Teaching Cultural Concepts




That’s interesting. I don’t remember that about ‘privacy’, but I do remember that ‘independent’ was considered negative by Taiwanese learners in something to do with personality traits.
I rather understand that idea though since Taiwan, and a good deal of Asia, is described as a ‘collectivist’ culture, and the value of independence is found more in ‘individualist’ cultures, like America. This may be why privacy isn’t necessarily a virtue to Taiwanese. It may be that private, or secret intentions, benefit individuals, but not the collective society or family, and therefore considered self-centred and selfish. This, I imagine, has even further negative connotations in Mainland China!

BTW, how did the text categorise ‘privacy’?

I ask this because materials often suggest sexist, culturally biased, racist, homophobic, etc, attitudes or values in their pages which may imply non-language learning outcomes, or a ‘hidden curriculum’. This is what teachers need to watch out for.
However, exploiting these critical items in the classroom could be a great way to challenge the materials and encourage learner/teacher reflection.


In my opinion thus far, teaching the cultural aspects can be important. The connotation of a word has communicative implications. So far in Taiwan, English is used primarily for communication between Taiwanese and foreigners. Just as the foreigner should try to be familiar with the local cultural norms, so should the speaker of English try to be aware of the different interpretations of meaning.

I don’t see teaching the culture inside and out, just when it’s relevant and interesting (a subjective call for sure), but I think it’s good to remind the students that speaking another language involves more than just matching same-meaning words and structuring them in a grammatically correct sentence.

There’s also the benefit that learning the cultural background of a language can be interesting and also help in accepting some of the differences. If English is functionally (not just theoretically) adopted as a local language, then words may take on new meanings as fits the culture. In that case, foreign “native-speaking” teachers would be specifically for teaching the language in its cultural context.

There is talk of an international English developing which is separate from the English spoken in English speaking countries, which varies from place to place as it is.

Just thoughts.