11.11.11 and the culture of numbers

11.11.11Today is 11.11.11.  When interesting number combinations occur, it makes me think of how cultural numbers are.  (The fact that today is my birthday may also have something to do with my thinking about this :-))

The numbers 1 and 11 have positive significance for some people in western culture, but in other cultures, other numbers are important.  The Beijing Olympics didn’t begin at 8:00pm on 8.8.08 accidentally.   And I know that in Japan, the number 4 is unlucky because the word shi is also the word for ‘death’. 

It’s fascinating to me how such a simple thing as numbers can be so cultural.  It reminds me, yet again, of how significant culture is when teaching language.  With the advent of English as an International Language and the move away from imposing ‘native speaker culture’ on learners of English, it will be interesting to see how this evolves over time.  I think that it’s something that teachers of ESOL will have to really think about in the coming years, as ideas about what ‘English’ is and the face of the typical English Language Learners continue to change.

The TESOL organization has an interesting forum currently running that you can follow or comment on if you’re interested.


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