- Communication-cultural differences:
- distance between the people
- way of speaking
- Language-cultural differences: Cultural differences which cause problems in the classroom while learning languages together. In order to avoid the lack of understanding, confusion, uncomfortable situations and misunderstandings, teachers have to pay attention to and be aware of them. The types of these differences are the following:
- Differences in names:
Problem: Students are unable to pronounce and memorise the names of the others.
Solution: The teacher should create tasks for them, where they have to learn the names of others.
Applicability (=way to make an advantage from the disadvantage): e. g. the game Tell something about your name! Expressions of names and for talking about names, or an exercise of pronouncing the letters of the alphabet.
Exercise 1: The teacher explains the first group (differences in names). He explains what kind of problems can appear and what the possible solutions are. In that moment the teacher makes them play the game Talk about your name! in order to make the students memorise the names of the others, get to know the game so that they can use it with their students, and make them begin to think about possible solutions for such cultural differences.
Exercise 2: After finishing exercise 1, the teacher asks the students to note the words and expressions that appeared during the game Tell about your name!, e. g. comes from, means that, first name, last name, family name, nickname, etc... When they are done, the teacher explains that actually that is his task when he gives such an exercise to students. In a real situation, that is when the students do the task 1, the teacher notes the expressions they can use. After telling about their names they discuss the expressions.
Exercise 3: Put this game into the list of topics of CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). Which topic does it belong to? Add the CEFR-level, so in which level can one play this game?
Pay attention, that: 1) the students understand each other, 2) the students are divided into groups so that they have different native languages.
- Meaning of words:
Problem: „false friends”: when a word in the native language has another structure of meaning, than in Esperanto, e.g. tree/wood, leaf, family members, food
Solution:Solution: to be aware of and to pay attention to these, explain why they think it is correct and explain how is it in Esperanto.
Applicability: Telling about the meaning of familiar words, exercise with a dictionary
Attention: when there is a confusion about words and a student insists on being right, tell him, that it is not necessarily so. Tell them, that national dictionaries often attribute a meaning to an Esperanto word based on the national language concerned. Tell them about the usage of PIV.
Problem: Some people can be afraid of a touch which is not embarrassing for others (e. g. touching the nose during a game).
Solution: Do not play games that involve touching the body parts of someone else, especially if somebody is from a more closed culture.
Applicability: do not apply :)
Attention: the students shouldn’t initiate such games
Problem: e. g. Japanese and Finnish people think in complete silence. The teacher thinks, that they do not want to answer and continues with the next topic while they are still thinking.
Solution:Tell the students to say „I am thinking” when they need time to think, and „I don’t have an opinion” when they do not want to think any longer.
Applicability: Discuss the expressions for expressing one’s opinion
Attention: leave enough time to think
- Differences in the seasons:
Problem: Pay attention, that some may have 3, 2, or only 1 season in their home country. Or maybe they have 4, but the weather is the opposite of that in Europe (e.g. South America)
Solution: Explain it, and make use of it: talk about the weather.
Applicability: exercises about the weather.
Attention: that the students really understand each other, because some of them maybe can’t even imagine the weather in another place, so it can be difficult for them to understand. Pay attention, that they are aware, that when speaking about „winter”, South-Americans mean hot weather.
Problem: different greetings and customs
Solution: to be aware of and to pay attention to these, explain why they think it is correct and explain how is it in Esperanto.
Applicability: Discuss the greetings, formal/informal you in Esperanto and compare it with the national languages
Attention: people are not impolite because of (not) using a specific greeting. It may come from their culture. If you see, that there is a confusion about it, react and explain.
- Expressing kindness:
Problem: Belief, that someone is being rude because of a reaction, which comes from his/her culture. Misunderstandings.
Solution: to be aware of these in the cultures concerned, explain why they think it is correct and explain how it is in Esperanto.
Applicability: Students of the same cultural group can make a presentation and discuss it together.
Attention: Make the students aware of this issue, that they shouldn’t believe, that someone is being rude. It is useful to make this exercise as soon as possible, but pay attention, because unfortunately students are unable to do this exercise in lower levels.
Problem: some students start to speak when others are still speaking or right after they finish, but others start to speak only in a complete silence.
Solution: The teacher has to silence some students and pay attention to those, who would clearly like to talk but do not have the occasion.
Applicability: an object indicating who has the right to speak
Attention: that everyone should understand and follow the rules and everybody should speak for more or less the same time.
- Taboo topics:
Problem: they differ according to the culture. It is an important question whether to teach about them or not. Taboos may be: family, dogs, politics, social classes, historical events, police, poor people, racism, homosexuality.
Solution: Try to avoid these topics, and pay attention not to touch something that is not a taboo for you but may be for others. Exception: these topics are perfect to make people speak, because they provoke them to tell their opinion.
Applicability: Group discussions, or picture description with pictures that show these topics.
Attention: avoid heated disputes, physical action, and too much involvement and make clear for the students, that their task is to speak in a foreign language and not to change the world.
- Eastern and Western „no”:
Solution: In Esperanto, use complete sentences in those cases.
Applicability: Play situation games, where full answers are needed.
Attention: Students might say „no” when they mean „yes”. You need to see from their gestures and mimics, that they actually mean the opposite. The teacher needs to be aware of this, especially if he sees, that the students are confused.
- Formal/Informal you:
Solution: to be aware of these, explain why they think it is correct and explain how it is in Esperanto.
Applicability: Role play, when in the other language formal you is used and in Esperanto you still use „vi”.
Attention: native speakers of those languages where formal you exists.
- Not understanding something:
Problem: no one understands something, despite the other person trying hard
- If the teacher speaks the native language of the student, try to figure out whether the not understandable word/phrase is a wrong translation, e. g. I will never give up. Mi neniam surdonos. → Mi neniam rezignos („false friends”).
- If he doesn’t know it, he should ask the student to say it in another way, because it is not understandable.
- The teacher should teach them to say No or I don’t understand with respect.
Attention: it is possible that they don’t understand each other, but the speaker isn’t even aware that the others maybe don’t understand him. Explain this to them and explain the cause as well.
Problem: should students be corrected or not.
Solution: the teacher should ask the students individually, whether to correct them, or if there are too many mistakes, he should explain why he corrects them (not to embarrass but to teach).
Attention: some may say, that they want to be corrected, when they don’t want to. Make sure what they want as clearly as possible, and it is best to ask when the others are not present.
Problem: should we interrupt someone if he is old, a man (if you are a woman), or a boss?
Solution: Yes, and explain the cause: We have 2 minutes for everyone. Explain, that it is not because of your disrespectfulness. It is best to explain when the others doesn’t hear it. People should call each other by first names.
Attention: how you communicate this. It can be a sensitive issue.
- Sex/gender, sexuality:
Problem: Especially in the Esperanto community try not to emphasise the differences between men and women (e. g. don’t say during a game: „Men, go to one side of the room, women, go to the other”).
Solution: Don’t ask about sex and gender, don’t act as if it was obvious that a man loves a woman. That makes people uncomfortable.
Applicability: discussing the topic in a high level
Attention: don’t embarrass and shame anyone
- Differences in names:
Concluding all the above:
- The teacher needs to be constantly aware of these differences and solve the confusions and problems
- The teacher has to pay attention and solve unclear situations
- The teacher should make everyone speak equally
- The teacher has to be precise: clear instructions. E.g.: teaching what is shampoo, soap, etc.