So far we’ve covered mistakes rooted in students’ first languages and mistakes that arise in the writing process. ESL students can struggle with listening or reading comprehension when they don’t understand the culture of the speaker or writer.

A student from a tropical nation may really struggle with a reading passage about winter sports and activities.

This is because those two sounds are interchangeable in the Korean language.

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To give one example, in Japanese culture, if someone’s age is significantly different form your own, you would probably not refer to them as a “friend,” even if you have a warm relationship with them.

So if a Japanese student is asked to write or speak about older or younger friends, the English use of the term “friend” might cause cultural confusion.

The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Language learners tend to take the rules of their first language and incorrectly apply those rules to their second language.

Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. To give an example, Korean students often confuse the “r” and “l” sounds in TOEFL Listening and Speaking.

Similarly, students from cultures where marriage is arranged may really struggle to understand a talk about American courtship and dating.

Students can have cultural struggles when they produce their own English as well.

For these kinds of mistakes, you want to show students that there are fundamental differences between writing and speech, in English and in languages.

And you want to help them see that organizing a lengthy piece of writing is difficult, but that this skill can be mastered.

Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest.

When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life.

Make an effort to recognize, investigate, and correctly address cultural language mistakes in your classroom. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.