Mental Models and High School English

A mental model is the way we think about the world. They are beliefs, values, thoughts and feelings that we have about the world that have come from our society, our culture, our family and our friends. They are things that we don’t question because they have become part of who we are. This isn’t a bad thing. It is part of being human, however it is important to understand our mental models so that we can choose which models are the best for us. For example, I am Australian so I am very flexible about time. I am currently living in Japan which has a very rigid perspective on time. Since I am living in Japan I have found it essential to change my mental model knowing that if I don’t I will upset the people around me.

An amazing part of travelling is that you get a chance to question those mental models. When we visit another country we see a country with a different set of mental models. Some are similar to ours but there will always be differences. When we come into contact with another culture we can reflect on our own and learn more about ourselves and how we think about the world.

Not all of us can travel though, but we can still learn a language. A language is a form of mental model. It holds the way a group of people see and think about the world. In learning a language we can learn about different ways of seeing the world. In doing so we can understand our own life and upbringing. In this we can come to better understand our culture. We can appreciate the cultural ways of thinking that bring us a happier life and we can shed the ways of thinking that haven’t.

One of the interesting things about learning English is that it holds a wider range of perspectives than usual languages since it is truly a global language. Every nation with English as its national language has its own unique culture that changes the way English is used. Australians, people from the US, Canadians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Singaporeans to name a few all have their own mental models. You don’t just learn about one culture or one way of thinking. When you add that to the number of countries that learn English as a second language then you really gain a sense of just how many cultures are contributing to the mental modes available in English.

This brings me to the second part of this article’s title, high school English. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to observe the way English is taught in high schools in Japan. One of the things I noticed is that English language despite being a different way of seeing the world is being taught as a way of reinforcing Japanese perspectives. To repeat that, the subject English in Japan is used to teach Japanese moral education. I would not be surprised to find that that our countries treat language education the same way.  This means that a major benefit to learning a language, the chance to reflect on our own society and our own ways of thinking, has been removed.

To conclude, when you teach a language you should include the way that native users of that language think and why they speak the way they do. In doing so we can work towards creating a better way of living in which we combine the mental models of the world’s cultures.


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7 Reasons Why You Should be a Life-Long Learner

I have heard the term lifelong learner all my life. Why? Because I am Australian, and the idea of the lifelong learner is at the core of our education system. To be a lifelong learner means being able to learn at all stages of life – from birth to death.


What a life-long learner society look like?

I can give you several examples form my own experiences:

The first time I encountered life long learning was at university. A typical university class is Australia for first years has people aged from 18 to 70 or even higher.  A friend of mine told me that his computer game design course had a 72-year-old woman in it.  At the end of the course she had designed a decent computer game programming and all.

People over a certain age in Australia can get into any degree they choose based on life experience.  A life long learner-based society values a person’s life experience as knowledge. Lifelong learners share their knowledge.

In Australia many young mothers start university in their mid-30s often studying to become teachers. When I studied to be an elementary school teacher a quarter of the people in the course already had children.

There are many cases in Australia of people changing their career halfway through their life. My own father was a teacher from the age of twenty-two. In his forties he decided he wanted to change his career. He started a law degree. He retired as a judge at 70 years old.

My mother, who is now 68 years old is currently studying Japanese once a week at a language school in Brisbane. She loves doing it and can now introduce herself, her family and can talk about what she likes to do in Japanese.

In Australia learning is encouraged no matter how old you are.

What are the benefits of being a lifelong learner?

  1. Improves your career opportunities: the best jobs go to the people who can learn about the latest technologies and trends.confident.jpg
  2. Improves your confidence: learning something new is challenging but accomplishing a challenge brings you happiness, joy and renewed self-esteem.challenge yourself.jpg
  3. Education becomes second nature – learning and sharing your knowledge becomes who you are.
  4. Improves interpersonal skills – learning is a social experience, learners are engaging in life and people around them. when we share what, we help others learn and further enhance our relationships
  5. Improves ability to communicate – the four language skills, reading, listening, writing and speaking are enhanced by the learning process.communication
  6. Helps you find meaning in your life – lifelong learners can look back on their lives and find meaning in everything they’ve done good or bad
  7. Opens your mind – Lifelong learning is about sharing ideas as well as gaining knowledge, in a judgement free environment. Listening to others allows us to see both sides of an issue.

open minded.jpgAnd if that doesn’t convince you that you should lead a life of continued learning check out these two quotes: