We often talk about how culture and language are connected and so you can’t teach one without the other. Well here’s something that may interest your students, especially if you have a class of students from ‘Western hemisphere’ countries and ‘Eastern Hemisphere’ countries.
Draw a smiley emoticon on the board : – ) and ask students to say what it represents. Elicit the word ‘happiness’. Then point out that the emoticon for ‘happiness’ looks like this in Eastern hemisphere countries (^_^). It’s an interesting cultural phenomenon that in Eastern Hemisphere countries the eyes are regarded as very important for expressing emotions whereas in the west the mouth tends to be more symbolic of emotion. Hence, the mouth is more prominent in the smiley : – ) whereas the eyes are more prominent in (^_^).
If you are teaching a group of students from Western countries, write these emoticons on the board and ask students to guess the emotion or appearance that is being expressed:
(;_;) (*0*) (^_~) (^0^)
After a while give them a clue by writing the equivalent emoticons from their own culture:
: – ( :O 😉 😀
And finally, check if they have guessed correctly. The answers are: sad, surprised, winking and laughing.
If the students in your class are from Eastern Hemisphere countries then show the emoticons in the reverse order. With mixed classes, separate students by hemisphere to guess the less-well known emoticons and then mix the pairs so they can help each other arive at the correct answers.
I use this task to introduce a lesson on writing texts and online messages. It’s a nice way to raise the issues of cultural differences – even in our everyday writing. A mixed nationality group of students can provide more examples from their countries or a mono-nationality group can research more online.