Excuse Me, Can You Repeat That?

Cathryn Cushner Edelstein, Global Education Magazine Cathryn Cushner Edelstein

 Scholar-In-Residence at Emerson College


The rules of communication are not universal – they are specific to particular cultures. International students who attend school in the U.S. often prepare for years by learning English. Often they have learned English from a non-native speaker who teaches with the use of a textbook, scripted dialogues and audio recordings.

Though the basics of grammar and vocabulary are included, accurate pronunciation instruction and realistic cultural nuances are usually absent from lessons. Lack of speech clarity and an absence of knowledge about what to say in daily situational dialogues often leave these students frustrated with their skills when they actually live and study in the U.S. Expectations of communicating with ease are often challenged because the lessons learned in English classes don’t parallel real life situations encountered in North America.

Take for example the student who, in their native country, attended classes where the teachers always lectured and the students sat attentively listening. This style of teaching is rare in the United States where classes are most often interactive and participatory. American students eagerly raise their hands hoping to share their thoughts and questions with the teacher and the rest of the class. If a student hasn’t prepared for this type of classroom environment, they will be less equipped with strategies to not only participate but to be successful.

It is important that English lessons prepare students for real life situations so that when students make that journey to the U.S. or another English speaking country, they know what to expect culturally.

By Cathryn Cushner Edelstein, Scholar-in-Residence at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and author of Excuse Me, Can You Repeat That? How to Communicate in the U.S. as an International Student – A Reference Guide



This article was published on January 30th: School Day of Non-violence and Peace in Global Education Magazine

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