Culture Clashes in the Classroom

tefl in spain

Culture Clashes in the Classroom

When you’re in a classroom with foreign students, it’s inevitable that you’ll find differences and be pitted against their culture which just seems alien to you. This would be magnified with TEFL because the English language itself is closely connected with its western culture and customs.

In our school TEFL MADRID Academy we understand that cultural differences are a part of life and it’s essential to adapt to them when you’re in a foreign country. However, when these are imported into the classroom, they could wreck havoc on your teaching ability and how you conduct your classes. This is why it is imperative to separate the customs of the outside world from your classroom. While they may be harmless in the beginning and even a reason for laughs, that will eventually wear off and you’ll find yourself in constant flux of tension with your students, and struggle to teach your lessons freely. Here are common pitfalls of these cultural differences in the classroom that you should be aware of.



Dealing with cultural differences – TEFL Spain.



This concept varies according to the region you’re in and I’m not just talking about the time zone. Punctuality and being on time has different connotations at different countries and it could often be a cause of consternation. For instance, in south america, a class that starts at 4 would have students trickling in one by one even after 4:15. Then there are greetings students indulge, like kissing each other’s cheeks in Morocco, which can quickly wear you out. It’s important to set ground rules and make clear to the students in the beginning itself that 4 means 4.


While we look at any form of sharing answers or assisting others during an exam as a form of cheating that needs to be dealt severely, there are places like the middle East where it’s just seen as a form of cooperation and helping one another, with no ill intention. So let the students understand right off the bat that you’ll not tolerate any such practices and consider it as cheating.

Teaching Style

You may have been taught to be enthusiastic and chirpy in to keep your class engaged and it may even be your personality that seeps into your teaching style. However, that is seen as an affront in places like Asia where showing emotions is frowned upon. So understand the culture of the region and observe other teachers before embarking on your classes to connect with the students better. Likewise with places where rote memorization has been advocated for long; trying to change their way of learning out of the blue would just confuse them. Rather take it slow, and make them comfortable.

I’m not advocating changing your style completely, but toning it down or increasing the energy levels based on where you are might just help build your rapport with the class.

If you want to know more please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or ask a question about anything related with ESL in Spain or getting TEFL certified in Spain.

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