Culture in the EFL Classroom: Western Instructions and Arab Students in the UAE
Palmer, Bridget M. W.
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In the field of EFL teaching, it is common for instructors and students to come from very different cultural backgrounds. Instructors who leave their home countries and go to teach abroad may have trouble adjusting to the culture of their new teaching context, and cultural misunderstandings that interfere with learning may occur in the classroom (Kramsch, 1993). This research focused on cultural conflicts between Western, native English-speaking instructors and their Arab students at two university-level EFL programs in the UAE. Questionnaires and interviews were used to discover key cultural differences between these two populations, instructors' awareness of these differences, the details of specific classroom cultural conflicts, and the instructors' and students' attitudes toward culture. It was discovered that the Western, native English-speaking instructors and their Arab students hold different values in several areas, including the roles of religion and family in one's personal life and the ideal atmosphere of a classroom. The very experienced instructors involved in this research were also found to be aware of the cultural differences between them and their students. Nine categories of classroom cultural conflicts were identified, the major ones being inappropriate materials/discussion topics, mixed-gender issues, and disrespect for religious customs. Finally, both instructors and students reported having positive attitudes toward cultural understanding in the classroom.
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