Listening task 1: I just don’t understand.

A Listen. People are talking about communication misunderstandings. What are the topics? Circle the correct answers.

 a. interrupting

     b. giving opinions directly

2   a. apologizing

     b. speaking politely

 a. criticizing

     b. interrupting

4   a. criticizing

     b. disagreeing with others

Answer & Audioscripts

1 b   2 a   3 b   4 a

Audioscripts in B below

B Listen again. What advice does each person give? Circle the correct information.

1   If you think someone is wrong, don’t say anything / ask a question.

2   Give a reason / gift only if you do something really bad.

3   Ask the person to speak loudly / let you finish.

4   Try to express yourself more directly / indirectly.

Answer & Audioscripts

1 ask a question   2 reason

3 let you finish   4 indirectly



Woman:   Hey, Natalie. How’s your part-time job going?

Natalie:   Not very well, I’m afraid.

Woman:   Why? What’s the problem?

Natalie:   I don’t think my new boss likes me.

Woman:   Oh? Why not?

Natalie:   Well, at work yesterday, I told him I didn’t like the company’s new uniforms, and he got mad, really mad! That was never a problem with my old boss. She respected my ideas and opinions.

Woman:   Well, your comment does sound a little direct. Instead of telling your boss what you think directly, next time maybe you could try asking a question.

Natalie:   I thought it was good to be direct.

Woman:   Not too direct.


Man:   Oh, there you are, Yuki.

Yuki:   Please forgive me for making you wait so long. First, the bus was late. Then there was a traffic jam. And I …

Man:   That’s OK. You’re only a couple of minutes late.

Yuki:   But I feel so bad. I really tried to …

Man:   Really, Yuki, it’s OK. You don’t need to say sorry so much. If you do something really bad or if you’re really late, you should apologize and give a reason, but if it’s just a couple of minutes, a simple “I’m sorry I’m late” is fine.

Yuki:   Really?

Man:   Really. Now, let’s have some lunch. I’m buying.


Man:   You know, I have a hard time communicating with Julianne. I think she can be a little rude sometimes.

Woman:   Really? Do you think so?

Man:   Yeah. I can never finish anything I’m saying to her. She starts talking right away. It really drives me crazy when people interrupt.

Woman:   That’s just her communication style. She doesn’t think she’s being rude. She’s just showing that she’s interested in what you’re saying.

Man:   Well, I’d like to finish what I’m saying first, and then she can talk.

Woman:   Well in that case, you should ask her to wait and let you finish.

Man:   Hmm. I guess I could try that.


Peter:   Why do we have to do this assignment? It’s a waste of time.

Teacher:   This is a homework assignment, and it counts toward your grade.

Peter:   Well, I think your class is too easy. It’s boring.

Teacher:   Peter, I think we need to discuss your tone. It’s better to express negative feelings more indirectly. If you criticize people too directly, you might hurt their feelings.

Peter:   Oh, uh, OK. I understand. Sorry.

Teacher:   It’s OK. Just remember next time. And remember your homework!

Listening task 2: It’s our style

A Listen. Students are talking about communication styles in their countries. Check (✓) the behaviors that are OK to do. Cross out (✗) the behaviors that are not OK.



South Korea

Saudi Arabia

1   interrupting someone

2   touching the other person

3   disagreeing

 saying “no” directly

Answer & Audioscripts



South Korea

Saudi Arabia





Audioscripts in B below

B Listen again. Who makes these statements? Write Luis, Soon Jin, or Ali.

1   “It’s best to wait until the other person finishes.”   ______

2   “I might touch him on the arm or the hand.”   ______

3   “We are very direct when we disagree.”   ______

4   “It’s very important to respect your friends.”   ______

Answer & Audioscripts

1 Luis   2 Soon Jin   3 Luis   4 Ali



Teacher:   OK, everybody, today we’re going to continue our discussion on communication styles in different cultures. First, let’s talk about interrupting someone in conversation – stopping the other person to add your own idea, or to ask a question. In some cultures, it’s OK to interrupt the speaker. How about in your countries? Yes, Luis?

Luis:   Some people might interrupt in Colombia, but you really shouldn’t. It really isn’t polite. It’s OK to ask questions to show you’re interested in what the other person is saying, but it’s best to wait until the other person finishes.

Teacher:   What about interrupting in South Korea, Soon Jin? Is it common there?

Soon Jin:   No, we usually don’t interrupt – especially not older people, like parents. We listen to what they say. Interrupting is not good in Korean culture.

Teacher:   How about in your culture Ali?

Ali:   In Saudi Arabia, it’s usually OK. It’s just part of the conversation. Actually, I think if you interrupt, it shows you’re a strong leader. You direct the conversation.


Teacher:   All right. The next point I’d like to discuss is touching the other person in conversation. In your cultures, do people usually touch each other during conversation? Luis, do you want to start?

Luis:   Hmm. Well, in Colombia, personal connections are important. We often touch the person we are talking to – usually on the arm or shoulder. I think touching the person you’re talking to gives a warm, friendly feeling. It’s a good thing.

Teacher:   Mmm-hmm. How about in your country, Soon Jin? Do Koreans usually touch the other person during conversation?

Soon Jin:   Well, it depends. If I’m talking to a good friend, I might touch him on the arm or the hand. Yeah. I think touching is OK in Korea, as long as we know the person really well.

Teacher:   OK, thanks. How about in your culture, Ali? What do people in Saudi Arabia do?

Ali:   Oh, people touch each other a lot in Saudi Arabia, definitely. Sometimes I even hold hands with the person I’m talking to. Or maybe I touch the person to emphasize something I said, to say it more strongly.

Teacher:   Great, thank you.


Teacher:   OK. Let’s talk about another communication style: disagreeing. In some cultures, people feel it’s impolite to disagree with others. What do you think, Luis?

Luis:   In my culture, we respect people who speak well. Colombians like to argue and have discussions with each other. We are very direct when we disagree. We are not angry. That’s just the way we talk.

Teacher:   Soon Jin?

Soon Jin:   It’s really different in Korea. We don’t usually disagree with or criticize others. Most people keep negative opinions to themselves, so we can keep a good relationship with the other person.

Teacher:   Uh-huh. Ali?

Ali:   Actually, it’s OK to disagree in my country. It’s kind of like interrupting. I think it shows good leadership.


Teacher:   Let’s go on to our last style: saying “no” directly. For example, if someone asks you to do a favor – a friend asks you to help him with his English homework but you are very busy, or your boss invites you to a party but you are too tired to go. Is it OK to refuse – to say “no” directly? Luis?

Luis:   I think that’s tricky in Colombia, especially when it comes to family. We are very loyal to family members, so we should avoid saying “no” to them if they need us.

Teacher:   OK. Soon Jin?

Soon Jin:   Same thing in my country. We don’t usually say “no” directly. We say “no,” but we express it indirectly. The other person understands what we mean, even if we don’t say it directly.

Teacher:   And Ali?

Ali:   In Saudi Arabia, it’s similar. It’s very important to respect your friends. So, if a friend asks you for help and you can’t do it, you should try not to say “no” directly. It doesn’t show respect.

Listening task 3

Listen. Circle the correct answers.

1  The woman’s students don’t

    a. do their homework.

    b. stay awake.

    c. talk much in class.

2  The woman thinks her students are

    a. bored.

    b. sleepy.

    c. hungry.

3  The students are from

    a. many different countries.

    b. the same country.

    c. two different countries.

4  The man thinks the problem is

    a. the woman’s teaching.

    b. cultural differences.

    c. the textbook.

5  The man suggests teaching the students

    a. about conversation styles.

    b. English pronunciation.

    c. more vocabulary.

Answer & Audioscripts


Man:   How’s your English class going, Professor Smith?

Professor:   Oh, not so well. I really like my students, but they’re very quiet. And it’s a conversation class. I try to choose interesting topics, but when I ask the class to share their opinions about something, only a couple of students speak. I’m just not sure how to get the others to talk more.

Man:   Well, what do you think the problem is?

Professor:   I’m not sure. It’s a morning class, so maybe the students are sleepy.

Man:   Hmm. What countries are your students from?

Professor:   A lot of different countries, actually.

Man:   You know, I think it may be a cultural difference. In many cultures, people aren’t used to giving their opinions so directly. It’s just not their communication style.

Professor:   Wow. I never thought about that. What should I do, then? We can’t just have a silent conversation class.

Man:   I have an idea that might solve the problem. Why don’t you talk about different conversation styles in class? You could talk about how English speakers in your culture express their opinions, and the students can share communication styles from their cultures.

Professor:   That could be really interesting. Thanks for the suggestion.

Listening task 4

A Listen. People are talking about communication misunderstandings. What are the topics? Circle the correct answers.

1   a. speaking politely

      b. disagreeing with others

      c. asking questions in class

2   a. apologizing

      b. disagreeing with others

      c. criticizing

3   a. touching the other person

      b. respecting co-workers

      c. saying “no” directly

4   a. apologizing

      b. touching the other person

      c. criticizing

5   a. criticizing

      b. apologizing

      c. speaking politely

Answer & Audioscripts

1 c   2 b   3 c   4 a   5 a

Audioscripts in B below

B Listen again. Circle the correct information.

 The professor is going to talk to the student before / after class.

 The woman thinks the other students are / professor is rude.

 The woman is probably going to keep / change her vacation plans.

 In Ken’s culture, the behavior shows respect / is not common.

 The man probably will / won’t change the color.

Answer & Audioscripts

1 after   2 other students are

3 change   4 shows respect   5 won’t



Woman:   What’s wrong, Professor Jones?

Professor Jones:   Oh, I’m a little worried about one of my international students. She’s very quiet. She never asks questions or makes comments in class like the other students do. I’m not sure what she thinks of the topics we are discussing.

Woman:   Well, you know, in some cultures, it’s impolite to interrupt the professor to ask a question.

Professor Jones:   Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that. I guess I should talk to her after class.


Man:   Are you enjoying your first year in college, Tracy?

Tracy:   Well, I like my professors, but some of the students are very rude.

Man:   What do you mean?

Tracy:   Well, when they disagree with something the professor says, they just raise their hands and give their opinions. But they’re students. I think they should respect the professor.

Man:   Well, in university classes, students are supposed to say what they think. It’s OK to disagree with the professor, as long as you don’t do it in a rude way.


Man:   Did you ask your boss about taking an extra week of vacation?

Woman:   Yeah. He didn’t seem to mind. All he said was, “Well, that’s a bit of a bother,” but he didn’t say “no.”

Man:   Hmm. Did you say he was British?

Woman:   Uh-huh.

Man:   Well, in British culture, it’s impolite to say “no” directly. Your boss might have meant “no” even if he didn’t say it.

Woman:   Uh-oh. Maybe I’d better talk to him again. I can always take a vacation later.


Woman:   Have you noticed that Ken says he’s sorry all the time? Even for very small things.

Man:   Oh, Ken’s just being polite. In Japan, where Ken is from, it’s common to apologize even for small mistakes. It shows respect.

Woman:   Oh, I didn’t know that.


Man:   My new neighbors are so rude. When I met them yesterday, the man asked why the outside of my house was green. Then his wife said she didn’t think green was a good color for a house.

Woman:   Hmm. They just met you. They shouldn’t criticize the color of your house.

Man:   Yeah. Well, I like my green house. They’ll have to get used to it.

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