Ethnographic interviews online



Students are assigned partner-students in the different partner universities and are required to interview them on an ethnographic theme- e.g. &quot Politeness rules in our partner countries&quot , &quot Rules of travelling in public transport in our partner countries&quot , &quot the people and symbols in our partner country&#39 s stamps and coins and what this tells us about our countries&quot , &quot what is on sale in tourist shops in our country and what this tell us&quot etc.

The aim is to get students to look critically at aspects of their own culture and then to report to each other and compare. These interviews can be done by email, skype etc. Students are then required to write an academic essay, comparing how the topic is treated/experienced in the different cultures.

Institution reporting the task:

University of León

Language of task instructions:


Target Group:

Foreign languages



References and acknowledgements:



Comparison & analysis

Estimated Duration:

2 sessions


ethnographic themes





Language Configurations:


Language(s) that the task can be used in:


Dominant language production:

Writing/reading asynchronous

Target Competences:

Intercultural skills

Specific pedagogical objectives:

Development of students interest in cultural similarities and differences

Suggested Communication Tools:

Asynchronous text

Suggested Resources:



Task Aims

In this task you will have the opportunity to:


conduct a small-scale cross-cultural research project in which you collect and analyze information,


improve your speaking and interviewing skills in English,


improve your academic writing skills in English, including revisions based on your instructor&#39 s/peers&#39 feeback


improve your presentation skills


improve your digital skills.

In this task, you and students from the different partner universities will conduct interviews on a cross-cultural theme: e.g., &#39 politeness rules in our partner countries,&#39 &#39 rules of travelling on public transportation in our partner countries,&#39 &#39 the people and symbols in our partner country&#39 s postage stamps and coins and what they tell us about our countries,&#39 &#39 what is on sale in tourist shops in our countries and what this tells us,&#39 , etc. Feel free to consult with your instructor regarding your topic.

These interviews can be done by email, Skype or in the forum in the Moodle site. You will be given contact details for your specific partner-students in the different universities.

Each teacher will assign a specific task for his/her students that requires them to do something with the information from the interview.

Learner Texts:

Some questions asked by students in a recent exchange included the following:

In our countries there are different religions and different religious traditions. We would like to know how these traditions influence in the social life of your countries and in your personal life.


In which way is the calendar in your country influenced by the religion? (religious holydays, structure of the week,… )


How is religion transmitted to the young people? (at the school, family, church,… )


Are there any people who feel uncomfortable about their religion?


What religious customs do you have? (think about your personal events)

For the topic of our cross-cultural interview, we suggest researching marriage in different cultures. Here are our first questions:

1- Do couples get married before they have kids?

2- At what age approximately do people get married?

3- What does the marriage ceremony look like? for example: where it is? is
there more than one ceremony?

4- What gifts do people give?

5- Is homosexual marriage legal? if the answer is yes, is the ceremony different?

Document related to the task:


Criteria for Completion:

Students can be required to write an academic essay, reporting on the interview and comparing how the topic is treated/experienced in the different cultures.

Assessment Criteria for Academic Essay could be the following:

  • You have included an introduction in which you give the reader background on the topic of your essay and your purpose for writing (5 points)
  • You have clearly presented at least 3 main findings (15 points)
  • You have presented convincing quotations / examples / explanations to support your findings (10 points)
  • You have a clear conclusion in which you repeat your purpose and summarize your main claim(s) (5 points)

  • Your essay is organized in a logical way and is divided into paragraphs (3)
  • You have made a clear attempt to correct grammar and spelling, feedback is incorporated, and the majority of the essay is written in your own words, with no more than 10-20 percent quotations (10)
  • You have cited sources correctly (2)

Comments and suggestions:

You can read an academic article on how ethnographic interviewing was used in an email and videoconferencing exchange here:

” Combining networked communication tools for students’ ethnographic research” In Belz, J. A. and S. L. Thorne (eds.),
Computer-mediated Intercultural Foreign Language Education.
Boston, MA: Heinle and Heinle (2005).