“What differences are there in the ways different cultures have a discussion?”

We asked John Donald Redmond, BA, MEd, pc
former Head Instructor, Richmond Campus Learning Centre,
 Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Canada, what issues there might be when having a discussion in multilingual conversation class.

Students from a culture that focuses on group activity and vocal participation can be easier to teach in a listening/speaking class than those from a culture that values student silence.  Nonetheless, some cultures can value verbal interaction to an extent that a Canadian instructor might have difficulty managing the class. 

Two examples leap to mind: Libyan and Venezuelan students sharing a class with Japanese learners.  Both the former are from cultures that are highly vocal, the Libyans being given to group talk (everyone speaking at the same time, focusing on the teacher and not on one another), the Venezuelans being given to interrupting each other, an activity not considered a problem in their culture.  The Japanese, on the other hand, have a classroom culture that almost dictates silence when someone else is talking, making it very difficult, therefore, to get a word in edgewise when either a Libyan or Venezuelan is speaking.  Conversely, the Venezuelan might find talking with Japanese physically tiring, as they are given no chance to rest without anyone interrupting them.