Understanding cultural conflict in EFL classrooms in the UAE

Bridget Maureen Walker Palmer
American University of Sharjah
Keywords: Intercultural competence, cultural conflict, culture in EFL classrooms, UAE culture, Western culture


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.