In the class I'm taking, I sometimes wonder if all the methods we're learning will apply, since right now we are teaching students who need to survive in the U.S., but I will be teaching overseas, where students don't need to know all the nuances of American culture in order to effectively learn English.
Many of the program participants will be going abroad, however, and we do address culture. Last night we had a homework reading that addresses this issue of teaching people who need English as a second language but not in the same context as immigrants need it. We may have students who will have no interest in or need to internalize the "cultural norms of native speakers."
Some texts, for example, point out that, when receiving a compliment, learners of English should acknowledge and accept the compliment with a simple response, such as "thank you." However, research in cross-cultural pragmatics has clearly demonstrated that there are vast differences in how various cultures enact a particular speech act so that, in some cultures, it is typical to downplay a compliment, leading one to react with responses such as, "I could have done better."*
This is so true! I get so annoyed when I've paid someone from another culture a compliment and he/she downplays it. I want to make him/her happy, and I'm rejected for my efforts! If someone pays me a compliment, and I know I don't deserve it, I might insist that I could have done better or that I can't take all the credit. But in general I do try to give a polite, simple response and to show gratitude that the person who paid the compliment has been so thoughtful. Is it my culture or just me? I don't know.
*from "The Cultural Basis of Teaching English as an International Language" by Sandra Lee McKay