England and Argentina: Bridging the Cultural Gap

Before taking on the course I wondered how challenging it might be to find topics that students would want to talk about. Being 25, I thought, the age gap shouldn't pose too much of a problem, but the cultural gap was sure to be significant? England and Argentina, on either sides of an ocean, in different hemispheres, and politically (and in football) genuine rivals.

Yet conversation, on nearly every topic, has flourished. Intelligent ideas and interesting points of view are always thrown up for debate – the students are opinionated and well informed. These cultural differences, of course, inspire rather than hinder the conversation. During most classes I face at least a couple of questions that reach inside my culture: "Is it true that in England everyone has electric kettles?", "What are your opinions on the anti-terror bill?", "Do you like Hugh Grant?" (the last two needing some serious thought).

I like to give the students a few options when it comes to what we talk about. After all conversation works best when both parties have a vested interest, and imposing a dialog on someone rarely encourages them to "chat". Topics have varied from "death and dying" to "love, romance and the perfect partner". Questions always flow both ways and the benefit of this extra-curricular course is that student and "teacher" are on a level footing.
On a personal level, the classes are a wonderful resource for an "extranjero" living in Bs. As. I'm slowly coming to terms with the multiple identities of Palermo "chico", "soho", "viejo" and "hollywood". And have been given plenty of advice on where "not to go". As a student of Latin American History and Literature, I have read a lot of Argentina's writers and poets and have studied the wider significance of Domingo Sarmiento's 'Civilization and Barbarism'. However, to have conversations with students every Wednesday, on very eclectic topics, is proving very informative and my contemporary knowledge of Argentina is improving all the time!

The students have a great command of their second language, one their British counterparts would envy. It is always a pleasure to talk with the students and to hear what they have to say.

Eamon Bourke
Reino Unido
Docente del Curso de Conversación con profesor nativo.

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