Even though our world is becoming more connected and increasingly global, there’s at least one area that is going in the opposite direction. And that area is media. Because of our personalised news feeds, cookies and other digital aids, a phenomenon called a ‘filter bubble’ has appeared. Eli Pariser coined this phrase in his 2011 TED talk where he describes his concern with web personalisation. A filter bubble means that you can get a different search results when googling something, compared to someone else, based on your previous search history.
A classic example is that people with liberal political orientation who google ‘BP’ might get results about oil spills, but a person with a conservative leaning might get results that include investment information about the company. It’s very easy these days to get a distorted view of our world through the Internet and social media.
In a globalised world, many problems have become globalised; the environment, economics, social issues, etc. These global problems require global solutions, and for that we need global conversations. Teaching a language can support the development of global conversations. With the help of language, people can express themselves and share their thoughts with the world, especially combined with digital technologies.
At the time of writing this book in 2021, we’ve recently seen a new wave of extremist-right politics in the Western World. In several countries, we’ve seen a shift towards more isolationist and protectionist policies. Politicians have suggested new physical boundaries between countries, as well as breaking out of established political and economic unions. Populist parties in Europe have tripled their vote over the past 20 years.
Although not everyone wants to become a politician or an activist, I do feel that we as language teachers have a really important role to play in the future. As a Language Teacher Rebel, you can make a positive impact on the world. You can become a bridge-builder and make a difference.
You can expand people’s ‘bubbles’ by teaching them your language, so they can read and understand media and literature from your country. You can also widen people’s webs and networks by publishing, sharing and telling stories about your own country and its culture. The Internet and the digital era in which we now live give you amazing opportunities to reach people on an unprecedented global scale. But you’ll also widen your own web and network and burst your own filter bubble through interacting with the learners from all over the world. It’s a win-win.
Globalisation today means that it’s easier to get a job and move to a different country. It’s easier to meet (and fall in love with) someone from a different country. But more dramatic events like climate change and conflicts will also force people to uproot and migrate to a different place. People will continue to move to other countries, for whatever reason, and will need to absorb and integrate into a new culture. And those who are already in a country need to integrate further.
You can become a bridge-figure and through your teaching you will pass this on to your learners and make them bridge-figures too. You will make them able to see different perspectives and enhance their cultural understanding. Culture is an important component to help people to connect, both regionally and globally. Familiarity overcomes and destroys fear. And in order to understand culture, language is a key component. Language skills are a ticket to participate in a culture. With digital tools, this journey can now start much earlier than before, and people can start to prepare before they even settle in their new country.
Since the 2020 outbreak of Corona, many traditional language schools have had to close, or try and move online. Many people are finding themselves at home through longer periods of time, perhaps with more time (and sometimes money) on their hands, and they want to develop their skills further. Many clients in Sweden have reached out to us and said they want to improve their Swedish now more than ever, in case they need to look for a new job in the future.
The Digital Age has arrived, whether you like it or not. It’s happening. And it has created a perfect environment for you as a language teacher to reach a much wider learner base than what has been remotely possible previously. You must develop a more entrepreneurial mindset and embrace change. You must become more curious, daring, and be ready to take on new challenges. By breaking free from the traditional ‘classroom way of thinking’, you can make a living from home or from somewhere else, teaching people from all over the world.
But from a more global perspective, you have an even bigger and more important opportunity as a Language Teacher Rebel. You can encourage integration on a worldwide scale. With your skills, together with technology, you can share cultural values and understanding way beyond the classroom. You can build bridges, spread knowledge and increase empathy. And today, more than ever, it’s badly needed.
Let’s look into the future for a moment. What kind of lifestyle would you have as a Language Teacher Rebel? Would you set up a base at home but work with compressed hours, which would allow you more free time? Would you travel and teach at the same time? Would you have more time to spend with your family? What are the things that mean a lot to you, that you would be able to fulfil if you were a Language Teacher Rebel with flexible work hours and work locations?
Are you ready to become a Language Teacher Rebel?
This is your rallying call.