Understanding cultural conflict in EFL classrooms in the UAE

Bridget Maureen Walker Palmer


In the field of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teaching, it is common for instructors and students to come from very different cultural backgrounds. Instructors who leave their home countries and go to teach abroad may have trouble adjusting to the culture of their new teaching context, and cultural misunderstandings that interfere with learning may occur in the classroom (Kramsch, 1993). This research focused on cultural conflicts between Western, native English-speaking instructors and their Arab students at two university-level EFL programs in the UAE. Questionnaires and interviews were used to discover the details of specific classroom cultural conflicts and categorize them. Nine categories of classroom cultural conflicts were identified, the major ones being inappropriate materials/discussion topics, mixed-gender issues, and disrespect for religious customs.


Intercultural competence; cultural conflict; culture in EFL classrooms; UAE culture; Western culture

Full Text:



Al-Issa, A. (2005). When the west teaches the east: Analyzing intercultural conflict in the classroom. Intercultural Communication Studies, 14(4), 149-168.

AUS Spring 2013 Fast facts. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1hV1NUw

Cortazzi, M., & Jin, L. (1999). Cultural mirrors: Materials and methods in the EFL classroom. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Culture in second language teaching and learning (197-219). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Darwish, A.E., & Huber, G. L. (2003). Individualism vs. collectivism in different cultures: A cross-cultural study. Intercultural Education, 14(1), 47-55.

DeJaeghere, J. G., & Cao, Yi. (2009). Developing US teachers intercultural competence: Does professional development matter? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 33(5), 437-447. http://doi.org/dc2kkm

Hamad, A. (1999). The problem of culture in language teaching. Muslim Education Quarterly, 16(2), 37-45.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind: Intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Kramsch, C. (1993). Context and culture in language teaching. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Le Roux, J. (2002). Effective educators are culturally competent communicators. Intercultural Education, 13(1), 37-48.

Prodromou, L. (1992). What culture? Which culture? Cross-cultural factors in language learning. ELT Journal, 46(1), 39-50. http://doi.org/d2w8x6

Protheroe, N. J., & Barsdate, K. J. (1992). Culturally sensitive instruction. Streamlined Seminar, 10(4), 1-4.

Roberts, H. (2012, June 6). Brits need to realize there is a dark side to Dubais glamour. The Sun. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1PMaZFa

Sapir, E. (1921). Language: An introduction to the study of speech. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Sonleitner, N., & Khelifa, M. (2004). Western-educated faculty challenges in a Gulf classroom. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, 2, 1-21.

Strong, C. (2012). Teaching converged media to Arab students: University/external partnerships in social media campaigns. Middle East Media Educator, 1(2), 87-99.

Wages, R. (27 May 2012). The challenges and benefits of teaching ESL in UAE. ESLEmployer.com. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1fVZmPR

Young, T. J., & Sachdev, I. (2011). Intercultural communicative competence: Exploring English language teachers beliefs and practices. Language Awareness, 20(2), 81-98. http://doi.org/dr9zcd


  • There are currently no refbacks.

 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics

ISSN 2149­-1135
Copyright © Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics

Ejal Editorial | Create Your Badge

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'ejal.eu' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.