5 Minutes Prep - 2 Hour Interactive Lesson!
Cross cultural differences in gift giving pose challenges for immigrants and visitors with their unspoken rules of etiquette. Students can develop their soft skills by cracking this sometimes inscrutable cultural code with the help of this online true or false quiz. Or download the free exercise that follows for use in a high beginner or intermediate classroom. The answers can be downloaded following the quiz.
Thrift stores are becoming more popular with middle aged clothes shoppers. Seems if you don't want to wear yoga attire to work, thrift stores are some of the best sources for clothing made from a wider variety of fabrics.
Over the years I've had numerous students say they've been turned down after job interviews because they lacked local experience. If having worked locally were a prerequisite for the job, would their resumés not have precluded them from even getting the interview? More likely the experience referred to is related not to quantifiable hard skills but rather to more intangible soft skills that enable a person to "fit in", such as knowledge of local language and the ability to engage in small talk.
Summer is the natural time for a unit on leisure. This unit is suitable for ESL or EFL students of all levels and has many opportunities for fieldtrips. Low beginners can learn the names of activites and practice "can" and "can't". "I can dance." "I can't dance." Higher level students can practice the intricate soft skills required to politely navigate invitations, both in speaking and in writing. Email is an obvious medium for invitations.
We often think of bargaining language as confined to situations like a garage sale or to the purchase of larger items like cars or homes. One of the most common negotiations most people will engage in at some point is who will pay the bill in a restaurant. Not only are there language and soft skills specific to this situation, many cultural assumptions are thrown into the mix. Countries, as well as the cultures within them, differ in their norms about who should pick up the tab and when. Learning the related idioms and other bargaining language but not cracking this cultural code and developing the soft skills to successfully navigate this interaction can lead to social awkwardness as exemplified in the story below.
In 2011 I wrote about teaching about death in the ESL / EFL / ELL classroom. Students know that they need the soft skills required to respond to news about a death. The Widow jigsaw in Contemporary Jigsaws 1 and 2 works as an effective springboard for this topic. While it focuses on the passive voice, there’s lots of scope for other grammar points. Here’s a suggestion of some follow up activities. Start with explaining the differences between the following and you will have students full attention:
One of the most important things we can do as ESL teachers is to help our students crack the cultural code. Gift giving has a lot of unspoken rules which may seem inscrutable to newcomers. Unconvinced? See if you were aware of these cultural attitudes to gift giving in other cultures:
Bargaining (or haggling) takes place all over the world. North Americans often think of it as restricted to places like flea markets or garage sales, when in fact bargaining takes place in a wide variety of business transactions. Think of the negotiation involved in the purchase of expensive items, such as cars or real estate.
As Veterans Day and Remembrance Day approach, it’s the time of year when we often think about those who have passed away. Should death be a topic in the ESL/EFL classroom? There is no question the topic has to be approached with sensitivity. We don’t know when a loss in the family may be recent for some students. While talking about death can trigger sad feelings, the far less controversial topics of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are often as loaded for some and must be approached with equal sensitivity.