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Teaching Intercultural


Christina Salmon
January 20, 2007

Building Awareness and

Practical Skills to Facilitate
Cross-Cultural Communication

Author: Eli Hinkle

Visible vs. Invisible Culture

Invisible culture consists of the

sociocultural beliefs and assumptions
that most people are not even aware of
and thus cannot examine intellectually.
(Hinkle, 2001)
Invisible culture is not always taught in
explicit instruction.
Students need to learn both visible and
invisible culture in their instruction.
They need to be taught how to recognize
socially acceptable behavior and language
and when to use this behavior and
ELL students are at risk for alienation from
their peers, misunderstanding by their
teachers, and lost opportunities if they are
not aware of cultural norms.
Intermediate and advanced ELL students will
continue to have a communication problem if
they have not learned how to use language in
social situations. According to the American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association,
pragmatics deals with three major
communication skills:
Using languages for different purposes
Changing language according to the needs
or expectations of a listener or situation
Following rules for conversations and
narrative rules may vary depending on
language and culture.
Empowering Students
Students need to become observers of
sociocultural norms. They need to pay
attention to politeness routines, social
status, and expressions used in
everyday conversations.
Students must then identify why certain
expressions were used while others
were not in various situations.
Students must use their gained
knowledge when communicating with
Teachers as Cultural Brokers
All teachers must have an
understanding of his/her students
Why do some students speak in class
while others do not?
Why wont some students make eye
contact with the teacher?
Why would a student openly criticize
his/her teacher?
Cultural Considerations
Larri Fish has noted these differences
between ELL learners.
In some cultures, maintaining silence is a
form of respect.
It is disrespectful to make eye contact with
elders in other cultures.
Israeli children are taught to criticize a
professor if they feel the person is giving
incorrect information.
Hispanic children are accustomed to hugging,
kissing, or touching authority figures.
Elementary students may have difficulty
in understanding why certain
expressions in language are used when
others are not.
They will need to be taught to recognize
nonverbal cues as well as the other
signals described in this article.
This article offered strategies for older
students which may not be as effective
for younger learners.
Using Common Linguistic
ExpressionsKnow your Audience
Students must learn when it is appropriate to
use certain expressions. Hinkle emphasizes
the importance of learners being astute and
consistent people-watchers.
Students must consider sociocultural
variables, such as gender, age, social status,
the relationship between speaker/listener,
and even the location and length of the
Students must use and understand nonverbal
Common Linguistic Expressions
Least polite Yo.

Hey, whats up? with a highfive

Hi, hows it going?

Hi, how are you?

Hello, how are you today? with

Most polite a handshake
Common Linguistic Expressions
Telephone Greetings
Hey, let me talk to Matt.
Least polite
Hey, can you put Matt on the

Hi, is Matt there?

Hi, its Sara. Is Matt there? Can I

talk to him?

Hello, this is Sara. Is Matt there?

Most polite Can I please speak to him? Thank
Common Linguistic Expressions
Inviting Someone to Visit You
Least polite Come over to my house and
play with me.
What are you doing after
school? You should come
over and play.
Can you come over after
school and play at my house?
Can you please come over to
my house and play after
Most polite school?
Lesson Plan
Goal: To use English to communicate in social
settings: Students will use English to
participate in social interactions.

Objective: Students will observe social

interactions and identify strategies to use when
speaking to others.
Warm-Up: Ask students to name all the
different kinds of people they typically speak to
in one day. Make a list of their thoughts and
Lesson Plan
1. ESOL students will observe role plays of
various social interactions (examples:
between teacher/student, student/student,
and student/parent.) They will be asked to
pay attention to the following:
-gender, age, social status, the
relationship between the speaker/listener,
location, and amount of time the
conversation lasted
The actors may use exaggerated facial
expressions and/or pictures to show
feelings and reactions during the
Lesson Plan
2. After each situation, students will
discuss (to the best of their ability)
what they observed and why it
happened. They will also need to
recognize how each person felt during
and after each interaction using
nonverbal clues.
3. Students will take turns role playing
the same situations showing how they
would feel after each linguistic
Lesson Plan
4. Take students to their regular
education classroom and have them
observe teacher/student and
student/student communication.
5. After a period of time, bring students
back to discuss what they observed. If
students are having difficulty
understanding why certain
expressions were used, it will be
necessary for the teacher to explain
Lesson Plan
6. After students are more aware of the
appropriate use of the expressions,
show students clips from
television/movies to see how children
communicate in other situations. Older
students may compare the situations
they observe to similar situations in
their native countries.
7. Have students determine if the children
in the clips used appropriate
communication. Discuss any nonverbal
clues they observed. Ask students to
tell anything that surprised them.
Lesson Plan
8. For home practice, have students
observe communication they see at
home, on the bus, in a grocery store,
or any public setting. Students could
keep a log of what they notice and
then bring it to the ESOL classroom so
all classmates can discuss their
observations. They can also tell about
their speaking skills from their own
Lesson Plan
9. As closure, review with students these
strategies to use when communicating:

Think about the person you are

speaking to. (ie. You would not talk
to your teacher the way you would
talk to your friends.) Is this person
older than you? Where are you?
How long do you have to talk to
Lesson Plan
Compare your situation to other
situations you have observed.
What happened in those
situations? What did other people
say and do?

Watch the other persons face and

actions while you are speaking.
Look for any clues to show how
he/she is feeling.
Strengths of Activities/Strategies
Students will have multiple opportunities
to observe communication.
Students will be able to practice their
own communication skills.
Students will learn to use and
understand nonverbal communication.
Students will become more aware of
sociocultural norms.
Weaknesses of Activities/Strategies
It will be necessary to have proficient English
speakers to first role play situations, which
means students may miss their instructional
time. Puppets could be used instead, but ELL
students would miss the realistic facial
expressions/nonverbal cues.
Start a collection of dialogue clips as soon as
possible. Several clips found did not portray
realistic communication between teachers and
Students will need a lot of additional practice in
observing different types of communication
before having a thorough understanding of
invisible culture.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Pragmatics,
Socially Speaking. Retrieved January 14, 2007, from

Fish, L. (n.d.). Building Blocks: The First Steps of Creating a Multicultural

Classroom. Retrieved January 8, 2007, from EdChange
Multicultural Pavilion,

Hinkle, E. (2001). Building Awareness and Practical Skills to

Facilitate Cross-Cultural Communication. In M. Celce-Murcia
(Ed.), Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd ed.)
(pp. 443-458). Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

Meyers, H. (Writer). (2006). Its a Mannequins World [Television

series episode]. In M. Poryes (Producer), Hannah Montana.
Hollywood, CA: Disney Channel. Retrieved January 18, 2007,