We’re having a one hour #keltchat this weekend, on the topic of politeness as it relates to communication between non-native speakers of English from different cultures. However, politeness itself is a slippery concept, and may not mean the same thing even to members of a culture or community of practice. Post-modern theories of politeness see the phenomenon as dynamic and requiring a bottom-up approach rather than imposing categories from above (Watts 2003). For teachers, it may be helpful to approach the topic of politeness in the same way. In light of this, here are some questions that might be useful to think about before the chat:
- Do you agree that politeness must be approached from the bottom up?
- How can this be done in an EFL classroom?
- What kinds of strategies can we use to become aware of inter-cultural miscommunication?
- What kinds of strategies can we teach students in noticing and navigating different norms of politeness?
- What experiences have you had of trying to teach politeness in your classroom?
- What have your students done in class that might be considered rude? Why so?
- Where might we get the materials to discuss politeness?
- Do you think that there are any universal or widespread notions of politeness that might be useful to teach students?
- Have your students ever shared stories or experiences of inter-cultural miscommunication or politeness failings?
- How can we start discussions with students about politeness in an inter-cultural sense?
If you have never participated in a chat before but would like to start, there are some useful hints on the how-to tab above. Questions and contributions of any kind are also welcome at our Facebook page. We hope you can join us for the chat.
Watts, R. J. (2003). Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
**UPDATE** Further Reading
Here are some free-to-view links related to politeness and intercultural communication that may be of interest to anyone interested in the topic.
- INTERCULTURAL SENSITIVITY FOR GLOBAL MANAGERS (book chapter) on Academia.edu (HT Nina Iscovitz).
- POLITENESS IN INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION: SOME INSIGHTS INTO THE PRAGMATICS OF ENGLISH AS AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE (a PhD dissertation from the University of Arizona).
- YOUR POLITENESS OR MY POLITENESS? POLITENESS MATTERS IN INTERCULTURAL ENCOUNTERS (slides from a BeSIG presentation).
- INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND EAST ASIAN POLITENESS (book chapter from Politeness in East Asia, Cambridge University Press)