Expanding Your World View: One Book & Film at a Time

Expanding Your World View: One Book & Film at a Time

Happy summer from TESOL! It’s that time of year when everyone’s mind is on relaxing, enjoying the warm weather, and taking vacation. While many of our faculty are taking advantage of the season, our TESOL program continues to grow and our online certificate program is running through the summer as well.

Summer is also a time to catch up on movie viewing and pleasure reading. As TESOL professionals, we focus most of our energy on teaching English, but it is also important to step outside of our own “cultural box” and expand our knowledge of other cultures. A fun and enlightening way to do this is to extend our movie viewing and reading outwardly and globally. The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), a yearly event here in the Emerald City, has just wrapped up its screening of films from at least 20 countries, and many of these films will soon be available to a wider audience. In addition, Netflix offers a seemingly unlimited array of foreign films.

Movies I Recommend:
Synopses of these films can be found at www.foreignfilms.com
Volver (2006) – Directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
An entertaining film which shows how ordinary people deal with difficult and strange situations. A dark comedy with a bit of the supernatural that offers an entertaining glimpse into Spanish culture.
Amelie (2001) – Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
I enjoyed the whimsical way this story is told through creative narration, and camera angles and lighting. It also has lots of Paris scenes which add to the cinematography.
Children of Heaven (1997) – Children of Heaven – Directed by Majid Majidi
This movie offers a glimpse into Iranian culture through a touching story of the love and loyalty between a brother and sister.
Shall We Dance? (1996) – Directed by Masayuki Suo
The life of a bored salary man is told as he moves from the drudgery of his office to ballroom dance classes. A touching and funny story with great supporting characters. An authentic look at daily life in Japan from the point of view of a burned out businessman.

In addition to foreign films, novels from around the globe can also broaden our perspectives as educators. In our classrooms we tend to focus on the academics of language learning, but reading stories set around the world can enhance our teaching by expanding our historical and cultural knowledge about places previously unknown to us, and even those places we may know something about. Much like the foreign films offered by SIFF, there are a myriad of foreign novels from which to choose. Stories set around the globe which entertain, educate, and inform us about worlds which may be out of reach physically. Through these novels, we can find ourselves a world away without paying the price of an airplane ticket.

Books I Recommend:
Synopses of these books are available at www.goodreads.com
Lost Japan (1996) by Alex Kerr
A very insightful look into different aspects of Japanese culture from the perspective of an American living there for over 30 years. This non-fiction book covers the traditional and modern aspects of the culture, and gives the reader an intimate view of Japan and the Japanese.
The Kite Runner (2004) by Khaled Hosseini
I enjoyed this surprising and emotional story set against the turbulent history of Afghanistan, and learned quite a lot about a culture which I knew almost nothing of, and am still learning about.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo (1993)
A wonderful story about a shepherd boy who endures hardships and wonder as he seeks an unknown treasure, while staying true to his heart.
The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (2007) by Sandy Tolan
A fascinating history of the settlement of Israel as told by a journalist. What makes this story most interesting is the personal perspective of and Israeli woman and a Palestinian man who forged a friendship through a family home that was inhabited by both at different points in this complex history.

Reading books and watching movies has always been something I have personally enjoyed, as have most of my close friends and acquaintances. These are two pursuits with a relatively low cost, other than time, and can, in a sense, put us in our students’ shoes a bit more, culturally speaking, while opening up the world to us. Happy travels!

Additional links for international books and films:

Photo: Coimbra Umbrellas, Portugal, Photo Courtesy of  Nell Gross, WAL Advisor

Susan Hussey Headshot Susan Hussey
Sr. TESOL Faculty & Course Manager
Washington Academy of Languages at City University



Published June 17, 2015



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