I don’t often write about culture and how to teach it, but if you’ve read some of my older posts, then you know my basic belief. There’s always a cultural context in language instruction. Our examples, our choice of topics, our resources, and our teaching styles are all connected to culture. (See link to a culture quiz below.)
A well-timed lesson on a host culture can be very beneficial. For instance, at the start of a school year, international students are experiencing new situations daily, and time for reflection may help them make sense of all their impressions. Even in an EFL setting, students have online access to films, jokes, articles, and discussion boards, so having the chance to discuss cultural similarities and differences can give them some perspective. Students could write anonymous observations on index cards, and the teacher could read them aloud for discussion: Someone wrote that strangers sometimes smile at each other and say good morning. Okay. Does anyone else find that unusual? Where do you see this happen?
How else can we initiate discussion? It may be a student’s comment or a question that serves as a jumping off point. For instance, their confusion over how to address you on the first day can become a very teachable moment. You could recommend an online resource that explains forms of address, like a dictionary or a video tutorial, and then discuss various titles the next day.
Ideally, discussion about culture should go beyond supplying interesting details. Guided reflection can arm learners with skills they can use in their social interaction. We want their cultural awareness heightened so that they can consider the appropriateness of a response, be it verbal or nonverbal. With this in mind, please consider my Culture Quiz_handout. It’s a safe way of putting oneself in a situation and figuring out the best thing to do or say.