John wrote:

One observation I will make:  I have always found that ALL ESL students
are keenly interested in cultural differences--strongly motivated to
learn them and eager to discuss them.  Conversely, virtually all of the
native speaking students at my institution are completely unaware of
cultural difference, not having traveled nor having known "foreigners."
I dare say that a second language student in a class of native English
speakers would find him- or herself frustrated by the native speakers'
lack of awareness.


Oh Jon, I have had very different experiences.  I teach at a fairly
large (23,000 students) campus that has a very large, and diverse,
immigrant population.  There is no majority culture, and we have large
numbers of Asian, Latino, Pacific Island, Indian, African-American and
European-American students.  My experience has been that almost all of
these students - be they ESL or native speakers - are "keenly interested
in cultural differences."  Their writings often mention their delight in
being a student in a place where they can learn about other cultures.
In fact, I usually begin the term with a discussion of various cultural
practices in naming children.  Students, including the native speakers,
are interested in learning and contributing. In fact, the mix of native
and non-native speakers is both educational and delightful.

Of course, there are exceptions.  A few students are simply not
interested in anyone but themselves.  These students are usually the
very immature ones who aren't ready for college.  But there is another
group (thankfully small) of students who aren't interested in other
cultures.  These are the students who have recently arrived from another
country who are so homesick they can't bear to think of any culture
other than their own.  I've had several of these students.  English is a
struggle for them and made more so because they do not want to learn the
language.  The American culture is unlike the one they miss so much and
they resent that.  They retreat into their rooms listening to music sung
in their native tongue and watching videos of their native country.  Sad
but true.

Lonna Smith