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ESL forum > Teaching material > Intercultural knowledge    

Intercultural knowledge


Intercultural knowledge
Hi there,

I don īt know about you but I think we need an FAQ section! Just kidding! (Have I pushed some people over the edge?)

Yesterday there was a lovely "telling the time" domino among the new contributions. The author said that, for religious reasons, she couldn īt use dice games in her classes. I was amazed to hear that.

Once I asked students to sign the attendance list and the only pen I had was red, one student told me that he would rather use his own pen because, in his culture, writing one īs name in red meant that one wanted to kill oneself. Well, I was amazed then, too.

Would you like to share any experiences or knowledge about similar issues?

Kind regards

22 Apr 2010      


This is quite a silly one, but your story about the pen reminded me...

I used to teach in a town in the provice of Sevilla - football fans will know that if you live in Sevilla, you either support Sevilla (the reds) or Betis (the greens).  My class of 7 year-olds wouldn īt write with the red board pen if they supported Betis, or the green board pen if they supported Sevilla! 

22 Apr 2010     


Hum, that is a very special kind of "culture.";o)

22 Apr 2010     


I wondered why my students would all stand up and walk around the class or outside whenever the bell went to signal a new period, until someone explained that in their country they always have a 5 minute break between lessons.

Knowing that, got rid of some of my frustration with new students. Now I just explain that we don īt do that here.

22 Apr 2010     


I think it pays to be aware of cultural differences. (Yes, I know you all agree!)
However it is very easy to offend someone because we don īt know or understand the differences.
So in class:
I īm always careful never to put Muslim students with partners of the other sex until I know that they are okay with it.
I try to hand out papers to Asian students with two hands as I know this is part of their ways.
My rewards (ie sweets) are always Halal (containing only beef or plant gelatine).
I never blow my nose in class because I realise it offends my Brazilians. (Okay in Australia)
I avoid pointing my foot at Thai students or touching them (especially on the head)
I do not expect Pacific Islanders to look me in the eye as it is not polite for them.
I am guilty of one "no-no", however... I do sit on the table which is so wrong (especially in the Maori culture, and I īm a Kiwi!)
My excuse is that I īm short and I like to be able to see everyone. I say that the tables in the classroom are never used for food but.........(Who am I kidding?)
Oh well, I īm not perfect!
What other differences should be aware of? Let īs share them!

22 Apr 2010     


Teresa - go Betis! I don īt use red pens in my class!!!!!!

I remember being told when I first started teaching, never to point at students as that is offensive in some cultures - you indicate with the whole hand.

Chewing gum - everyone in Spain chews gum in class and I can īt stand it. Then I read an interesting article that suggested that chewing gum actually aids concentration so now I īm wondering if I should allow it!

I do know that I have to be very careful with my sense of humour. I was once talking to some students about how I īd never made it to Morocco despite nearly going a few times. I said that once I īd booked it but then my grandmother died which was very inconvenient of her. My students looked like I īd just confessed to murder!

22 Apr 2010     


My God!
In italy red pens are teachers ī first instrument of work! Some old fashioned teachers also use a red and blue pencil, and in that case the red is for little mistakes, the blue for the bigger ones.
maybe it īs because I īm teaching in a primary school, but pupils are nvited to accept our school rules, also if their not Italians (and we have multietnic classes).

22 Apr 2010     



In fact, if I had to remember so many "extra rules" in class it would drive me crazy. I tell my students in our first class that I won īt do whatever thatīs part of anyone / someone / everyone īs culture because we are there to learn English and something about British / American culture and the first thing we should do is to learn how to stand / accept / adapt to someone else īs culture / religion / beliefs.

So I declare the classroom a "neutral territory" where we should forget about our own culture and try to imagine we are all Americans and act accordingly. And if someone thinks s/he īs is not able to do that or to forgive our ignorance about his/her own culture, "that large wooden retangle is the door - please, use it now".

Have a nice day.

EDIT --> I tell parents the same, and if they donīt agree I let them know that there are other 19 teachers at my school and some may be more flexible towards this matter.

22 Apr 2010