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On May 14th, I mentioned there would be one more big homework assignment in this class. Here’s a description of the assignment. Please read carefully!
Interview Someone From a Different Culture About Cultural Stereotypes
Your assignment is as follows: you and a partner will interview one person each. This means that in total, you will do two interviews, each led by one partner. You will videotape the interview — this is why you have a partner, so one person can work the camera and the other can do the interviewing. It should be good-quality sound, because the interview will be uploaded to Youtube.
Here are the rules about interviewing:
the interview must be with someone from a different culture from yourself. ie. if your group is made up of a Korean student and a Japanese student, you cannot interview a Korean or a Japanese person — Chinese is okay, Taiwanese is okay, French, Nigerian, British, Nepali, Canadian, Pakistani, Brazilian… but different from you.
each interview should be a minimum of 5 minutes total; that is, you and your partner are responsible for a total of 10 minutes of footage.
the interview must touch upon a few racial or cultural stereotypes. One example is, “Canadians are wimpy,” or “Nepali people are poor,” or “Many Japanese people are otaku,” or “Most Americans are racists.” Stereotypes often means negative things, but you should of course be polite and sensitive. Consider the person’s feelings, note that many people believe it even if it is a stereotype, and ask for his or her opinion on the subject.
the interview should not leave the interviewee feeling angry or insulted. If this seems to be the case, your interview will be considered a failure. If in doubt, interview another person. You are free to interview more than one person if you like, or compile/edit the interviews into a single file where different answers to the same question are put together, but you’re not required to do any fancy editing if you don’t know how or would rather not.
the interviewee must not be a teacher or student at CUK.
the interviewee must be informed that the interview will appear on Youtube, and give permission for this.
you will hand in a CD-ROM containing both interview videos on the morning of June 2nd. (It must be a CD-ROM: not email, not a memory stick — a CD-ROM!) Over the following couple of days, I will then upload them to Youtube and put links on the class website. We will discuss the interviews on June 9th as part of our class exercise.
Advice on Discussing Sensitive Topics:
Discussing stereotypes can be painful. When I hear a negative stereotype about my own culture, I tend to feel angry or hurt; even positive stereotypes like “Canadians like hockey!” or silly ones like “Canadians end sentences by saying ‘eh?’, don’t they?” can be annoying if you hear them too often.
The best way to avoid hurting or angering someone is to be sensitive to their feelings. Here are some tips:
Ask questions about their opinion on the stereotype. Instead of saying, “Why do Canadians love hockey so much?” — assuming the stereotype is true — ask, “Why do [you think] so many people believe that all Canadians love hockey?” By allowing the person to express his or her feelings, you give the person a chance to respond to the stereotype, and show that you don’t necessarily believe it yourself.
Qualify statements about stereotypes. Don’t say, “Nepalis are poor.” Say, “Many people in Korea consider Nepal a poor country.” or “People tend to assume that Nepal is mostly poor.” Then follow up with a question about what the interviewee thinks. This helps the interviewee to know you’re not just assuming the stereotype is true, and makes it possible to talk about the ide itself.
Ask people if they’ve ever encountered this or stereotype before. This gives them a chance to discuss it personally, and express their feelings and opinion in a natural way. For example, “Have you ever encountered any strange stereotypes about your country or culture, in Korea or elsewhere?” or “Have you noticed that many people in Korea think that Frenchmen are womanizers?” By asking this way, you are showing that the person’s experience is valid, valuable, and important, and it makes people feel good to be respected in this way.
Be sensitive. If the interviewee seems hesitant to speak, it’s okay to encourage him or her, but don’t push the person. People sometimes have very bad experiences with these stereotypes, and it can be difficult for them to discuss. That’s fine. The point of the interview is not to make people relive bad memories.
Be courageous: it’s very easy to find a Canadian or American hakwon teacher, but the more resourceful the interview, the better your grade will be. Aren’t you curious to talk to someone from Ghana or Turkey? Wouldn’t you like to know how people from Uzbekistan or Brazil think about how they’re considered stereotypically? Be imaginative, and don’t be shy!
Be careful: whenever discussing sensitive topics, you should be careful not to anger people. But you should also use common sense when searching for people to interview. Bars and pubs are terrible places to interview people — they go there to relax, and many of them spend all day talking to students, so giving an interview is not relaxing! Use your netwoirk by asking people you know, go to busy districts and ask people on the street, look online for people who might be willing to cooperate, or try find an organization (like a Foreign Labourers’ Aid Association, or a foreign students’ society at this or any other university) that could help you to get in touch with people willing to give interviews.
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"For the correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting..."—Plutarch, "On Listening," Moralia
This is the website for Prof. Gord Sellar. It back up and running, though it is supplemented by the proprietary Blackboard course management system used the university where he works.