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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Dragon: Another Cultural Difference

There are many dragon tales, myths and legends all over the world. But while in the west and Europe a dragon is a fire-breathing beast that hunts innocent people for dinner, the Chinese dragon is associated with quite the opposite - it repels the evil spirits and brings wealth and good luck.
 
The Chinese Year of Dragon is here, so why not spend some class time on this mysterious creature and talk about its differences and similarities across the cultures? As ESL instructors, we can help clear up the confusion between the western and Oriental dragons and point out their different appearances and behaviors.
 
Ask students to form small groups and talk about the following questions:
 
1. Do dragons have a positive or negative connotation in your culture?

2. How does a dragon look? Does it have wings/a tail/a mane/horns/whiskers/claws/fangs/scaly skin? How many heads/legs does it have?

3. Does it have features of other animals (e.g.: scales of fish)?

4. What color is it?

5. Where does it live (in the forest/caves/sea)?

6. Are dragons protectors or villains? What’s their nature (bad-tempered, evil, brutal, bloodthirsty; kind, wise, spiritual)

7. Are people afraid of dragons? Do they respect and worship them?

8. What supernatural powers does it possess? Can it change sizes? Form clouds? Change water into fire? Glow in the dark?

9. Is a dragon considered immortal?

10. What does a dragon stand for (violence, aggression, cruelty, destruction, greed; harmony, power, wealth, auspiciousness, benevolence, good fortune, controlling the forces of nature, abundance, leadership, long life)?

11. Dragons have long been a national emblem of China. Why might this image hurt the positive image of China?

12. Tell a fable/legend/story from your culture that involves a dragon.

Take notes on the board and have students summarize the differences. Wrap up with 2 opinion questions:
 
- With so many differences between the western and Asian dragons, should the Asian dragon be translated into English in a different way? (should it just keep its Chinese name)? Is it lost in translation?

- Why might a dragon be a monster of miscommunication?
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 10:56 PM
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