Greetings Across the Globe

Learn how to say “hello!” in different languages and explore cultural perspectives, values, and traditions.
Ages 5-18 / 30
min Activity
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Objectives

  • Compare greetings in different languages, fostering an understanding of cultural nuances in communication 
  • Explore greetings used around the world, and reflect on similarities and differences in how people think, feel, and express themselves 
  • Connect with other classrooms through follow-up activities (located in the “Extensions” tab) to continue practicing or exploring other languages (e.g., interacting with another class over a live or asynchronous exchange)

Supporting Research

There are numerous benefits when we learn multiple languages, such as decreased prejudice toward people different from ourselves, greater analytical and problem-solving abilities, and enhanced listening and memory skills. Importantly, when we learn a new language, we also learn about the cultural context surrounding it, and gain a deeper understanding of our own culture. This activity aims to foster students’ self-awareness as they reflect and share about their language and culture, and perspective taking and humility as they seek out and try to understand others’ perspectives and experiences in how they express themselves. 

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.

Materials

Activity Partners

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Educator Note

This activity offers an opportunity for students to share about their native language(s) or the language they are currently learning in school. For language learners, encourage them to explore and present common greetings in the language that they are learning, including details about cultural nuances (e.g., informal vs. formal expressions and influences from pop culture).

Instructions

  1. Begin the activity by discussing the connection between language and culture. You might say: “Did you know that more than 7,000 languages are used around the world? Each language is like a window into a different world, revealing the history, beliefs, and stories of the people who use it. Languages are more than a tool for communication - they reflect a community’s identity. When we learn a new language, we can discover how people think, feel, and express themselves, and what is most important to them. Today, we’re going to talk about something that we all do - saying “hello” to others!”
  2. Ask students the following questions:
    • What languages do you know? Are there any languages that you’re currently learning, or want to learn in the future?
    • How do you say “hello” to your friends? Is it different from how you greet your family?
    • What about when you meet older people, like grandparents or teachers? How do you greet them?
    • Do you use any gestures to greet people, like hugging them, shaking their hand, or bowing to them?
    • What are some differences in how you greet different people? (e.g., in your chosen words, tone of voice, or body language)

    As students share common greetings in their language(s), write them down on a physical or digital board that is visible to everyone. If students are currently learning a new language, encourage them to research and share about greetings used by native speakers.  

    Include details like their tone of voice, body language, and accompanying gestures, as well as any cultural nuances (e.g., using different greetings for peers and elders).
  3. Then, display this slideshow for students, which portrays how people around the world greet each other.

    Throughout the slideshow, pause to ask students what a particular greeting might reveal about its community. For example, in China, many people ask “Have you eaten?” to show that they care about another person and their well-being. In India and South Korea, many people use gestures (touching feet and bowing deeply) to show respect for their elders, which is an important cultural value.
  4. Afterwards, invite students to reflect on some similarities and differences that they noticed. For example, you might ask:
    • What are some similarities in how people greet others? What are some differences?
    • Are some greetings more formal than others? How so?
    • How do you think our culture (e.g., values, traditions, and beliefs) influences the way that we greet others?
    • Did you learn about any greetings that surprised you, or were different from what you expected?
    • What are some situations when being aware of cultural differences in greetings might be important?

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.