Teaching English Using Food
If there is one way to start, save, or change a subject of conversation, it is talking about food. Food is something that unites all of us because it is something that all of us must do every day to survive, but it is also a wonderful expression of culture and, even, individuality. There are an extraordinary number of vocabulary words in English that are related to cooking because it is such an important part of life. English is also a fairly new language compared to others in the world, so many vocabulary words have been borrowed from other languages and have been incorporated into the daily language along with the dishes that they describe. For example,”pig” is used to refer to an animal, but “pork” is used to refer to the meat of the animal and comes from French. We even have expressions dealing with food, such as,”As American as apple pie.” Apple pie is not singularly American, but you get the idea.
Using cooking in the field of experiential education is highly useful, therefore, because students can associate the vocabulary words of specific techniques and foods with physical objects and actions. Therefore, the brain is more engaged and more likely to be able to recall those words by association. In my cooking class, for example, the recipes are written in succinct English and use technical verbs and names for objects used in each recipe. While I demonstrate how to make a dish, the students can see me doing the action along with the printed words and make notes accordingly. By watching me, they can also understand the meaning of the words so that I can keep the class language in total English immersion.
Beyond the classroom and kitchen, cooking is used in the field of culinary diplomacy, also known as gastrodiplomacy, which is learning about and understanding another culture through their cuisine. It is the beginning of open dialogue and learning associated with food and our love of it. For example, The United States has several national tv channels dedicated to cooking, travel, and food. All of them can be used to teach English through shared experiences. Even “Sesame Street,” the iconic educational show for children has an character, Cookie Monster, who communicates with others through his love of cookies. I can identify quite closely with him!
Therefore, cooking and food culture are great pedagogical tools for teaching English. It is all based on a shared experience that is understandable through our participation and curiosity into the dishes and, consequently, the language.