The Challenge of Teaching Culturally Diverse Societies
Golf is undergoing a tremendous upward trend in Asia. The purpose of this article is to share the experiences of teaching golf in an Asian environment comprising a mix of cultures and nationalities. To maximize success as a golf teaching professional, it is necessary to understand why the client has developed an interest in learning golf. Instructing becomes difficult in a culture where saying “no” or “I can’t” are taboo for fear of a “loss of face.”
The Asian Teaching Challenge
During the first five minutes with a beginner, it is important to ask, “Why do you want to learn golf?” Often, Western pupils answer, “I need the exercise,” “It looks easy,” and “I don’t want to be a golf widow!” Asian pupils’ responses tend to be somewhat different. Their desire to learn is generally for its social status, networking benefits, and prestige element.
During the last three years in Vietnam, I have taught 35 different nationalities, providing me with a valuable insight into the complex cultural diversities evident between East, West, and within the East itself.
Based on experience gained from conducting over 3,000 lessons, I can broadly categorize nationalities in terms of their golf learning “desirability.” Singaporeans want to learn golf for its networking capacity, Taiwanese because it is an expensive sport and gives them financial credence, Japanese for the prestige, and Vietnamese because they are required to learn by their company! The student is learning golf for its by-products and not for the game itself.
In Asia, the issue of “saving face” is extremely important. It means showing respect in a public way that acknowledges the status of that person or student and is in full view of others. This concept of “saving face” is external and centers on how the students believe others see them. It is a fear that others will think badly of them, causing them to become ashamed of their actions. Their defense mechanism is to then smile or giggle as they struggle to cope. Imagine this overlaid by trying to master the complexities of the golf game.
It can be an extremely difficult task to teach a student who feels a “loss of face.” There is no way he will say “I can’t do that” or “this is too difficult” or “I do not understand you.” How, then, does a golf teaching professional deal with these obstacles and still teach at an optimum level?
The fundamental concepts that I have developed to teach golf in Asia are:
Understanding the basis of why golf is being learned
Being fully attuned to the concept of “face”
Being able to teach left-handed to a right-handed student to ensure I am fully conversant with the “mirror-image” teaching methodology; lessening the need for excessive verbal communication and being able to see the student perform.
Comprehending and analyzing the physical and tonal nuances exhibited by students.
Here, the adage “message given = message received” can be recognized by overall physical expressions such as smile, their tone of voice or a slump of the shoulders. These help to overcome the “loss of face” by eliminating the negative words “no” and “I can’t,” allowing the student to leave the lesson with pride and a sense of achievement.
Teaching in Asia is without a doubt a challenging endeavor as it involves a great deal more than the mere transfer of information. Human management skills are essential to be a competent golf instructor in any part of the