Food in Language Education

Event details


Date & time

Friday 30 October 2020


Online - Zoom


Multiple Speakers


CHL Communications and Outreach Team

Additional links

‘To eat’ and ‘to drink’ – it’s impossible to find a language which does not have these two words.

For language teachers, discussion of food is an important cultural aspect of language education. Introducing the representative food of a country or region gives students essential cultural knowledge, but is there a better way to teach that avoids leading both teachers and students into stereo-typed cultural perceptions?

In this virtual workshop, four speakers specialising in Asia and the Pacific language, will talk about their experience and give their thoughts on teaching.

This event is part of the Global Festival of Asia Pacific Language and Culture Education

Only 30 places available for this workshop - book now to avoid missing out!


1:00 pm: Zoom open to public

1:05 pm: Opening remarks

1:10 pm: Why Mohinga noodles? - Myanmar's 'national food' as featured in Burmese literature (Dr. Yuri Takahashi)

1:40 pm: Food as Metaphors: Insights from the Vietnamese classroom (Dr. Le Hoang Ngoc Yen)

2:10 pm: "Kaikai kaikai na kaikai inap yu pulap" - "Eat food and eat until you are full" (Ms. Jenny Homerang)

2:40 - 2:50 pm: Break

2:50 pm : Food for Thought: Pedagogising Eating - What, Who, Where, When, Why and How (Dr. William Armour)

3:20 pm: Discussion among participants

3:50 pm: Closing remarks


Dr Yuri Takahashi

School of Culture, History & Language, College of Asia & the Pacific, ANU

Why Mohinga noodles? ― Myanmar’s ‘national food’ as featured in Burmese literature

In language education, when the culture is widely known internationally, teachers generally do not need to spend time introducing it. Unlike forty years ago, Japanese teachers today don’t need to explain what ‘sushi’ looks like. For less familiar languages, introduction of their food culture is important and also tests the depth of the teacher’s understanding. I have noticed Mohinga noodles are a popular topic in Burmese classes for foreigners, at Universities in both Myanmar and other countries. Mohinga was once regarded as commoner’s food by the Burmese royal court, but it has not been fully investigated as to why this ubiquitous Myanmar ‘national food’ has gained such popularity. I intend to discuss the possibility that Mohinga, originally a cuisine from the Ayewarwady Delta, gained popularity during the colonial period. A short tragic love story written by well-known author Zaw Gyi (1907 – 1990) during the 1930s also contributed to this.

Yuri Takahashi is the convener of ANU’s Burmese language course established in 2016. While researching Burmese culture and language teaching, she also taught Japanese for 25 years at universities in Japan and Australia. She has a long-term interest regarding the acceptance of modernity and been exploring a variety of nationalist narratives as seen in Burmese literature. Obtaining her Masters in Burmese literature from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, she then worked for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Burmese language specialist for seven years, later receiving her M. Phil and PhD (Modern Burmese intellectual history) from the University of Sydney.

Dr Le Hoang Ngoc Yen

School of Culture, History & Language, College of Asia & the Pacific, ANU

Food as metaphors: Insights from the Vietnamese classroom

Eating and drinking have long played a central role in Asian cultures and in Vietnamese culture in particular. The popularity of Vietnamese cuisine in Australia suggests that many Australian might be first introduced to Vietnamese culture and language through the food that the country has been well-known for.

Food is not only packed with substance, fluids, nutrients, fiber, textures, flavours, aroma or the sizzling heat, but also entails symbols and encapsulates social relations and moral values. As evident in the language and proverbs widely used in daily life in today’s Vietnam, food often has been construed as metaphors for habits, mannerism, social behaviour, the way of life and thus encompassing moralities in Vietnamese culture.

Examining the language of food, eating and drinking as metaphors therefore offers an insightful window into Vietnamese culture, and helps students to not only learn the language but also understand deeply-rooted cultural values and mentalities embedded in that language.

Dr. Le Hoang Ngoc Yen is a Lecturer and Convenor of the Vietnamese program at the School of Culture, History and Language (CHL), College of Asia Pacific, The Australian National University. Prior to joining the School of Culture, History and Language, Yen was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University (Japan). In addition to research on health and well-being, stigmatised diseases and disabilities in Vietnam, Yen is also very interested in languages and cultures, and more recently, food and alternative diets in Asia.

Jenny Homerang

School of Culture, History & Language, College of Asia & the Pacific, ANU

“Kaikai kaikai na kaikai inap yu pulap” - “Eat food and eat until you are full”

Food is a delightful conversation opener amongst students learning a new language. It changes body language and stirs up reflective discussions. It also introduces new grammar, builds new vocabulary and expands students’ key language skills. At the same time, it communicates a variety of underlying cultural meanings, spoken and unspoken, in the sentences being taught, which can sometimes create challenges for the teacher and students. In ‘Tok Pisin’, the boundary-bridging creole language of Papua New Guinea, ‘to cook and eat cooked food’ is to ‘kukim na kaikai kaikai i tan (kaikai)’. Anyone could easily get lost in this sentence. In this presentation I will explore the teaching of food through

Tok Pisin, a creole which is made up of English, German and Indigenous words. It is spoken by more than 4 million people in Papua New Guinea, a country known to house more than 1000 tribes, over 800 languages.

Jenny Homerang is the Convenor of the Tok Pisin language course introduced to the Australian National University in 2018. She is also a PhD candidate in CHL’s Pacific and Asian History department, researching the connection of indigenous land activities to mortuary ceremonies in her Nalik language region of northern New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. In 2001 she began her Tok Pisin language teaching career with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and also the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In 2018 she joined CHL’s Asian and Pacific Languages program developing and teaching Tok Pisin online.

Dr William S Armour

Honorary Senior Lecturer
Japanese Studies at Humanities and Languages, Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW Sydney

Food for Thought: Pedagogising Eating – What, Who, Where, When, Why and How

My father used to ask me, “Do you eat to live or live to eat?”. How can these questions be answered in the context of learning an additional language? Answers emerge when we consider ‘eating’ as a social practice. Drawing on Haslanger (2018) and my personal experiences learning Japanese, Bahasa Indonesia and Thai as well as teaching Japanese as an additional language (introductory level) and courses in Intercultural Communication and Japanese Popular Culture, I ask the six fundamental questions to investigate the complexities of pedagogising ‘eating’ in the context of languages education. Potential answers may help guide us along the path of how to approach the pedagogical challenges that ‘eating’ as a social practice offers both teachers and learners in classrooms and beyond.

Haslanger, Sally (2018) ‘What is a Social Practice?’ Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 82, 231-247.

Dr William S Armour: Before retiring from UNSW Sydney in 2013, William taught courses in Japanese language, Japanese popular culture, and Intercultural Communication. He has also guest lectured on Asian masculinities in Asian popular culture. As an undergraduate at Sydney University, he continued with his Japanese language studies and also majored in Indonesian language. He began learning Thai much more recently with mixed results. He has published on identity and additional language learning, issues in Japanese popular culture, and Japanese erotic manga.

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