#KELTChat: Politeness, inter-cultural communication and ELF. Sunday 19th April 2015, 8pm (KST)

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.

KELTChat Preview – 2nd June 2013: ELF in Korea

Morning everyone,

#KELTChat this week looks at one of the newer issues that we may want to consider as English teachers, that of English as a Lingua Franca.

Defining it isn’t easy, and there’s plenty or healthy debate in THE LITERATURE about what constitutes ELF, whether native speakers can speak it, where it happens etc. We’d prefer the chat to focus on teaching matters, so for now we’re going to run with Barbara Seidlhofer’s (2011) definition:

…any use of English among speakers of first languages for whom English is the communicative medium of choice, and often the only option.

This means that ELF tends to be spoken in the “big three” areas of education, business and tourism. It’s also probably worth mentioning that, for me at least, the key point is that this kind of communication draws its norms from being able to understand each other, rather than conforming to standard English. If you’re interested in reading more about what ELF is and isn’t, some helpful fellow recently wrote a series of blog posts about ELF. Your homework, should you choose to accept it, is to read them and the comments (#notinitforthehits):

  1. http://breathyvowel.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/a-beginner-mes-guide-to-english-as-a-lingua-franca/
  2. http://breathyvowel.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/what-does-an-elf-look-like/
  3. http://breathyvowel.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/english-as-a-lingua-franca-3-should-i-could-i/
  4. http://breathyvowel.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/elf-4-orienting-your-class-to-elf/

In the chat we’d like to keep definitions to a minimum (hence the homework) and focus more on what ELF might mean for English education and English educators in Korea. Some things we could perhaps think about.

  • Why might we want to think about ELF in our teaching? Why might we not?
  • If we want to, how do we do it?
  • What might we already be doing that’s helpful for our students in using ELF?
  • Are there any ELF activities?
  • How can we do ELF activities with monolingual groups?
  • What effect might ELF have on the future of Korean English education?
  • Where might we find materials that help us to focus on ELF in class?

The above is of course a guideline, so please bring any other questions, ponderings or flashes of inspiration with you to the chat. See you Sunday night at 8pm!

If you’d like to join us, but you’re not sure how, check out the how to tab at the top of the page. If you’re still not sure, send me a tweet (@breathvowel) or stop by the Facebook page and we’ll be happy to help you.

Alex (@breathyvowel)