also eat yoghurt
and Im 23. I am a student at
Group activities Fukui University and I live in with fruit. My breakfast drink is
Stage 1 Katsuyama, Japan. I usually black tea. b
Put the students into groups of four (in
large classes) or in threes or pairs (in
Stage 3 from around the world, asking them
smaller classes). Ask them to discuss
The students written answers can be what they usually have for breakfast.
and list, in English, what kind of food
checked with the texts in the box above
and beverages they think the
(interviews with cultural informants). Stage 5
nationalities they are being asked to
A reading-based follow-up step is to In their groups, students can prepare
compare and contrast (eg Brazilian,
give students some informative texts. posters in the L1 and L2 explaining
Mexican, German and Japanese) have
This is especially helpful if the about the eating habits of other
for breakfast. It is often helpful in large
students all share the same cultural cultures. These posters can be
classes, such as in Japan, to appoint
background or if cultural informants displayed around the school, so that
from the start one person to be the
from other cultures cannot visit the other students can read them. This is
recorder/reporter for each group.
class in person. a good way to highlight the cultures
It might be difficult to decide when to of any international students who are
bring the group discussions to an end, Stage 4 studying at the school. ETp
but it is even more important in Put the students into groups in which
classes in Japan to structure and they have to learn more about a
Websites for recipes
modify the group-discussion phase to particular nationality and culture:
ensure more use of the L2. One Brazilian, Mexican, German and
strategy is to break up the group Japanese. Give each group a recipe
tasks into sub-tasks, so, for example, from the country they are
you could have each group discuss researching. Tell them that for
their guesses for Brazilian breakfast homework they have to find out
and report them and record them on about eating customs in the country tortilla.htm
the board before moving on to the they have been assigned and
next nationality. Gaby Zanini has been
investigate how to make the dish. In a teaching English in state
future class they will have to explain secondary schools in
Stage 2 this to the other students (possibly Brazil for over ten years.
She recently finished her
After time spent discussing, get each using both L1 and L2 in some M Ed in Professional
group to report their ideas for all the situations). Presenting recipes is good Development at the
College of St Mark and St
nationalities, and write these on the practice for using a lot of key John, Plymouth, UK. Her
board. Bringing everything back to vocabulary, such as specific uses of research interests include
teaching approaches for
the whole-class level, lead a action verbs with predictable ELT, professional
discussion that will enable the groups collocations (chop an onion, boil water, development and cultural
awareness in ELT classes.
to compare and justify their answers mix together, etc). Students could also
with those of the other groups.
be asked to contact email penpals

20 Issue 49 March 2007 ENGLISH TEACHING professional