Compliments: Integrating Cultural Values into Oral English Classes
yenlinch [at] usc.edu
The University of Southern California (Los Angeles, California, USA)
Compliments can be viewed as an expression of certain cultural values (Manes, 1983). Therefore, integrating the teaching of the cultural values of the compliments in the language classroom provides students with opportunities to learn not only the language (English) but also the cultural differences. Moreover, the role play activity, group discussion, and oral presentation are utilized in the language classroom in order to improve students' speaking competence, especially the communicative ability. While the students are engaging in the activities, it is attainable for the teacher to assess whether the students achieve the objectives or not as well as evaluate each student's speaking competence.
In order to increase
consciousness of the cultural differences, improve the speaking
develop the understanding of distinct cultural norms and values from
(Manes, 1983), the instruction of the expression of cultural values
(compliments and responses) and the reinforcement of the speaking skill
incorporated in the language classroom.
The design of the course aims to help international students have better awareness of how western people express compliments in English and assist students in understanding that different cultural meaning and messages exist in the expressions and responses to the compliments from cultures to cultures (Manes, 1983). Moreover, in order to improve students' speaking competence, especially the communicative ability, the group discussion, role play activity, and oral presentation are employed in the language classroom. Students can obtain a variety of opinions from their partners while participating in the group discussion (Graves, 2000); By means of the role play activity, "students can experience cultural values and awareness because it gives an opportunity to be emotionally involved in cross-cultural learning and reflect upon cultural differences" (Kodotchigova, p.5, 2002). Through engaging in the oral presentation, students have more opportunities to practice their English speaking skills.
Moreover, applying the use of the observation and reflection cards is effective for the language teacher to assess if the students achieve the objectives and obtain the knowledge of the classroom content. Therefore, the details of how to apply the observation and reflection cards in the classroom are illustrated in the article as well.
GoalStudents will increase the cross-cultural consciousness and develop the English speaking ability.
- Choose the appropriate vocabulary and sentences in English for expressing and responding to compliments.
- Increase the English speaking competence, particularly the conversational skill in expressing compliments and responding to the compliments.
- Identify the existence of different cultural values and messages in complimenting and responding to the compliments from American culture to the culture of his/her own home country.
Students' ProfilesThe course is an intensive English course that is designed for an intermediate level class. The total amount of time the students spend attending classes is two hours per week.
Class Time (each class)
Preparation Time10 minutes
Materials and Equipment
- Tape recorder with taped dialogues and conversations (the expressions of the compliments and the responses to the compliments among Americans)
- Handout guideline with common vocabulary and sentences used by Americans when expressing compliments and responding to the compliments
- Cue cards with thorough instruction of the role play activity
Weekly Classes Procedure
Week 1 (Class 1)
- The teacher hands out the handout with common
and sentences used by Americans when expressing compliments and
responding to compliments.
- The teacher explains how western people use the vocabulary and sentences in order to express compliments and respond to compliments. The teacher also clarifies when the best situation for using those vocabularies and sentences to express compliments and respond to the compliments is.
- The teacher asks students if they have experiences hearing other
people giving compliments on their personal appearances, such as their
clothes, their work and other things. The teacher asks some volunteers
to tell their
to the whole class.
Week 2 (Class 2)
- The class listens to numerous segments of taped conversations. The content of the conversations is the expressions of compliments and the responses to the compliments among native speakers.
- The teacher divides the students into several small groups consisting of four students. Students in each group have a group discussion (see Appendix A).
Week 3 (Class 3)
- After the group discussion, the teacher asks the students to find a partner. When the students finish forming pairs, each pair of students begins the role play activity (see Appendix B).
- When the role play activity is completed, each pair of students demonstrates their role play activities in front of the class.
In order to assess if students successfully achieve the objectives, the teacher applies the observation and reflection cards (see below) in the language classroom.
The group discussions enable students to cooperate with each other and to pay attention to various opinions when other students express their opinions. Meanwhile, the teacher can observe how individual student participate in the discussion (Graves, 2000). The observation can be considered an effective instrument in the course. Because most of the students come from other countries, the students do not feel overwhelmed and anxious when the teacher "silently" assesses students' performances. Through observing, the teacher can judge students' interests and learning preferences (Graves, 2000). When observing the group discussions, the teacher can fill out the following sheet.
Understand the different expressions and cultural meanings of the compliments (responses) in American culture and the culture of his/her home country:
Perfect, Good, Satisfactory, Improvement Required
Student's performance and learning preference participation in the discussions:
Active, Average, Reluctant
Any interesting idea brought up:
The role play activity is employed in order to assess if students absorb the classroom content and to evaluate each student's speaking ability. The use of role play activities can be regarded as an on-going and communicative assessment tool (Kodotchigova, 2002). While students engage in the role play activity, the teacher observes each group of students and fills out the following sheet (Lambert, 2003).
Use the appropriate vocabularies and sentences in English to express compliments in the role play:
Perfect, Good, Satisfactory, Improvement Required
Choose the proper vocabularies and sentences in English to respond to the compliments in the role play:
Perfect, Good, Satisfactory, Improvement Required
Student's Speaking Ability:
Fluency: Perfect, Good, Satisfactory, Improvement Required
Accuracy: Perfect, Good, Satisfactory, Improvement Required
Pronunciation: Perfect, Good, Satisfactory, Improvement Required
Communicative skill: Perfect, Good, Satisfactory, Improvement Required
Mistakes made in the role play:
The reflection cards are employed in the course as well. Each student has to answer the questions on the reflection card at the end of every class. Students can write down their reactions to the content of the class, give some suggestions to the teacher, and express the new ideas they acquire during the classroom activities. The reflection card is illustrated as follow:
REFLECTING On OUR DAY and EXPRESSING YOUR OPIOIONS
Please answer those following questions HONESTLY.
2. Please give the teacher some suggestions (There is no punishment if you criticize the teacher, so, relax, speak up what you want to say).
3. Did you like today's classroom activities? If so, why? If not, why?
Description of the Group DiscussionBefore the group discussion, the class listens to numerous segments of taped conversations and the content of the conversations is the expressions of compliments and the responses to the compliments among native speakers. Next, the teacher divides the students into several small groups consisting of four students. Students in each group have to discuss questions, such as "How do you compliment other people in your home country?" and "Compare the compliments you use in your home country with the compliments you observe from the taped conversations. Are there any similarities or any differences?"
Description of the Role Play Activity:The teacher asks students to find a partner. After students form a group, the teacher hands out the cue cards. Each pair of students have both cue card X and cue card Y (adopted from the role play activity, Kodotchigova, 2002).
Cue Card X
|You are an international student
from another country:
Imagine your American friend invites you to visit his/her new house.
Cue Card Y
|You are an
Imagine you invite your friend from another country to visit your new house.
Students in each group have two roles: American
and international student.
Students have to follow the instruction on the cue cards and interact
other (Kodotchigova, 2002). Each student must take turns and practice
complimenting and responding to the compliments in the role play
the role play activity is completed, the teacher asks each pair of
to demonstrate their role play activities
of the class.
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- Lambert, I. (2003). Recording Speaking Tests for Oral Assessment. Retrieved November 4, 2004 from http://iteslj.org/Articles/Lambert-SpeakingTests.html
- Manes, J. (1983). Compliments: A mirror of cultural values. In N. Wolfson and E. Judd (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and Language Acquisition (pp. 82-95). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
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The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. X, No. 12, December 2004