The other day I was teaching a group of CEFR B1 students. They are all Kazakhstani local students. One of the listening tasks was to listen to 8 conversations and identify what people asked for. The main focus was on polite requests. Conversation 3 was as follows:
A: What would you like us to bring?
B: A salad and something for a dessert.
A: Great.We can do it.
My students decided that it was a dialogue between a waiter and a customer. I played the track two more times before I realized that my students were unfamiliar with an idea of a potluck dinner. It’s a very foreign idea to Kazakh people who when they have people over for lunch /dinner do not expect guests to bring anything with them. After I explained what a potluck party was my students got really excited and exclaimed: We like this idea, but we are Kazakhs. How can we ask people to bring food or drinks to our place while we are hosting the party? It’s impolite.
It was an interesting experience and made me think how much a lack of culture background knowledge can affect the English language comprehension.