Cultural Awareness & ESL Students

In a recent article in Guardian, Diane Schmitt, an EAP professor at Nottingham Trent University, criticizes university admission systems for what she calls a lack of “any direct method for determining whether or not prospective students’ previous experience of educational practice or culture has prepared them for the approaches to study required of students in British universities.”

Read the full artice: UK universities failing to bridge culture gap for foreign students

The Human Voice Box

Have you ever thought why humans, unlike other animals, cannot breathe and swallow at the same time?

The voice box is situated much lower in the human throat than in other primates to accommodate the larger box which consequently enables us to produce a wider range of sounds and with more resonance. It is because of this unique placement that we cannot breathe and eat simultaneously.

Infants, however, can breathe while breastfeeding since their box doesn’t drop to the lower position until they are about 9 months old, shortly after which babies start uttering their first words.

The Colour of Beauty

Chapter 3 of Reel Canada focuses on racism and discrimination. It opens with a reading passage about Jane Elliott’s controversioal experiment in Iowa in 1968; looks at hate crime statistics in Canada; features the documentary (see below), The Colour of Beauty, about the obstacles on the way of a black fashion model in New York, as well as a listening comprehension exercise on the play, Les Mains Noirs (Black Hands) about Marie Joseph Angelique, a slave in 19th century Montreal. There is also a writing exercise based on Howard Griffin’s book, Black Like Me.

Colour of Beauty ,The by Elizabeth St. Philip, National Film Board of Canada

My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts

Torill Kove, the Oscar-winning director of the Danish Poet, tells a tall tale about her grandmother’s role in the Norwegian resistance during the Second World War. This beautiful animated film is the nucleus of the 7th Chapter in Reel Canada. For the detailed lesson plan see Chapter 7′s Page on the website.

My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts by Torill Kove, National Film Board of Canada

Google Translate: a Curse or a Blessing

Recently, I have been receiving student email and writing assignments that have obviously been written in their first language and then machine-translated.

Here’s an example (original language: French):

Goog Day,
My name is Xyz. I am a student at The City in the group on Thursday morning. I was missing the last two weeks due to family constraints. Right now I am trying to revise the lessons that I missed. I also like to ask you to please give me some time to prepare my presentation. I beg leave to submit the final day of court on 26 April 2012.
I would be most grateful to me the modules I have to do on computer to complete my homework.
Thank you for your understanding and wish you a good day.


I find more students are using Google Translate instead of a dictionary in class. I know some teachers are using Google Translate as a learning tool with their students.  Do you think Google Translate is a curse or a blessing?  How do your students use it?