Culture in ESL
American Culture & Language Institute, TESOL Certificate Program
Northern Virginia Community College
What is Culture?
Surface Culture vs. Deep Culture
Why is Cross-Cultural
We tend to believe that we are the “normal” ones
and the people in the other country are going to
be the “strange” ones.
When you go overseas, you realize that people
see the world, themselves, and others in
fundamentally different ways.
- Peace Corps Volunteer
The view that one’s own assumptions, values,
& beliefs are normal, while those of the other
culture are odd or wrong.
Taken to extremes, it can result in prejudice.
Ethnocentrism is a major challenge to
Who are you?
• Which cultures are you a member of?
– Gender, nationality, ethnicity, occupation,
• Complete a word web identifying 4-5 of
your cultural memberships.
• Compare your word web with someone
from another culture.
• Discuss the following with a partner.
– How did your cultural identities differ?
– Did your partner express surprise at a cultural
identity you selected?
– Are there any stereotypes that could describe
one of your cultural identities?
What is Culture?
• Individually complete the “What is
What does culture mean to you?
What words could you use to define culture?
What are examples from your culture?
Discuss your results with someone who isn’t
from your culture.
• Collective: It is shared by a group of
• Learned: It is transmitted from generation
• Unconscious: It guides behavior and view
of “others” through unspoken rules.
Levels of Culture
How You Dress
What You Say
How You Act
What You Think
How You Feel
How You Judge
Level of Awareness
Many of our cultural beliefs are unconscious.
Individually complete the Digging Deep!
Compare your answers with someone who is
not from your culture.
• Did your deep cultural beliefs
– Differ greatly from others?
– You were proud of sharing with others?
– You were uncomfortable sharing with others?
Collectivism vs. Individualism
- Focus on social relationships = sharing.
- Promotes negotiation and a sense of unity.
- Focus on personal achievement = competition.
- Promotes independence and a sense of
Working across cultures can be challenging.
Discuss the strengths from each culture
Provide a variety of class activities to utilize
Discuss the following classroom activities.
Which culture do they utilize?
- Find Someone Who…
- Journal writing
- Oral presentations
- Think, Pair, Share
Encourage students to share items
representative of their cultures.
Food – organize a Pot Luck
Literature, Music, or Movies – teach others about
How can I…
Foster an ideal classroom culture?
Identify which classroom culture my
students are used to?
Create a cohesive culture in a
Ask your students!
- What kinds of activities help you learn?
- What kinds of activities do you enjoy?
- Do you like to work in…
B. Small Groups
Have students create a set of class rules for
both students & the teacher.
Avoiding Culture Shock
Share your feelings with others
Become involved in campus or community
Develop a support system & ask others for help.
Keep your sense of humor – esp. when speaking!
• It’s so broad… What do I teach?
Traditional American Values & Beliefs
Government & Politics
Put it into Practice
Choose a general theme about American
Choose a skill to focus the instruction
(speaking, listening, reading, or writing)
Consider which culture(s) (Individualistic or
Collectivist) your students are members of.
Create and teach a 10 minute mini lesson
teaching American culture.
• In pairs, discuss…
– What you’ve learned about yourself in this
– What you’ve learned about others in this
– Culture-based activities you might use in
• Oregon State University, Culture Shock
• Cultural Awareness Activities
• San Diego State University, diversity
• Bringham Young University, diversity