Codes of Communication in Different Cultural Settings

Published on 27th May, 2010 in Global Bloggers by Vicky Loras

The lessons at the bank I teach are becoming more and more interesting every time we meet on Tuesday morning! The group I teach are so enthusiastic and willing to contribute to the lesson in any way possible and learn – and Global truly gives rise to great discussions!

That’s what happened today. We got to the point in Unit 1 in Global pre-intermediate where we have to discuss common social expressions in a global context. What we did was speak a little bit generally in the beginning about how people speak to each other in Switzerland in a formal and informal context, in cases such as when they meet each other for the first time, or arrange to meet again or say goodbye to each other. It was great because they gave the Swiss perspective and I could give them the Greek and Canadian perspective (being born in Canada of Greek parents).

It was amazing for all of us to see how people interact with one another in three different cultures! I learned for instance that it is not that advisable to give somebody the ‘thumbs-up’ gesture in Switzerland, whereas in Canada it is pretty much all right, especially if you know someone well. In Greece it is not used that much. We spoke extensively about expressions and gestures and also about degrees of formality.

The highlight was when we did a pair work activity, where the people of the group had to act out different situations, such as meeting for the first time and introducing each other, one of two friends wanting to go home as it was too late, or acting out shopkeeper and customer roles. It was a fantastic moment as they first started acting out to each other and while they were doing that, I heard some amazing discussions and vocabulary being used. I had told them beforehand that after acting out their situation, they should think about whether it was different in a Swiss context, and if so explain how to the group. I was so happy and excited that they were enjoying the book and the task they had to do so much! Then when they had completed their work, I proposed that they present in pairs to all of us, what they had just role-played between themselves or even a small part of it. They all did that very successfully and some of them explained the Swiss context to their role-plays, where there was one.

As it was for us today, I believe it is always interesting and useful to know about cultural differences, both in respect for the people of the country being discussed and to have a multicultural view of the world.