Colour and culture


We often approach the topic of culture and nationalities by showing the products of a culture. For example, a red post box for Britain, a baguette for the France etc etc. And yes it gets a bit dull and stereotypical. But one interesting area is colour since it isn’t a ‘product’ and we can’t associate it with one culture. But what a colour represents in different cultures is very interesting and useful if you’ve been teaching  abstract nouns such as words like ‘power’ and ‘wisdom’.

Begin by showing students the colour red. Ask them to suggest what it represents in their country. In fact it can represent many different things including ‘stop’, ‘anger’ or ‘blood’. Explain that in some countries and cultures it can also represent love, passion, luck, courage and anger.

Explain that you are going to read out some more abstract nouns and students should write down the colour which best represents each one. Alternatively, give them a selection of colours on pieces of card (or even cuisennaire rods if you still have a set!) and they raise their colour when you say the word. Here are the words:







Afterwards, allow time for students to compare their ideas and talk about why they chose their colours. Finally, show them this summary table to see if their choices were similar to their own culture or the culture of others.


The table is based on an exercise in ‘Life’ Intermediate (National Geographic Learning). Visit for more information.

Categories: ELT issues, Visual literacy

Tags: , , ,

3 replies

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