Tuesday, June 21, 2016

You Know You're From Here When...

Study abroad preparation classes are a contradiction in terms.

By its nature, study abroad will challenge students' cultural assumptions and language abilities, forcing them to grow and adapt to their new surroundings and unexpected circumstances. This means that they are the epitome of experiential learning, and that any attempt to prepare for such an experience will fall short. Conversation drills and city guides may form a limited guide to interaction in the foreign atmosphere, but will quickly be outstripped by on the ground experience and knowledge from local informants.

Yet there is a way to glean some insider local knowledge from the internet. A great resource of local knowledge of any destination city is the "You know you're from (city) when..." list.
These lists exist for just about any metropolitan centre, English speaking or not.

On the plus side, YKYF lists are genuine language, filled with local knowledge and cultural tidbits not in guidebooks, and are a hoot to read. On the minus, such lists don't use easy or safe language, and by their insider nature may include references or expressions that are incomprehensible to even the teacher. Their informtion is also always interesting, but may not be overly practical or useful. Still, they can provide invaluable local knowledge and thus are worthy of consideration. A student who went to Sydney, Australia said the most important thing I taught her was from a YKYF list, namely that cabs could not be found at three am when bars closed.

Here's how I teach YKYF lists.

Have students brainstorm sources of information on their destination, and let them search if they have net access and computers or smart phones. They will undoubtedly find travel websites or tourism guides. Explain that although these have good, reliable information, they are also limited in scope.

Next, have students find a list, decipher it for ten minutes,vthen present their findings. If the class are all going to the same destination, find one list and assign list items to different students. If there are multiple destinations, split students into groups based on city and have them each choose and present an item.

Note that you may have to help them with complex or obscure references, so wander about helping.

For homework, have kids make one or two YKYF items for their own hometown and present next class. For example, a student informed me that his hometown of Takarazuka was spelled TakaraDUka by locals.

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