Category Archives: Cultural Misunderstandings

Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview)


Studying about the reasons for cultural differences

This post may sound like I am contradicting a previous post of March 13th, “Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills”   Despite my support for segregated skills in general, an integrated skills course with higher-level students who are more homogeneous in ability can be effective and practical.

For an integrated skills 1 course to be effective and engaging to the students, the subject should be something which is inherently appealing to the majority of the students.  After all, the students will be spending the course time reading, writing, and talking about the subject.

One subject which has been enthusiastically received by both students and instructors is culture, and more specifically, differences in cultures and the reason for these differences.

Some examples of these are:

-Why are people in western cultures more likely than people from eastern cultures to smile at a stranger standing at a bus stop than?

-In a study of 4-year-olds, why did the Asian children spontaneously share their candy with another child but the American children only reluctantly share when asked.

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ESL Culture: You worked hard for your students, but on their course evaluations, they said that you didn’t. How come?

Working hard but seemingly unappreciated

Working hard but seemingly unappreciated

A colleague of mine was dumbfounded after getting back students’ evaluations of her class at the end of the term.  One of the items on the evaluation form (which came from the college administration) was:

  • My instructor returned checked homework to me ____________.
  1. a) always quickly  b) sometimes quickly    c) not quickly

All of her students circled (a) “always quickly” except two Japanese students who circled (c) “not quickly.”  This confused not only her, but also the rest of us who knew that she was especially diligent about checking assignments and returning them the very next class.

Why was there this disconnect between these students’ perception and reality?

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