Ninia Sotto, Adult Educator,
Ways of Representing Language Learners’ Cultural Diversity
“I always say, you cannot learn a language without learning the culture. cannot just teach you grammar without you knowing what the culture is or why people say it like this, or how people say certain things.” Ninia Sotto
Ninia was an immigrant herself from the Philippines, and although English was one of her best subjects back home, when she moved to Canada, she found conversations to be very difficult. During university, she began attending and then volunteering at conversation classes for Canadian newcomers. Later, she was asked to supply teach these classes, eventually becoming a teacher. She has been teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) ever since. She currently teaches at The Multicultural Centre of Windsor and Essex County acting as a resource person for all of the adult educators to support learning.
Ninia approaches teaching and learning in a very active and interactive way. She loves to create activities that culminate into something larger, building on skills that they are learning in class, or talents that these adult learners can bring into the classroom. Making meaning is defined by Ajayi (2008) as “a process by which learners gain critical consciousness of the interpretation of events in their lives in relation to the world around them” (p. 211). According to this concept, learners are able to construct meaning when it is influenced by their own social, cultural, and historical experiences. In Ninia’s classroom, this is typically done with community connections or activities that are connected to events and celebrations happening in the area. Examples of this include a community event, The Carousel of Nations, which is a signature event of the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex that happens each year. Over the span of two weekends in the summer, the public are able to explore the diverse cultures, music, dance and cuisine of over 20 villages, with each village representing a different nation. These villages are located around the city of Windsor and the counties of Essex. Ninia brings this cultural experience to her classroom, by bringing in dishes and showcasing music, dances and traditional clothing from their cultures.
Another example of Ninia’s interactive teaching can be seen in her “Pumpkin Face Off.” This activity is a contest where students carve images that are meaningful to them. These images may symbolize their life, their home country, or how they feel about Canada. According to Herrell and Jordan (2019), “appreciation of the values, customs, and unique contributions of the different cultures is heightened through the process of investigating multiple cultures through firsthand accounts of personal experiences” (p. 235). Along with the pumpkin, students have to write a paragraph describing that image. Finally on the event day, these language learners showcase their pumpkin, and other staff and students at the Centre come to this event to talk to the students about their pumpkins and meaningful images. Listen below as Ninia explains this activity and event in detail.
Images of the Pumpkin Face Off can be seen below.
Check out The Multicultural Centre of Windsor and Essex County website at https://themcc.com/