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European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008

January 06, 2008

Hello again,

As we start a new year it is perhaps a good time to think about how teaching English enables an ever-burgeoning number of people to talk to each other. It struck me that, whatever the rights and wrongs of linguistic imperialism, in such troubled countries as Pakistan and Kenya, the prevalence of English has allowed many people to expres directly to the wider world how they are affected by the unfolding events. Having a common language gives us a real opportunity for mutual undrstanding, a fact that is celebrated in 2008 in Europe by...

... the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue (EYID). This is designed to help raise awareness of all those living in the EU, especially young people, of the importance of engaging in intercultural dialogue in their daily lives.

Each Member State of the EU has developed a national strategy to implement the EYID 2008 in close consultation with civil society and will organise events and promote activities throughout 2008. You can find out more about the campaign in your country at this URL: http://www.interculturaldialogue2008.eu/477.0.html?&L=/.

For English language schools, involvement with such an event gives students an opportunity to better understand the complex world in which they will work.
To participate in events of the EYID 2008 in your country you can see the events calendar to find out more: http://www.interculturaldialogue2008.eu/349.0.html?&no_cache=1&L=/.

Participation in EYID can be done without even leaving the classroom! For example LabforCulture (http://www.labforculture.org) is an online platform for European arts and culture with information in five languages to permit exchange of ideas regardless of physical borders. The website is rich in resources and has an open forum that anybody can contribute to. It also publishes descriptions of many projects that will certainly yield interesting information for teachers and students. For example, one that caught my attention is: The Gesture in the Cultural Heritage of Europe. It explains that “the project's starting point is that the language of gesture is natural and common to all people – and therefore to all nations. This language contains some expressions whose meaning is universal. However, local context and a country's 'culture' deeply influence all aspects of everyday life, including non-verbal communication. On this basis, art can help to uncover a 'European identity' and create new forms of communication and languages, which are urgently needed in contemporary European society.” This topic would make a stimulating classroom discussion and you could post your reactions on the Forum.

I think the activities of the EYID, particularly since so many are web-based and thus instantly accessible, offer a great opportunity for our teachers and students to engage in a topic that is of vital importance to understanding of each other.

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